I’ve always been a sucker for decidedly lo-fi music. There’s something so rewarding about a record that has texture, that still feels like it’s primarily composed of raw material unearthed almost by accident. Many have embraced the tradition, but saltlick’s Brianna Snider has perfected it: her extensive Bandcamp catalogue features basement recordings and four-track demos that possess that undeniable hiss of lo-fi and a minefield of emotion. While she hasn’t walked away from that entirely, saltlick is back with a full-band studio EP – a huge milestone for a project that began as a solitary experiment in her parents’ basement. And stuck here at the start is a hell of a collection, darting between the emo, experimental, and slowcore moments that remain her specialty.
Earlier this spring, we got the chance to catch up with Brianna in advance of stuck here at the start’s highly anticipated release. Check out our conversation below, where we got the chance to talk about the thrill of the coaster, longing for friends in faraway places, the urgency of a supportive community around a release dropping in quarantine, and way more:
Slumber: stuck here at the start is the first collection you’ve put out with a full recorded band. We’re super pumped for the release! How do you see this EP in relation to your solo recordings?
Brianna Snider: It’s definitely more polished. A lot of times, when I was putting out the older stuff I would record it as I wrote, so everything was shoved together as I came up with ideas. At times it felt disjointed because I was doing everything myself. Being able to get a band together, practice the songs, tighten them up, get the four songs down (because I’d written them about a year prior), and then going in to record them was super different but so cool. I’m not used to that!
Slumber: A few months back, you teased the EP by releasing a single version of “steel phantom” with a visualizer of Kennywood’s Steel Phantom coaster. Do you particularly enjoy coasters? What made you decide on that kind of motif?
Brianna: I’ve been a huge roller coaster nerd for a long time. I used to be afraid of them, I’ve recently gotten over the fear. I think of them as these huge works of physics that are so incredible. They seem like they’re just there to scare you. That’s something I definitely consider really cool. The Steel Phantom is the prior iteration of what is probably my favorite coaster, the Phantom’s Revenge at Kennywood. I wanted to pay homage to that through the song and I recorded that version on my four-track cassette tape player. It was kind of like a test run and that song came out of that test run. We also recorded a studio version for the EP and it’s cool to see how different they are.
Slumber: Nice! Is Kennywood a big fixture of your growing up?
Brianna: Oh yeah, absolutely. Every year, for school picnic day we’d go to Kennywood, or my family would take a trip down there to ride all the rides. It was a huge fixture of my summers.
“I’ve been a huge roller coaster nerd for a long time. I used to be afraid of them, I’ve recently gotten over the fear. I think of them as these huge works of physics that are so incredible. They seem like they’re just there to scare you. That’s something I definitely consider really cool.”
Slumber: Sweet, up here the place for that is Cedar Point. You been up there?
Brianna: Yeah! I’ve only been to Cedar Point once, but I really wanna go again. It’s super awesome with all the coasters and everything.
Slumber: It’s overwhelming. I haven’t been in a long time, and I keep forgetting it’s there now. I’m scared that if I went on one of their big coasters again that my back wouldn’t handle it!
Brianna: Oh my god, I feel that!
Slumber: If you could take this collection on tour, where would you most want to go?
Brianna: When it comes to touring, I just wanna go anywhere my friends are. I have a whole bunch of friends spread out all over the U.S., like I have friends in Wisconsin, or Boston, or down in Georgia. It would be cool to do tour stops and hit them up.
Slumber: True, I miss people.
Brianna: I do too! I really do. Some of them I’ve only met through the internet. Like my best friend, Marissa Carroll, frontwoman of Tiny Blue Ghost, we ran a record label together for 2 years and we haven’t met in person. It would really mean a lot to tour and meet these people!
Slumber: In James Cassar’s release bio for the EP they highlight how stuck here at the start is a collection of songs covering how anxieties snowball in confinement. How has quarantine impacted your artistic approaches & writings?
Brianna: There was a long time during quarantine where I just wasn’t writing. I wrote these songs in a big burst at the beginning of quarantine and then I fell into a pretty bad depression. I was formally diagnosed with depression at the time. So, I kind of stopped writing for a couple months. Then, I got on great anxiety medication and was able to dust myself off and say, “Let’s finish this!” I got the energy to finish the EP. The songs all kind of came out well before I realized I wanted them to be a formal release, which was great because I was able to sit with these songs for longer and fine tune them to be how they wanted to be. It was great when we went into recording because by then I knew how I wanted them to be.
Slumber: Hell yeah, I love how songs can really mature into the artifact of not just a moment, but an era, and grow with the whole process. Ideally, where should someone be for their first listen of stuck here at the start?
Brianna: Probably just in their bedroom on a rainy day. Those rainy days where you just want to nap or be within yourself are the prime opportunities for this record because it does really contain that somber mood. But there is also a moment in them of reassurance, like you’re safe now and everything will be okay.
“I wrote these songs in a big burst at the beginning of quarantine and then I fell into a pretty bad depression... so, I kind of stopped writing for a couple months. Then, I got on great anxiety medication and was able to dust myself off and say, “Let’s finish this!” I got the energy to finish the EP.”
Slumber: One of the unique, and I think best, parts of DIY is having your friends involved throughout the record release process. How has that looked with Modest Aeroplane Records?
Brianna: Oh my god, they’re the best. Gavin and Jade run that out of Columbus. They’ve been a force of pure hype, which is something I’ve never experienced before. When I’ve worked with other labels before, they’ve kind of just put out the release and mention it once, but here there’s so much more enthusiasm. Gavin and Jade and everyone at Modest Aeroplane are just dedicating their whole lives to this record and that’s really special. We’ve got a ton of great stuff in the works. It feels good to have such a cool community around me to help push this record out and give it the love I think it deserves!
Slumber: That’s incredible! Do you feel like that’s endemic to the Columbus scene in any way?
Brianna: The Columbus scene is changing a lot! A lot of my friends are moving out. My drummer, Matt, is moving to Chicago, and my friend David who used to play guitar for me is going to South Carolina. I’ve seen a lot of love from the Columbus scene, but it’s changing fast. I’ll be interested to see, once we’re on the other side of this pandemic, who’s left and what’s going on.
Slumber: What’s one song that you really wish you had written?
Brianna: If there’s any song that I wish I wrote, I would say “pleasure suck II” by SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE. It’s the closer on that album, pleasure suck. For me, it’s one of the most emotional songs I think I’ve ever heard. I wish I wrote it!
“Those rainy days where you just want to nap or be within yourself are the prime opportunities for this record because it does really contain that somber mood. But there is also a moment in them of reassurance, like you’re safe now and everything will be okay.”
Slumber: Who were some music artists you heard growing up who convinced you that you could make music exactly how you wanted to?
Brianna: So, my dad is a radio DJ at a Top 40 station in Pittsburgh. We had a lot of music around because of that, but it was Top 40 stuff. He also happened to love Dave Matthews Band. I grew up on that, and my mom liked Tracy Chapman, so I grew up with that folk, alt-rock style. The first people who really showed me that I could make music myself the way I wanted to came from one particular show.
In my first semester of college, maybe a month or two into the semester, my sister and I came home to Pittsburgh for a show. There was a show that completely changed my life: it was Julien Baker, Half Waif, and PETAL. We were going to come late, but we ended up coming right on time for PETAL’s set to start. Watching their set, seeing them stand alone with their guitar performing a solo set and seeing a woman just crushing it showed me that I could do it on my own.
Slumber: That’s a hell of a show.
Brianna: It was insane! And I could only stay for like, one or two Julien songs because we had to go to school because I had to go back to Columbus for school in the morning. That entire night blew me away.
Slumber: Did you get to see Half Waif?
Brianna: Yeah, I did! At the time, I was emailing her because I had to interview someone for a class and I picked her. She responded immediately to my Twitter DM and we emailed back and forth and I mentioned that I was going to this show. We linked up, we talked a little bit at the show, it was fantastic. Her grace and her presence was incredible – I really admire women who can hold their own like that.
Slumber: I loved your interview with Half/Access, and reading it now feels essential – between questions of physical venue access, health precarity as big artists announce fall tours, and the institutional backing required now to line up performances, “access” is an essential & multidimensional point of discussion right now. As a musician and showgoer, what stands out to you about questions of accessibility in the soon-to-reemerge live music scene?
Brianna: That is something I have been avoiding thinking about for a while because it’s like, what ARE shows going to look like? I have cerebral palsy and scoliosis, so it can be hard for me to stand for long periods of time. And you know how it is, basement shows, house shows, those smaller venues, it’s all standing room only, there’s maybe one chair in the back. At first as a community, we were encouraging people to have more seating at shows. Or if you have a basement show that requires going down steep steps or something like that, make some signage about that or if there’s a Facebook event, put it in the Facebook event.
Now we have to deal with the fact that coronavirus is still spreading. I don’t wanna be totalitarian about it, but I think vaccinations are the most important thing to get back to live shows. I know some people are hesitant, but I think it’s super important for us to ensure that showgoers are vaccinated, at least partially. It’s all about minimizing risk. Combine that with the goals we already have as disabled people, that’s the only true way to make shows accessible.
Listen to Saltlick’s recent EP ‘stuck here at the start’ out now: