Snow Ellet is quickly discovering that fame can be a funny thing. Snow was living in his parents’ suburban home, far enough away from Chicago where he closer identified as living near Six Flags Great America, when he was writing and recording his debut EP Suburban Indie Rock Star. At the time, the name for the record was totally tongue in cheek. The cover image was taken in his front yard and meant to evoke the kind of late 90’s band who mighta found their way onto the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtrack. Everything about the record from the artwork thru to the lyrics evokes a very specific, nasally, suburban ennui. The tape opens up with “To Some I’m Genius”, where Snow sings about the detachment of the suburban children experience; The simultaneous desire one feels to get out of their town at all costs while knowing nobody will ever recognize their talents enough to give them the chance to get out of there, all with a winking sense of humor. The track served as a mission statement for the entire Suburban Indie Rock Star project, and helped take Snow’s music from his parent’s basement to computers all over the country. He was able to channel a pop punk sound that felt familiar from the second you first hear it and couple it with a self aware recreation of the energy and emotions that you might have been going through back when people were listening to this kinda music.
As more and more people began to take in Suburban Indie Rock Star, Snow noticed a change in himself he was not anticipating. Snow began to realize that he could he not shape how people reacted to the record, and that its public perception inevitably started to reshape how he thought about the EP and even in some small ways how he thought of himself. For starters, he has been going by Snow for several years now, and has no idea how people were able to dig up his birth name, but at the same time doesn’t feel particularly compelled to correct them either. More to the point however, by putting this record out Snow realized that these songs became conversations between him and his audience rather than fantasies in his head, and he has been very cognizant of the ways his audience has made the EP their own. It was clearly an aspect of putting out music into the world that Snow wasn’t anticipating, and he commented on how he feels like he’ll need to step his game up for future releases, but pointed again to Snow’s self awareness shining thru as it did on the record. Throughout our conversation Snow felt as mesmerized by the EP’s success as anyone, appreciative of the people who helped turn him into the suburban indie rock star he imagined himself to be, and excited to continue to surprise with the music he has in store.
I had the chance to talk to Snow about putting together Suburban Indie Rock Star, which skateboarding video game actually had the best soundtrack, and whether he anticipates a planned move to the big city of Chicago impacting his suburban sound going forward.
GSC: What is your name? How do you identify?
SNOW ELLET: I mean, my name is Eric Reyes, but I don’t think anyone calls me that. It’s pretty interesting, because I don’t know how people found my legal name. It’s not tied at all to my social media or anything. So when I saw the first couple pieces of media coming out about Suburban Indie Rock Star I was like, how do they find that? I feel like they asked my mom or something.
GSC: That is strange. Maybe it’s on BandCamp or in metadata on something?
SNOW ELLET: Maybe? I don’t know. But yeah, most people just call me Snow, and they have for a long time at this point. So like, amongst friends and stuff, just Snow, but now I find myself in email signing with Eric because that’s how they addressed me and I feel like a jerk if I don’t reciprocate or something.
GSC: I like Snow. So do you see Snow Ellet as your, I don’t want to say a rapper name. But like your artistic name for yourself, or as the band name, or just who you are? And I am sorry if I am conflating the two.
SNOW ELLET: No, no, you’re fine. I think it’s been an interesting thing. I’ve been going by Snow for at least six years at this point. I like remade all my socials under that name, and people started calling me Snow. So I was actually introducing myself as Snow. So to watch it go from like a personal identity to an artist’s name has been an interesting shift because it feels slightly less personal now. But it’s not a detriment, it is not a good or bad thing. It’s just an interesting shift to take note of.
GSC: Well, it’s interesting. I feel like it part of that is probably due to genre. Ironically, we’re so used to hearing, this style of music coming from a band, people may not even think to engage with your work as a solo artist at first.
SNOW ELLET: Yeah, it’s funny because its not a band or like I never thought of it as a band till someone else called Snow Ellet a band. And of course, I have my friends with me playing when we play live, but I wrote it all and put it all together and whatnot. I feel funny, like never correcting anyone, because it’ll just be like, “The band Snow Ellet” I’m like, okay, it’s fine. Whatever you want to think, doesn’t bother me that much.
GSC: What are some of your earliest music memories? Who was playing music around you? What were they playing?
SNOW ELLET: It was a lot of rockin’ Spanish when I was when I was younger from my Mom. The Supernatural album by Santana does not really count but the album went “Smooth” on it was huge. There was a band called Maná that my Mom also loved. My Dad listened to pretty wide variety of music like hip hop, 70s r&b, Jamiroquai specifically. I remember before it became the Napoleon Dynamite meme listening to “Canned Heat” a lot. And I used to be really into bargain bin CDs, random compilations of electronic music and stuff. I used to poke around a lot on FL Studio when I was like nine years old. I never made good music, but I used to, like poke around. My cousin was a rapper, like a Christian rapper. So he like gave me a cracked copy of it on a CD. Yeah, it was it was pretty lit. However, I think my first vivid memory of music introduced to me not by another person was Now That’s What I Call Music. Three is a yellow CD, it had “What’s my Age Again?” on it. Also, when Tony Hawk Pro Skater came out, I got it. I was like three years old or four years old ad obviously the whole soundtrack was huge for me, like the one Goldfinger song that everyone knows.
GSC: My next question was going to be when did you know you wanted to make music yourself? But it sounds like you knew from an absurdly young age, you’re nine years old playing around on FL Studio.
SNOW ELLET: I feel like I’ve been asked that before, and that was sort of like an unlocked memory I had recently where I was like, I remember I used to make music on FL Studio. I was straight up like an elementary school. It wasn’t good music, I was just kind of like, oh, this is so fun. Like, you can program things. It’s neat. But I didn’t start getting to the point where I was like, “Oh, I kind of want to make like a real song,” until I was probably fourteen. For Christmas one year I got gifted a Boss VR600s, like a little digital recorder. And I used to make pop punk demos on there. Yeah, I forgot about that, too. It’s all coming out right now.
GSC: Did you like study music in school?
SNOW ELLET: I mean, I went to college for audio production, but I don’t know sort of feels like a bit of a waste of time when you’re done. You’re like, I could have learned all that on YouTube or I could have gone to an audio trade school, but I’m glad I have a degree I guess. I don’t know.
GSC: In your DJ Booth interview you talked about how Suburban Indie Rockstar started from you sanding off the reverb from your old shoegaze band. Do you think that sound is completely in the past for you?
SNOW ELLET: I don’t think it’ll ever go to the extreme because it was layers and layers of reverb. I think I was just overcompensating for the fact that I wasn’t super confident in my songwriting and I wasn’t super confident in my voice. I was just like, if I just put enough effects on it, it’s gonna sound awesome. And I listened back to it a couple weeks ago, and I was like, these are just tragic. I could see elements of it coming back to this new sound. The project I was tryna make was a shoegaze, dreampop inspired thing. But then there was also undercurrents of like post punk and new wave and stuff. And that’s more the side of that project that I am pulling from. Even now the songs that I’m writing have little elements of that post punk, I think “Brick” on the EP is like a good example of that.
GSC: You’ve talked about how Suburban Indie Rock Star was this self-recorded quarantine project. What was your writing and recording process?
SNOW ELLET: I gotta be honest with you, I have a bad memory anyway, but it just went really quickly. I have these creative bursts. I’ll be totally bone dry, like not writing anything for like two months. And then I’ll have 10 days or something where like, every day I finish a song. That’s my thing with writing songs too, I can’t start a song and then come back to it. I have to finish it here and now because if I don’t do it in one swing, I lose the direction and then I second guessed myself, and so I tried to just go with whatever the first thought I have is. If it’s a bad song then the whole song is bad, and that’s fine. So yea I just had like a big creative burst. I feel like I’ve given different answers because I literally don’t remember when it was I was writing and recording, I would say it was probably like December or something.
GSC: Can you talk about the name of the record and putting the cover art together? Because the two really set the tone for this record.
SNOW ELLET: I took the picture literally in front of my house, like right here. I live in like I live in suburbs, I just wanted to be very transparent and real with it. I was like, I’m not going to take a picture anywhere else other than where I live. I live by Six Flags Great America in Illinois. People are always like that’s really far! And I am like “I know!”
GSC: My cousin worked at the Six Flags in Jersey!
SNOW ELLET: It’s always such like a local like, “Oh, you live by there.” It’s like a total destination. But, yeah, I took the picture, like, literally right in front of my house. It was just me, I put my I had this Canon T4i, I upgraded cameras since, but I set it up on a little tripod. I had my dad sit, and I was like, “You sit there while I position the camera, and then we’ll switch places.” And then I took it, I added my filter to it. But then I sent it to my friend, Anam Merchant and I was like… Do you know Nine Days? “The Story of a Girl” band? The only album cover they have that people recognize is that album [The Maddening Crowd], I realized it wasn’t gonna be the exact same because I took the picture myself but I didn’t care think that hard about it, I’ll definitely need to put more care in it going forward knowing that people will be perceiving it. But that’s all it was, I saw the picture said “That one’s fine” and sent it to Anam.
GSC: I love that. Sometimes you are best just going with your gut. You know, it’s like, you knew what it was gonna be and that’s all it could ever be.
SNOW ELLET: I remember when when I was talking with Wax Bodega about reissuing it. We had like a small conversation about whether or not we were going to change the cover for it, and everyone was pretty much just like “No, it’s it makes sense.” Like it’s not my favorite album cover in the world or anything, but I think it is incredibly indicative of what you’re about to listen to.
GSC: You mentioned the rerelease, how How did these songs sound to you like a year later? And how do the the new tracks like “Wine on the Carpet” add to the EP?
SNOW ELLET: Sometimes I hope people don’t pay attention to what I’m listening to on Spotify, because I will be guilty of listening to the EP to see what do I like about this? What don’t I like about it? And it just like reminds me of like that specific period of time. I mean, I’m still proud of it. I think a lot of artists are quick to like fall out of love with like their work. I’ve definitely worked with people who write a song will perform it and then they’re like, we’re never playing that song again. So I’m actually pretty happy that I still listen back to it and I’m still stoked on it. I still think “To Some I’m Genius” might be my favorite song I’ve pretty much ever written. Not that I think my best days are behind me but in the sense of, it accomplished exactly what I wanted it to accomplish. I think it just set the tone perfectly for this project and what it’s about. I am very proud of that. In terms of the new songs, I mean, obviously, part of it is well, we can’t just rerelease the EP and do nothing. So that’s one hand, but the other hand, I definitely am very keen to show general progression and just see if people are generally interested in a little change, especially longevity wise. “Wine on The Carpet” is more similar to the EP than the other new song, “Nowhere to Go”. I’m hoping that when people hear it, they don’t think it’s a total departure. What I want to see if people are like down for the ride. It kind of pisses me off when bands release seven records that all sound the same. I love watching like that artists progression, and I hope that people enjoy the slight progression of these new tracks.
GSC: It’s funny because the EP is very cohesive but no two tracks feel like they’re pulling from the same inspiration.
SNOW ELLET: Its funny, obviously, you are not very conscious of those influences when you’re writing, at least for me. The only song where I had an intention in mind was “Brick”. One of my favorite bands of all time is The Drums, I guess it’s not really a band, It’s just one person.
GSC: Like you!
SNOW ELLET: True! Johnathan Piece is one of my favorite songwriters of all time. I just think he writes like the best like purest pop songs ever. So for “Brick” I definitely wanted to write a Drums styled song but obviously its not going to turn out exactly like that, but that was the only one where I had that much intention.
GSC: The Drums rock, Josh who I run the site with is obsessed with them.
SNOW ELLET: Me too! Going forward I think people are going to hear a lot more of that type of thing from me. In college and after I wasn’t listening to like a ton of pop punk. I did in high school and then early college and then I didn’t fall back in love with the genre itself till I revisited it recently. I was listening to like, nothing but like, diiv, The Drums, Beach Fossils, a lot of the entry level New York indie and still to this day, like, I just am so enamored with that sound, which I am stoked about.
GSC: You’ve done a very good job of helping me with my transitions throughout this interview, because I feel like those are more decidedly urban bands versus the more, quiet literal, Suburban Indie Rock Star EP. And I think in that same interview, you had mentioned that you are moving to Chicago proper relatively soon. Do you think that that urban setting will change the music you’re making at all? Is getting back into The Drums and those NYC bands a reflection of getting ready to leave the suburbs?
SNOW ELLET: Oh, that’s such an interesting observation. I guess I hadn’t really thought about that. I’d like to think at this point I know myself well enough, where not that I am stuck in my ways, but like I’m not gonna turn into one of those bands all of a sudden has like organ player. Which not to talk trash, but one of my least favorite tropes is the no stage energy band with the dude with the organ. I think have my tendencies that will shine thru no matter what. And I also can’t change my voice. I have like a couple songs on my hard drive where with the instrumental you’re like, “Oh, this is like very chill indie music,” but then the vocals come in and you’re like, “Oh, this dude like loves Blink 182.”
GSC: That is too funny.
SNOW ELLET: Have you ever heard the band Hunny? They’re super cool. They released this record in 2019 called YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. Give that a listen, because the instrumentals are so new wave and the vocals come in and you are like, oh yea 100% grew up in the burbs, the song “Change Your Mind” is so good.
GSC: So the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchises come up a million times when talking about Snow Ellet. Did you find a lot of music growing up from those games? And what would you say is your favorite both game and soundtrack?
SNOW ELLET: I played a ridiculous amount of Tony Hawk as a child. It was only the first game. I only owned a couple games, I would go over to friend’s houses and play like 2 3 4 and then Underground. But I only owned Tony Hawk Pro Skater One and that would be it until American Wasteland. I will say, Green Day “Holiday” on the American Wasteland soundtrack still goes crazy. I think out of all the skating games I played the best soundtrack weirdly enough was this game Street Sk8er. As much as I love the Tony Hawk games themselves their soundtracks weren’t always like my absolute favorite. It did introduce me to the world of alternative music, punk rock, ska, especially that first Tony Hawk game had like, you know, it was like, right at the tail of the 90s, by the 2000s it had shifted. But Street Sk8er had a song by Weston called “Liz Phair”. If you listen to this song, it’s like prototypical Snow Ellet. The main chord progression and the whole vibe is so incredibly late 90s, early 2000s but it’s also such a corny song.
I can harp on about the song all day long, it’s one of the most important songs of like my life. Learning to play it was a big deal, and I remember playing the game with my Dad too which makes it sentimental. The lyrics are kinda creepy looking back but the sound and whatnot still means so much. One of the people that was in that band was James who was in that band Beach Slang, and that whole situation broke my heart because Weston means so much to me, I used to download all their music illegally and spin it nonstop.
GSC: What was your illegal downloading means of choice back in the day.
SNOW ELLET: There was a lot. I was big into Limewire and Frostwire when I was little, downloading Metallica. The first CD I ever bought was Metallica’s St. Anger funnily enough.
GSC: They were happy you bought that with your own money I am sure!
SNOW ELLET: Yea better than Napster. Then, as time went on, I like I got more versed in torrenting, I was on PirateBay. And then of course, a lot of blogspots. Sophie’s Floorboard was the most important website of my high school career. And yeah, a lot of like random blogs and also a xeasycorex.net. They were an easy core only blog that used to just put up random bands. Some of the American ones, but also a ridiculous amount of Indonesian easy core bands, and other stuff all over the world. It was so cool. Like, I wish I still had a lot of that stuff.
GSC: That’s coming back these days. So many like bands in the scene are kind of doing easy core.
SNOW ELLET: Yeah, Origami Angel is doing it big. I was a huge easy core kid. I still love it. Like I still listen back to it and think how is this not the pinnacle of music?
GSC: I saw you scheduled some live dates. That is very exciting. How does it feel to be getting on the road taking these tunes in front of the good people? What’s your live band setup going to be like?
SNOW ELLET: I’m pretty I’m super stoked about going out. The live setup is going to be me, obviously, playing guitar and singing. My friend Ryan is going to be playing bass and also singing. My buddy Matt, who I’ve known since I was like, 16, is playing drums. And then one of Matt’s really good friends, Taylor, is also playing guitar with us. He learned the songs in two seconds. It was crazy.
GSC: Do you have a song you’re particularly excited to be playing every night?
SNOW ELLET: I’m excited to see how people react to some of the newer songs. I mean, obviously, no one’s there to see me per se right, I am opening. So for most people, everything’s gonna be new, which I’m excited at that prospect as well. I’m super stoked to play new songs. That’s what I am really excited about playing. I’m going to try to throw in, like at least one song is just not released and hope people are into it.
GSC: With the new songs, do you have a project in mind for them or are you just writing songs to write some songs?
SNOW ELLET: I think it’s more of that than anything. I don’t really like to give myself guidelines. I’m not trying to write a rock opera or write a concept album, where I need it all to fit together. I think everything I am writing right now has a very cohesive sound, which is interesting. They’re all sort of in the same pocket sonically, which is not how I feel the EP is. The EP felt like throwing ideas at the wall, and this feels very singular. But we’ll see. Right now, it’s just songs that I have. And I’m like, Okay, I’m just gonna write a bunch of songs and I’ll filter out which ones I think are good later… I just knocked the part of my tooth out.
GSC: Oh, shoot.
SNOW ELLET: Yeah.
GSC: Holy crap.
SNOW ELLET: I got into a car accident a couple years ago by a drunk driver and the filling part just came out. I am sorry.
GSC: What are the odds of that? No don’t apologize at all, fuck the drunk driver if anything. That’s just funny it happened live.
SNOW ELLET: Right? It was very strange, I just bit down.
GSC: This happened to comedian Stavros Halkias who did stand up with a tooth missing after losing it to a chicken wing, so maybe this will inspire something. So what is a hobby or passion of yours outside of music that people may be surprised to learn about?
SNOW ELLET: I really like basketball a lot, which I’ve talked about on Twitter.
GSC: You are reppin The Wiz right now, are you a Wizards fan?
SNOW ELLET: No, no, this is the t shirt everyone had a middle school, Jordan. Its so funny, I remember everyone getting these at Kohls and I had to pay $25 on depop. It’s got character. I do like basketball. Like I love playing NBA 2k, so does the bass player Ryan. We’ve tried to schedule playing other bands in basketball. I just think it’d be really fun.
GSC: Who is the number one band you want to challenge?
SNOW ELLET: So you know Girl K, they just got signed to Take This to Heart? We’ve all been homies with the people in Girl K for forever, because they’re also from the Chicago area, they’re from Chicago proper. I started seeing Cathy playing shows and she was like, 18 years old or 17 or something, and to see how well they’re doing now is so sick… but I’ve been trying to get something with them because honestly we would demolish them. Outside of basketball I do like taking like photos and video quite a bit. I just got like a new camera, maybe six months ago. I dropped a pretty penny on it, and I used it to take the “Wine on The Carpet” pic when I was in Mexico. And I like have filmed like a music video before which was like super fun. My life kind of does like revolve around music in a lot of ways though. I mean writing music kind of was just like my hobby that has resulted in something a little bit more than that so it still is my main hobby. I don’t really get excited about too many other things other than playing 2k, eating fast food. Yeah. Is that a hobby? I just can’t I like horror video games a lot. I really do like the Resident Evil franchise a lot. I haven’t played the new one though.
GSC: You’re again, leading me into my last question, which is just what media movies, TV, music, podcasts, video games, really? Whatever. Have you really kind of enjoyed this year?
SNOW ELLET: Funny enough, I don’t want to say it’s like an inside joke but I’ll always say to my friends that I don’t consume media. I watch a lot of YouTube, but it’s super random stuff. A lot of Bulls documentaries, documentaries about musicians. I’ve always enjoyed documentaries a lot. But I really ldon’t watch a lot of TV. I like Black Mirror a lot. Other than that I like watching reviews on I don’t know, technology things. I’m very interested in like Apple as a company, I’ve watched like a million Steve Jobs documentaries is really weird. As far as music I think I’ve listened to DIIV Is The Is Are like 100 times in the last three months. And then honestly, the new girl k single is awesome.
GSC: Even tho you’re gonna kill them basketball.
SNOW ELLET: Even though we’ll kill them in basketball that new single is sick. TX ‘98 their new EP is super sick.
It’s like emotional indie rock, which is like co code word for like emo. It’s exactly what I want out of an emo release. It’s just really gnarly. And that’s it. It’s pretty shameful how much new stuff I don’t listen to. I feel like the more music I listened to unfortunately, like, the more confused I get, in terms of my stuff. So I stay away otherwise I’ll start unintentionally copying people, and I’m already copying The Drums enough.
GSC: There is just so much music too you could never listen to it all.
SNOW ELLET: There’s always new awesome bands, it’s really sick though to be honest. I think about it all the time. I get super overwhelmed.