It's an enviable position for any band to be in. In eight years, with only a handful of recordings under their belt, they've become one of the most respected hardcore bands in the underground. They've logged endless hours on the road building a rabid fan base. Now, Buffalo, NY band Snapcase has not only achieved underground success, but are actually on the verge of something much bigger - the opportunity to make an impact not just in the insulated hardcore community, but to register on mainstream radar.
Since 1991, Snapcase has been combining the overtly metallic elements of hardcore with the DIY attitude of punk, and three albums and a couple of EPs have seen the band's sound progress towards a more groove-oriented sound without losing the abrasive edge. In recent years, they've participated in high-profile events like the Warped tour. The success of Snapcase - drummer Tim Redmond, singer Daryl Taberski, bassist Dustin Perry and guitarists Jon Salemi and Frank Vicario - has helped to establish their label, Victory Records, as one of the leading lights in the hardcore scene. But with Victory pushing them on to bigger things, Snapcase is on the brink, to the point where Alternative Press recently named Designs For Automotion one of the 25 most anticipated albums of the year.
The funny thing is, they've been here before and it broke up the band.
"We're definitely feeling [the pressure] now," says drummer Tim Redmond. "The hype didn't effect us when we were writing [ Designs For Automotion ], because we had most of the record done before expectations really started to take off, which was probably a good thing. It would have been a lot more stressful otherwise." Since the album's completion, expectations have soared. "What?!" was their reaction to the Alternative Press news. "We're just this hardcore band from Buffalo!
"We're very flattered, and we just can't believe it," Redmond continues, "but it could be bad if people have such high expectations that they feel let down by [the new album]. I just hope people aren't disappointed by it. If it flops, so be it, but I think it'll do alright. We're happy with it."
Given recent experience with the grinding gears of the music industry, Snapcase has discovered the hard way that success means happiness, not money or attention or heightened expectations.
In 1997, the band released their last record, Progression Through Unlearning . It started doing really well, better than the band had anticipated. "All of a sudden we had all these demands on our time," Redmond explains, "and we didn't say no to any of it. We were just not having fun anymore. It turned into a job and a business, rather than music and having fun."
It messed with their heads and their priorities. For the first time in their young lives as a band, they could actually see the fabled brass ring of financial security and name recognition. "We thought we were confronted with a decision: 'If we're not going to put one hundred percent into this band and try to make it, we might as well not do anything at all.' We broke up. We took three or four months off and realised that we really missed playing and being together and creating. We had phrased the question wrong. It didn't have to be: 'Do this band to be huge or don't do it at all,' because we never wanted that. It was: 'Do this band to have fun.'"
Their priorities are clearer now, but that doesn't mean that all this extra attention isn't making the band a little nervous, especially since Designs For Automotion is another step in the band's musical evolution, not just another healthy serving of what longtime fans expect.
"We are afraid of alienating people with this record."
"I'm going to be honest, we are afraid of alienating people with this record," Redmond admits. "They have been bands who've done a record you like and respect, then the next record goes along the lines of what's popular and you lose respect. We never wanted to do that - we wanted to let everyone's tastes come to us, rather than us trying to adjust. If we played our music and it was good, we figured people would like it, but at the same time, we never want to do the same record. I think we're striking a balance between pushing the envelope and being who we are."
Two things that have gone hand-in-hand throughout the hardcore/metal resurgence of the nineties are Snapcase and Victory Records. After their brief break-up, they've returned to Victory, the only label they've ever been on, but Snapcase came very, very close to having a new home for Designs For Automotion .
"We took a good year and a half to talk with other labels, and we were very close to signing with [Tommy Boy], which was the most intriguing offer," Redmond says. "Then we had a really great meeting with Victory - we shared so much with them in the past and grew up with them, and we realised that if we stayed with Victory we could call our own shots and do whatever we wanted to. If we were with another label, we wouldn't have that freedom, especially with the money they were offering. We took less money to stay with Victory, where we're be a big fish in a little pond instead of being on a label where we might get lost in the shuffle. We've seen a lot of other bands go to major labels and have bad things happen to them.
"I think there would have been a backlash if we had left Victory - it has happened to a lot of other bands. When it came down to it neither of us wanted to give up on each other.