Discovery: Ace Reporter

Chris Snyder is something really special. The creative force behind Ace Reporter has done it all: has a degree from Harvard, was a classical violinist, and spent half a decade playing the New York club-circuit as the frontman of The States. After The States went their separate ways, Snyder didn’t want to just jump into another musical relationship. Instead, he took to songwriting every day for a year to make a project that was truly meaningful to him: it became something of a musical diary. Now, the Chicago by way of Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter is finally ready to share his songwriting with the world—his debut record, Yearling XL, comes out next week.

“Weights” is one of the tracks from Snyder’s upcoming record that is raw and honest, with gorgeous harmonies that straddles the line of upbeat and melancholy with grace, and we’re excited to share it with the Interview audience. We also talked to Chris Snyder about feeling like a wallflower, literary songwriting, and starting over again.

HOMETOWN: Chicago, IL and Brooklyn, NY

A NEW RELATIONSHIP: It was the end of 2009, and I had been in this band called The States for, gosh, a better part of a decade at that point. There were definitely some inter-personal conflicts by the time the band was coming to an end. I realized we hadn’t written any songs in a year. The band blew up at the end of the year, and I felt like I wasn’t ready for a relationship quite like that. All I wanted to do was sit around and write songs for a year. I figured I would challenge myself and sit around and write and record a new song every single day for a whole year and see how I felt. So, I did. I posted them all online to hold myself accountable. By the end of the year, I was having such a good time that I got some friends together and started playing shows. One thing led to another, and I ended up putting a record together: an actual good-sounding record. Ooh La La (Records) randomly heard the record and jumped on-board. Before I knew it, I was actually signed to a Brooklyn label and playing some bigger shows. It’s been a fun trip since that decision.

MUSICAL ACCIDENTS: Way back, we did a short tour with a reggae band called Steel Pulse out of the UK. They are super cool guys and we had a great time. Actually, I ended up making a bunch of fans, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect. Then we spent a few days out with The Fratellis, who are from Scotland. We were in Orlando, Toronto, and Atlanta with them, playing some sold-out shows in some big rooms. They were a tremendous amount of fun. Our focus has been on taking opportunities like that when they present themselves and really trying to build our home market in Chicago. I’ve been in Chicago for a year, and I’ve been in Brooklyn for many years. It was an accident that brought me here. I really like Chicago, and I’ve got some great people in the band. We’re trying to pick up some momentum here. It hasn’t been that long, so it’s nice.

TRYING NOT TO BE A DOWNER: I’m a big fan of bands like The National, and you might think of it as a slightly poppier version of The National with a tenor instead of a baritone. It’s a little bit more adult indie-rock than teeny-bopper indie-rock, if there is such a thing. There probably isn’t. It’s the kind of music that definitely has the word “indie” in it. Sometimes it sounds like indie-rock and sometimes it sounds like indie-pop. I’m trying to tell stories that are true, not to say that other musicians aren’t that serious, but maybe I haven’t given it much thought. Sad love songs and songs about not quite knowing what direction you’re taking in life as opposed to how much you’re partying. That sounds like such a downer on a Thursday morning, but it’s really not. They’re not downer songs.

 “WEIGHTS” AND WALLFLOWERS: So, “Weights” is a track that started as a sketch during my threesixfive project. It’s one that I’ve been coming back to every year and really wanting to do something with, so I got back into the studio and got onto drums, changed the arrangement and added a chorus. It’s one of those songs about not knowing what the hell you’re doing. I think it’s really been informed for me coming to a new city where I initially didn’t know anybody and going to parties, being in places where I felt like I was the only one in the room that didn’t know anyone else in the room. You’re a wallflower with a drink. It’s about trying to wrestle with that. That’s what I think about when I sing the song.

ON BEING A ‘90S KID: I’m one of those kids who grew up listening to a ton of bands like U2 and Stone Temple Pilots. I’m a ’90s kid. Then I went to college, and I discovered Radiohead when I was 18, which sounds ridiculously late for someone who was 18 in the year 2000. It was this steady diet of indie-rock. I remember listening to TV On The Radio and Boxer by The National for the first time. Recently I’ve been listening to a ton of St. Vincent, but I can’t really claim her as an influence. It’s this ’90s, British roots with a lot of indie-rock sensibility that I’ve stumbled on over the last 10 years. And definitely bands like The National with that literary approach to lyrics. I grew up as a classical violinist and a choirboy, so the sort of musical things that bands like Radiohead or even Muse were doing: taking classical modes and channeling them through a guitar amp. That’s something I’ve always been interested in. I guess it’s kind of choirboy indie-rock.

THE LITERARY APPROACH: I try to read as much as I can. I try to bring that into the lyrics. I personally find lyrics really hard, so I end up revising lyrics over and over again, but it’s something I aim for. I have a lot of admiration for people who seem to have a great ability with lyrics. For me, the perfect lyrics end up being something that’s really specific for me, and for someone else it’s really specific or really mysterious to them.