February 25, 2008
Luke Sneyd doesn’t mess around. The singer/songwriter just released his debut album All of Us Cities last year, and already his songs have reached number one spots on Internet radio charts. He recorded with the help of just a few friends, including his producer Marc Koecherr who he met in film school, but for the live show Sneyd had to recruit even more help. Now with a steady lineup, he is beginning to make a name for himself in Toronto and across the nation. Toronto Music Scene had a chance to catch up with him after his gig at the Horseshoe Tavern on February 18.
It was great. I’ve got a couple of new guys I’m working with right now and that’s also kind of exciting. When I was taking it live I found Zach, who is our drummer, Marc was playing bass and I was working with this other keyboardist Lindsay, but Lindsay got tied up and was out of town so she wasn’t around, and then Marc was also down in New York so I was like fuck, I need like half a new band and I’ve got two shows coming up. So it was crazy on that level, but Zach had a couple buddies who are actually kind of working out and I think are going to be playing with me long-term. Scott Hannigan is taking over on bass and Nester Chumak is the second guitar player. I’m finding it really great having a second guy playing guitar. I’ve played for years and I still do a lot of the guitar work, but it’s nice to have someone taking a little of the weight off my shoulders so I can forget about it sometimes and he can rock and roll and I can just focus on singing.
Isn’t it weird though recording with different musicians than you’re playing live with?
It is weird, but the thing is though, when we were doing a lot of the album I had one other guy come in and help me out named Chris Osti who plays with the Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir. He’s a buddy of mine back a couple years, so he came in and played some bass tracks, but he was busy so it ended up being mostly just me and marc in the studio being this one on one thing, which is great when you’re recording but it’s not going to cut it live obviously. It was just really good to get a whole crew of people. It brings the songs to life in a different way.
So do you write all the instrumentation and then teach it to the new people or how does it work?
The parts are kind of laid out, but if someone has an idea then that is totally cool to work it in. For the most part the guys have been following the template of the record pretty closely, but it’s one of those things that are on the record aren’t going to work necessarily on the record and we have to step back. Hearts and Minds was one we realized wasn’t going to work the same way, so we needed to invent new guitar parts to keep the flow of things working better. There are some moments of reinvention, but I’d say three quarters of the album are more of less the same.
Lindsay, I was reading, does Classic Albums Live, have you ever checked it out?
I did for the first time in December and they were doing The Band, they were doing the Last Waltz, which is this big concert film, Martin Scorsese shot it, and it was the Band’s final performance, so all these guest people got on stage, this is in the movie obviously, so there was Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton and the who’s who of 60’s rock, so the Classic Album’s Live people were like we’re going to restage that whole concert and have a whole bunch of guest people come on and be the guest people. It was really weird, but it actually worked really well. I was going in a little dubious, but I was surprised, the musicians are actually awesome. People actually get off on it.
Do they dress to look like them too?
No, they don’t take it that far. I don’t know if that would be good or bad, but they had a pretty good vibe on stage. I was surprised too because the other thing I was expected was there to be a whole bunch of burn outs, like a whole bunch of people in their 50s, but it was crazy like a whole spread of people.
Would you ever do something like that?
No! It’s never grabbed me. Once and a while someone will come up to me and say ‘dude, you can make a lot of money on the cover circuit,’ but it’s just not for me. I get off on original music, that’s what really turns my crank.
Well your stuff’s doing pretty well; Starstruck is still in the top 30 on SongVault.com.
That was a funny thing; they actually have like tiered charts. So it was number one and I was like ‘yes, it’s number one,’ but then I just found out there is actually one more tier above that. So it has moved up to the highest echelon right now.
It’s like the bottom of the highest right now.
Yeah exactly, so it’s weird because it’s just kind of sitting there. But that’s what kind of happens, it usually takes about a month and then it starts sneaking up again. I’m kind of just waiting right now. That kind of exposure is great for sure. There was that and then I was in this contest thing.
The Great Canadian Band contest?
Yeah, the Great Canadian Band Challenge. It was this thing put on by this website my30seconds.com. It was this weird thing; it was a video competition so a whole bunch of people submitted their videos. A lot of people put in stuff that was really half assed, like here’s me in my bedroom playing guitar. But I was lucky because I was working on a semi-real video with a buddy of mine I knew in film school. You could win a distribution deal with Universal, so it was great exposure. It was kind of a fluke. We made the top 5, so we got to go compete at the Hard Rock Café. We didn’t win, but we had a good time. That was the second gig my band had played. It’s just barreling along, that slow build up kind of thing.
Yeah well I have a quote here from one of the judges of the submission tapes, Tony Tarleton, and he said “I wish I could pronounce his name right, but it doesn’t matter because he’s going to be a star.” How did that make you feel?
It was weird, but good. It’s kind of surreal to hear something like that. I was like wow, that’s kind of odd, but it’s exciting to get that kind of feedback from industry people like that. It’s good, but I still have to get out there and play but I still have to get out there. It’s a nice pat on the back, but I have a lot of work to do.
I feel like your band is one of those bands that has a commercial appeal to it, are you working on that right now at all?
I think obviously things are shaken out a little bit making sure we have people who are in it for the long haul. That’s one of the things I’m trying to get settled. You know the drummer is right there and I think that these guys are going to be rolling with me for a little while. I think we still want another keyboardist live, but it’s got to be the right person. Beyond that I think it’s music that is commercial to a degree and I want it to succeed. I want to get out and start playing shows. One thing I am excited about is trying to pull together some new demo ideas. I’m always writing, so it’s interesting when you have new people to see what they’ll do with your ideas. That’s something we’re going to start playing with over the summer and then have a new EP out by the fall.
You have a blog too and you talk a lot about political stuff, how does that tie into your music?
Well once in a while I get a bug up my ass where it’s like fuck man something’s pissing me off. The majority of the songs on my album are love or not-love songs, but especially the whole political situation south of the border, George Bush drives me insane!
I heard you have a few songs that are secretly about George Bush.
Yeah, pretty much. That guy is such a fucking asshole. I don’t set out to write a lot of political stuff, but at the same time you should be engaged in the world around you to a certain degree. I think it’s important to pay attention to what’s happening and you should speak up when something is clearly wrong.
What do you have gig-wise after tonight?
I think one show coming up, we’re playing the Red Rooster in Burlington, which is going to be hilarious. We’ve been playing around Toronto a lot, so we’ve been trying to get shows lined up elsewhere, doing the whole regional thing. We’re talking to a couple of guys, we’ll probably be doing something at Clinton’s in late March, but that’s not positive yet. I’m just going to be filling out some bookings. Because things were haywire as far as lineups go, I was like maybe I shouldn’t book anything until I know what’s going on. And it’s amazing the lead-time people work with now. You talk to a club and you’re like can we do something next month, and they’re like how’s three. I expect March to be quiet, but I’m hoping to have something set up late March, early April. I’m hoping to set up a mini tour when we get to spring, and that will probably be still mostly Ontario, but maybe get over to Ottawa or Montreal.
All right, thanks Luke. Any last words?
Just check out the Prisoner video online, it’s up on YouTube. It’s a fun little thing. Part of it was to reflect how the album came about, because it was mostly me and Marc in the studio doing everything together. So we thought it would be funny why don’t we have the band playing in the video, but the band is all me. We did this whole crazy green screen thing, but there’s three of me and then Marc on drums. We’re just getting it into MuchMusic now; it should be there hopefully in a few weeks or so.