American punk rocker Richard Manitoba did not take kindly to the unwelcome linguistic similarity between bands, however tenuous, and threatened legal action against Snaith’s Manitoba. So, after being unfairly forced to renounce his choice of moniker, a trip to the woods brought with it an entirely different kind of trip for Snaith, and the namesake Caribou was conceived in a kind of mind-altering, life-affirming psychedelic haze, surrounded by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness.
This is an excerpt from an article that appears in the May issue of Clash Magazine. Pick it up in stores from April 2nd. You can read the full issue online HERE and subscribe to Clash Magazine HERE.
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On a grim, rainy day in Holloway, Clash meets Snaith. His flurosecent get-up aptly mimics the covermount of ‘Swim’, which, with its swirling citrus motif and blueish hues, could be seen as a nod to his psychedelic roots. But aside from this novel artwork, the Sixties are largely absent from this record and I am keen to discover the reason behind his move towards the modern. Snaith begins by discussing the metamorphosis of his sonic vocabulary. “The frustrating thing for me last time around was that ‘Andorra’ was more about writing the songs rather than arranging them,” he says. “People heard it and thought for some reason that I was a Sixties guy - I didn’t really want people to be thinking that I was just one of those retro guys who wanders around in bell bottoms. I didn’t want to end up in this Sixties psychedelic ghetto.”
“So it was important for me with ‘Swim’ that I could write the songs in the same way, but keep the production independent to the writing of the songs - the musical ideas can be whatever they want but I wanted the sonic environment to be my own sound so it’s hard for people to ask where it fits in. That’s why I’m really happy with it, because it feels like it’s just me.”
Snaith places emphasis on his wide-ranging musical tastes, which ably reach out to every nook and cranny of both the popular and the leftfield spheres, from hip-hop to doo-wop. A malleable soul who has in the past coveted multiple identities, Snaith is currently making records of an overtly electronic persuasion. Can he account for this change in direction perhaps? “The idea of going out to a club is something which I haven’t really done for years but have been doing a lot more of recently,” he says. “I’ve been hanging out with people who are making dance music and DJing: James Holden, Junior Boys, Kieran Hebden and Nathan Fake, for example. I’ve just been more interested in the dance music I’ve been hearing rather than the band music. A few years ago I was completely the opposite and I was becoming disillusioned by electro and more excited by these weird American bands. I think it feels like there’s more freedom within dance music.”
‘Swim’ has been celebrated for its fluid nature, where its varied beats and sounds collide and coalesce with effortless grace. The title of the record of course pays homage to this fluidity, and to Snaith’s newfound love of swimming. “The album has a literal meaning - I’ve learned to swim over the past year and I’ve become a bit obsessed with it,” he admits. “I was a terrible swimmer at the beginning of last year until I took classes. Now I go all the time and it’s a good escape from being locked up in a room making music. So the sonic properties are definitely about swimming, but it’s the first time that the lyrics have been about anything related to me.”
If Snaith was a mathematical equation, he would be a complicated one. A truly unique breath of fresh air, he is an organised experimentalist who refuses to be pigeonholed and who will continue to make music for himself, and no one else.
Words by April Welsh
You can read ClashMusic's review of 'Swim' HERE and hear the album in full HERE.
Big Chill Festival 2010