Vocalist Curtis Don Vito
Like a kick in the teeth, SNEW has hit the world with its latest release called WE DO WHAT WE WANT. With their brand of hard rockin, blues and southern rock influenced metal SNEW have what it takes to be the next big thing. Metal-Rules.com recently had the opportunity to speak to veteran vocalist Curtis Don Vito about all things SNEW.
Interview By Rick
SNEW is an interesting name for a band. Could you talk a little about what the name means?
It’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle. It means whatever you want it to mean. It’s all about being in the moment, being yourself. Like the title of our new album “We Do What We Want”, that’s the essence of Snew. Just go out and DO IT!
The name has lent itself to some clever advertising that you use on your website. For Eg: Mountain Snew, Fig Snewtons. Who comes up with the witty takes on the name and was it only after you had chosen the band name that you realized that it had so many creative uses?
All the creative uses for Snew did come after we chose it as our band name. First came “Snew You”. From there it was a landslide of different phrases. Some we came up with others come from fans. New ones come in everyday. It’s endless. It’s awesome.
The various takes on product names incorporating “Snew” came from a contest we ran about a year or so ago; the “Snewed Tomatoes Contest” where we had people send in their ideas for Snewed versions of popular products. The grand prize winner was “Mountain Snew” and he won a custom “Snew You” guitar. Some of the mock ads you see on our site came from entries to the contest others I came up with.
Snew has just released its 2nd full length independent release called WE DO WHAT WE WANT. Can you tell us a little about the CD?
We started writing the songs for this one immediately after recording the first one. Actually the song “Power Pack” was written for the first album but time and money restrictions prevented us from adding an 11th track to the album. We’re glad we waited to put it on this album because it became a better song after playing it so many times during that period.
Recoding took place at the legendary Village Recorder in L.A. where classic albums from the 60s to now have been recorded. We worked with our producer from the first one Bobby Owsinski again and we brought in Ed Cherney to man the board and handle the mixing. We love working with Bobby and it was a real honor and a blast to work with Ed. Ed told us stories about working with the Stones and Clapton. This guys worked with ‘em all. He really helped us get a bigger and badder sound on this one. It was an awesome experience that lead to the best work we’ve ever done. Best work I’ve ever done. Period.
How has the CD been received by the fans and media alike? Has the reception been what you expected or have you had some surprises?
It’s always a surprise to see what the world is going to think of anything new.
We knew we liked it and we’re really proud of the way it came out. We’ve been thrilled at the way it has been received. Our hard core fans love it at least as much as the first one and maybe even more. That means the most to us, but it’s really catching on and bringing us new fans from all over who are just finding out about Snew. They didn’t even know about the first record and they’re picking up copies of both CDs. The Snew World Order is growing more and more every day.
The songs on WE DO WHAT WE WANT seem more focused than on your last release SNEW YOU? To what do you attribute this focus and cohesion found on this CD?
Snew has been together longer. The more we play and write the stronger our collective voice. Just like with anything, the more you do it the better you get. It also helped that our producer Bobby has gotten to know us better. After working with him for three years he really knows how to bring out the best in us. Also having Ed Cherney work with us on this one gave us a tighter and bigger sound. There’s a reason the Rolling Stones used Ed on 5 albums. He knows his shit! Also cutting all the basic tracks at one studio over a two month period helped keep us focused. Not to mention that that studio was The Village, you should see all of the Platinum albums lining the walls at this place going all the way back to the Doors. It’s a monument to rock history. We felt like we were doing something important just being there.
The disc is 10 songs of straight up hard rock. In today’s market, bands often put 12 to 14 songs on a CD. Why go with only 10 songs on WE DO WHAT WE WANT?
All the best albums had 8 to 10 songs on them. You can’t argue with that.
Most of the bands these days with more than that are just adding filler. We’ll never put a song on an album that even we would hit the skip button on. Plus we always get right to work on the next one. We’re not gonna make you wait 5 years for the next Snew album. When I see 16 tracks on a CD it says to me it’s gonna be a while before the next one.
Snew plays straight up old school hard rock with a bite. Where do you see yourselves fitting in today, especially with the popularity of bands such as Airbourne?
It tells me that people wanna ROCK! There’s a Rock N Roll explosions taking place.
To hell with all the rap/pop/alternative/middle of the road, down in the dumps, depressing music already. You know exactly what I’m talking about, LET”S ROCK!!!!
It’s no accident that Snew is getting popular at the same time as all these other bands who play this kind of music. We ALL want it. All those bands have my complete and utter support.
How do you feel when SNEW is compared to AC/DC? Listening to the song, "We Do What We Want," the parallel to AC/DC is obvious. Do you worry about being labeled as “jumping on the bandwagon” like Airbourne did?
It’s all Rock N Roll man. We got into this to make more of the kind of Rock we love.
Bands like AC/DC, Motorhead, Judas Priest, etc. perfected this sound. It doesn’t get any better than that. We don’t want to change that into something else. We want more!
Our influences are there, it’s obvious and we’re damn proud of it.
Besides, new bands always get compared to ones the public are familiar with. Go back and read early reviews of the biggest names in the business, you’ll see they got it too.
Honestly, I’m flattered by the comparisons.
Who is the creative force behind the band? How is the songwriting handled and is there a formula for the SNEW sound that the band sticks to?
Every song is a band effort. Sometimes I come in with an idea for a catchy chorus or Andy may have a killer guitar riff and that’s how it will start out. From there we all pitch in and turn it into something only Snew as a whole could ever accomplish. The only formula is “does it Rock?” if the answer is yes, we go with it.
The video for the song “Feedback and Distortion” is very interesting. It is an amalgamation of clips of people playing air guitar. Who came up with the concept for the video and was it difficult to get the wide variety of air guitar players to send in clips?
The idea for that one came from us playing the song live long before we recorded it.
At the shows I tell the crowd to break out their air guitar “We’re gonna make some Feedback and Distortion”. You should see it, it’s a thing of beauty. Tons of people playing air guitar all at once. It was a natural for the video. It wasn’t too difficult to get our fans and supporters to contribute to it but it did take a few month to collect all of them. The first guy you see in the video is Ed Cherney, Bobby is in there too as is the owner of The Village. We got them while we were recording the album. The rest are fans, DJs, writers at some of the websites, people at clubs. They came in from around the world. It’s my favorite video of all time.
You have made a number of videos for both this CD and your previous release SNEW YOU. Do you think that video has helped SNEW gets its music out to a wider audience? Are you worried about the high costs of making videos and the return that you get for your investment?
We love making videos. Especially me. I do all of the creative editing stuff. I can’t help it, I’m only truly happy when I’m creating something. There’ll always be more. You can count on it. The cost usually isn’t too high since I do the editing at home on my computer. The most expensive video we’ve ever done was the one for “We Do What We Want”. We went into an actual video production studio so we could film against a Green Screen. That was a trip. Now I know how it must have felt to film Star Wars. Awesome. We’re working on developing ideas for the next one now.
Yes, videos do help spread the word about Snew. Music is more than just a listening experience; it’s very much a visual medium. People also listen with their eyes.
In the modern age of do it yourself recordings how important (and how much time and work) is it for self-promotion? Would you ever want a record label to take over pay for and run the marketing and promotion?
With the advent of the Internet “do it yourself” is not only possible but smart. We’ve been doing it since day one and we’ll keep doing it. We can reach out to a fan and they can reach out to us. We’ve got friends and I do mean friends all over the world that we talk to all the time. These are people who in the not so distant past would have been just fans but our fans are turning into honest to God friends. It’s amazing. Sure “do it yourself” takes a lot of hard work and lots and lots of time. Did I mention it takes lots and lots of time? Yeah, but it’s worth it. We get to do what we want (familiar phrase, where have I heard that before…hmmm). We go direct to the fans, direct to radio, magazine, etc. We get to know them, they get to know us. It’s an incredible support system. I love it. I love handling the promotion and marketing and I’ll always have my hand in that. No one will ever have as much of an interest in Snew and how we present ourselves as we do. No label could ever do that job as well or with as much enthusiasm.
Would it be nice to have some help and financial support? Yes, of course it would. As we continue to expand our reach we will need some help just handling the volume of tasks and getting it done in a timely fashion. If a label came forward that truly had Snew’s best interest at heart and was all about being a part of the “Snew World Order” and not taking it over we’d be foolish to say no. I just don’t know if that type of label exists right now. There’s a reason major artists are dumping their labels. The music business as it was and has been up until the very present is over. The new business model is being forged by artists like us. The independents. This is a big part of what we mean by the Snew World Order. It’s not just a catchy title. It means we’re all in this together. The fans, the musicians, the DJs, the magazines editors and writers, the bloggers and everyone on the community sites. We’re joining forces and (here it comes again) WE DO WHAT WE WANT. If you’re onboard with that, we want to talk to you.
Has there been any interest from labels either to distribute WE DO WHAT WE WANT or to sign Snew for a new release?
Being a band that depends on the internet to get your name out how do you feel about the amount of downloading of music that is going on now? Do you feel that its of benefit to you as a smaller band? What’s your take on it?
If you’re talking about bootleg downloads, that’s here to stay. The Genie’s been let out of the bottle and you can’t put it back. I think it’s a good thing. It whets your appetite for more. In the old days of record stores you could go in there and sample the CDs at listening stations and the store would play all their favorites while you were in there browsing around. Record stores have been sadly closing up shop all over the nation, which is a travesty and (if you ask me) the biggest reason album sales are at an all time low. In light of all this the only real way to sample new music is to download it, see if you dig it. Most of the people out there who find something they really love will then proceed to buying it either as paid downloads or actual CDs. It’s pride of ownership, we all feel it. Nobody wants to own a piece of crap. I know if I’m going to plunk down my hard earned bucks I want it to be for something that I’m going to enjoy and be proud to own. Let’s stop calling them bootleggers and call them what they are, smart shoppers.
You did an awesome cover of Deep Purples’s "Highway Star" with Alan Holdsworth. How did you get hooked up with such an amazing guitar player and can you talk a little about how it was to record with him.
Allan and I have been friends for a long time. We’ve always wanted to do something together but never found the time or right project until last year.
Snew was still writing and doing pre-production for our next album and Allan had some time off between touring. I was talking to him on the phone one day and tossed out the idea of him doing a song with us just for the hell of it and to finally give us a chance to record together. He was totally up for it. Then came the inevitable question, what the heck are we gonna do?
We didn’t want to do an original Snew song, it just seemed like too much of a clash of styles between Allan and us. We decided a classic cover that might allow us to be us and give Allan a showcase for his playing in a rock format would be best. This was a tough one to choose. Allan being the preeminent prog/fusion guitar virtuoso he is and us being balls out sleaze rockers. Then I remembered a conversation Cat and I had about if we ever did a cover song, one he’d like to do was Highway Star. That seemed perfect. It has all the best elements of what we do, hard driving rock but still has elements of prog. Besides if anyone on the planet was capable of showing Ritchie Blackmore a thing or two it was Allan Holdsworth. I asked him and he really liked the idea. So we booked the studio, went in and laid down the basic tracks so Allan could get an idea of our approach to the song, sent it to him and after a couple of weeks he was ready. When we finished it we were all blown away. Hard to imagine the five of us meshing so well together but it really works. I especially like Allan’s second solo where he uses his Synth-Axe to get the Hammond organ sound. Stellar.
Do you see another collaboration with him in the future? Are there any other high profile collaborations in the works or can we expect any in the future?
Allan is a very busy guy, recording and constantly touring so I doubt it. But you never know. We don’t have any other collaborations planned but if the opportunity arises for something that makes sense I’m sure we’ll do it. I’d love to do something with Lemmy.
Curtis, you have been around for a number of years and have had a number of bands. What got you started in this business and what keeps you hanging around and slugging it out?
Music is my life, I can’t live without it. It’s my life’s blood. I’m not slugging it out, I’m LIVING.
Your bio says that "He was born while his parents’ band was on tour then raised in Southern California." Are your parents musicians’ that we would know of?
Probably not, but they are pretty amazing. I learned more from them about making music and putting on a show from them than anyone else. They’re my biggest fans and I’m theirs.
Do you think that being from California, a traditional hotbed of hard rock, has had any influence on your sound?
Naturally. It’s in the air here. You pick up on it just walking the streets.
I don’t think Snew has a traditional L.A. sound, whatever that is but L.A. and New York definitely influence how you approach things. You can always hear the differences in how L.A. bands attack a song verses how an NY band does it. Those aren’t the only two hot beds for spawning great bands mind you but it’s a good illustration of how where you’re from makes a difference.
Can you make a living from your music or does it require you to hold “day jobs” while you try to get your music out?
You mean you can actually make a living doing this???
Curtis, your vocal delivery is gritty and powerful. How do you keep your voice in shape so that you can deliver for SNEW?
Mostly I just let it out. I don’t hold back. Holding back is the worst thing you can do to your body and mind. It’s the main culprit for stress and disease. Just let it all out baby and you’ll be A OK.
Does Snew have any plans to take its show on the road? Have you done any dates yet in support of the new CD?
We are planning a tour for the summer right now. We do have some early dates in L.A., Phoenix and Las Vegas booked at the moment and we’re working on getting as many as possible all over the US. We do hope to tour Canada and Europe just as soon as we can make it happen. What we’re actively seeking out is a booking agent to help in that arena.
We got a handle on the Internet thing but it’s a tough job selling Snew to clubs, concert venues and festival organizers. If there are any REAL agents out there reading this right now who want to lend a hand, get in touch with me anyway you can. Our fans are hammering us to play and we don’t want to let ‘em down. We’re ready to hit the road yesterday. One way or another you’re gonna get SNEWED!
What for you would be the perfect bill for Snew right now? A bill that would let you play with bands that you respect while at the same time getting your music out to the most amount of people possible?
Hell, we’ll open for the Jonas Brothers if we get the opportunity. We just wanna PLAY!