During the wonderful Neighbourhood festival in Manchester, I caught up with the headliners the Snuts. Having released their second record Burn the Empire the day prior I naturally had many questions for them covering not only the recent release but also the upcoming tour, politics, pigeons, risk-taking, more politics and other topics too.

In Feburary I chatted with Callum Wilson, but this time I was also joined by Joe McGillveray and Jordan Mackay. The conversation was engaging and intellectually provoking, which I thoroughly enjoyed, not only because I study politics but because the government are continuing to fail us – making their music extremely relevant (keep reading).

Kicking off the discussion with the obvious topic of the record and congratulations on the release, the Snuts said how the major difference between this album and W.L. was the length of time in which it was made and released (“the previously record took almost a decade”). Burn the Empire had a greater sense of urgency – a key factor in this as the topics of the tracks are very current, almost like breaking news. Luckily the government has continued to make mistake after mistake, and most likely will continue, making the record still extremely relevant. The lads wanted to get the record released since June and fought with their label to get the release date pushed forward.

I asked about the rumours and controversy of this campaign as a marketing ploy, to which it was vehemently denied! Callum explained how Snuts frontman Jack Cochrane phoned one night about how the label wanted to push back the records release, with Joe adding that the label doesn’t like to listen to them, and decided they wanted to release it early; overall the boys emphasised that it felt “good” and right to bring forward the release date. Another key reason was how they want fans and the crowd to know the songs when they go on tour. Putting the rumours to bed, Callum noted that even if it was a marketing ploy, “I don’t think it would have done anything”.

Moving onto general chart battle chats, I asked how important are the charts and how much value the Snuts place on them – especially with debut album W.L. reaching number 1! After a bit of forwards and backwards saying they don’t really care, Joe noted that their chart battle was the following week – so to sum up Callum goes “don’t care just now, next week it will be the most important thing in the world”! But Joe reemphasised the biggest thing about release the album was to play the shows and have everyone know the tracks. I followed on with asking if they was a looming pressure to follow W.L. which inevitably there was to some extent, but actually this was flipped into a sense of reassurance and confidence.

Callum recalled how daunting recording the first album was, recording with people with five top ten albums on their roster, and them having “nothing, coming from a total nonmusical background, trying to record music. So, it felt like your opinion didn’t have as much weight in the studio and you’re a bit scared to speak up about something.” All in all, the boys positively transformed this pressure into a more positive way of thing and boosted their confidence to experiment a bit more and test out ideas (some which worked, some which didn’t) on burning the empire. Callum even described it as “refreshing”! 

Joe made a stand-out comment, in my opinion, “there’s a fine line between overconfidence and imposter syndrome” and this can be applied to all aspects of your life. They went on to say that they “stopped being so arrogant with [their] writing” and listened (and trusted the process) with Coffee and Detonate. Another wise quote was dropped: “if you were knocking a wall down and someone offered you a hammer, you wouldn’t punch it down – you would take the help!” The Snuts have always been conscience of not being trapped by the genres of ‘rock and roll’ and ‘indie’ music, so they love to collaborate and, more importantly, push the boundaries. The first record slightly did this which gave them the mental backing to push it further in Burn the Empire – also the fans were already aware of some of the “crazy stuff” in their music. 

The Snuts have previously mentioned they don’t want to be known as a “indie guitar jangly band”, so naturally, we went on discussed that genres are “so stupid”. Joe recalled that there was the “landfill indie” genre where every band that came out with guitars got put in that clique and swept away – rapidly. The boys went on to say how they felt it was “almost quite derogatory”, especially as often the reason you start with guitars is that they are the most accessible and easy-to-play instruments.

Moving on, the Snuts have previously mentioned that the album title Burn the Empire is open to interpretation; questioning them on what interpretations there can be Callum said “anything that oppresses you, stops you being who you want to be, stop you moving in the way you want to move, anything – like sexism, racism, homophobia, like all these things, could come under the bracket of an empire – it’s any empirical thought that oppresses you – and it can go right to the empire”. 

So of course, this naturally led me to ask what would their ideal society look like, to which they thought and then said, “just people caring for each other” before continuing with “maybe a society that wasn’t driven by profit, instead driven by the needs of humanity and society as a whole, as opposed to a tiny 1% at the top who are laterally destroying the planet”. 

“The world is fucked; nobody seems to care. There’s no compassion or love for each other. We live in a blame culture.”

I dropped in about how the last time I saw the Snuts in Manchester Academy, the chant “Burn the Empire” felt quite ‘cult-like’, to which the boys laughed and agreed! Asking if they want to have a political influence or keep to the social commentary, the boys said that they are supposed to live in a democracy, so they are able to comment and speak on it – “but ultimately it needs to be someone with actual power who changes thing”. The government often make claims about how they’ve only been in power for 19 days, yet it just the faces changing – the ideology is “rotten to its core”. This was a fairly long discussion, including a good outlet to rant about the government and as Callum put it, we all went off on a “tangent”.

Joe then dropped in ‘Pigeons in New York’, which swimmingly allowed me to share how despite it being my favourite track on the record, I am terrified of pigeons – much to the boys amusement. They went on to tell me that there are pigeons everywhere – they’ve done the research… every major city in the world. I asked the relevance of each town in the track and Callum said they shouted a town, doubled checked if there were pigeons there. I asked the pigeon experts if there were any towns without pigeons – the only place is Scunthorpe, but it has “crazy seagulls” …

Previously Callum and I spoke about the attention economy, so I asked the boys about the recent record and how its only 32 minutes… quite short (they agreed). I asked if this was because they wanted to play into the moving industry and TikTok era of short attention spans. Not only is it TikTok and video content, but also streaming platforms where everything is getting shorter and shorter. The boys also welcomed the move (to an extent) because a sex minute song is class at the start, but ten years later playing the same six-minute song is long. It also means you cannot play as many tracks in their set time slot, so shorter songs equals more tracks played.

I went on to ask the boys how they’ve adapted their tour with the cost-of-living crisis, and despite joking that they’ve lost a lot of money, they have halved their ticket prices. “An album doesn’t become a record to you until you can attach memories to the songs – that’s another reason we were keen to get the album out quickly. We want people to have memories and really connect with the record, especially after covid”.

Moving on to chat a bit further about ticket prices, we shared example after example of cases where people have bought tickets off a website, or second-hand, for ridiculous prices. Ticketmaster and its surge pricing was another aspect, where the boys spilt the tea and I found out that an artist has to agree to it – Ticketmaster isn’t the only villain, some artists are being sneaky…

Finally, ending on what is the significance of the green and b&w colour scheme, the boys shared there wasn’t much thought, but they did semi-regret it as it is really hard to print fluro green (for merch), and you can only print less than 30% of anything as fluro green – so actually it turned out to be quite a “nightmare”. They also wanted to be unique and different with their album artwork; as they mentioned that often you’ll see bands do the same thing (or similar artwork) a few years later. Did we really end our chat with a sly dig at other bands? The Snuts clearly want to be different, quirky and trailblazers.

The Snuts are touring currently, all through October – tickets here!