Back in October, Brett Netson’s (Built to Spill, etc) droning rock project Snakes and Canadian psych rockers Crosss released their sprawling split via Netson’s own Scavenger Cult. One part desert dwelling soundtrack and one part noisy bombardment, this rather lengthy split highlights the strengths of two very different acts and how they work together to create a rather cinematic experience.
We recently reached out Netson and Crosss guitarist/vocalist Andrew March to discuss the creation and lyrics of their respective sides of the split. Continue reading to get immersed in the album and check out what they had to say.
SNAKES // SIDE A – by Brett Netson
1. Old, Like Hell
Was the first thing I did when I brought home a TASCAM 50 eight track.
It was a Snakes jam that was done live with the drum machine. I got deep into the different sounds and it took for fucking EVER! That’s just how it is recording alone. I did several different things and filled up the eight tracks and it sat for a couple years. Then I graduated to the 2” 16 track and was trying various pile of shit mixing boards and finally went in deep on an old English made Soundcraft. Replaced every capacitor. There were hundreds. It ended up sounding pretty great. Dumped the 8 track version onto the 16 track and did some drums gtr and vocals. Mixed onto a 1/4” machine that had been in Neurosis’ storage (Noah Landis’ dads house) in the Bay Area for like ten years at least. Bought it from Von Till. That thing was worn the fuck out so… hours and hours on this machine working out endless gremlins…
This ended up being a slice of two different versions of same song.
There were several recordings I did alongside the hundreds of hours spent fucking with these old ass machines. This one I really liked. It’s all about peace and unity but as when Beowulf finds baby Grendel, he knows that evil is in every one of us. We are all evil and the only way to go beyond is to accept it.
I wanted it to sound like John Cale-“Paris 1919”
He had Little Feat as his band. If you listen to “The Endless Plain of Fortune”, the slide guitars are like narcotics. It just doesn’t get any better! So, I was consumed with trying to hit a mark like that. Beautiful soothing music with wretched, dystopian misanthropic screed. We are all just bugs.
2. Hypothermia pt.2
This was after I got the machines somewhat straightened out. My friend Jason at Tonic Room here in Boise let’s me park my tape machine there.
This was getting my friends in, pushing record button and going till the tape ran out. It’s live improv with a few overdubs for sonic enhancement. It’s about being ok with dying. I think that’s the key to the survival of humanity.
Being okay with death. There were several sessions but I liked this one the best. I heard that dying from hypothermia was dreamy. I had recently capsized a canoe in a Wyoming lake that was still ice cold even though the sun was out and it was 80 deg. My son was with me. Hooked a huge brown trout and whoosh! We was both in the ice cold water, cramping up. And what comes next is the comfort of a dreamy death from hypothermia. We got pretty close to death. It was kind of a life changer.
Mell Dettmer mastered this whole record. It was exactly what I wanted. She is magical.
CROSSS // Side B – by Andrew March
This song attempts to walk a tightrope between two notions, suicidal ideation, seen as a peace-wish, and then, the spoken desire to transcend; or, seen differently, the contrast between the impossibility of attaining peace, and the worldly intention to constantly be Becoming a state of peace, which in this song is related as justice. I was thinking about western justice, perhaps as a cessation of vengeful desires, how ones ego could be in conflict with these notions, where pride and justice are often at odds. There is a great deal of cognitive dissonance here, and that confusion which is paired with resolve, was the subject here.
2. Cold Hands
At some point many people have an experience where they feel spiritually seduced by some entity, and come to realize that this entity is not benevolent. The introspective path, which could result from this experience is the subject of the lyrics of this song. One wishes to dissect oneself to find the source of this decision to accept the bond, and to re-assure oneself that they are other then that which they have labeled as such. One seeks confirmation that they are well and good, and that this other had tricked them malevolently. Where such a dissection is rarely completed without great self-deception, the act of separating self from other in this context may ironically affirm the connexion, and so this song is sung from the perspective of a malevolent spirit who’s aim is self-trickery and self-affirmation. The subject spins further from reality as the song progresses. When I sat down to write the music, I was listening to the Melvins, and I feel like falling short of that goal, happened to play nicely with the overall theme of self deception.
3. I Got Lo
The working title for this song was Entrance, which I somehow wanted to be spelled in a way which blended the words ‘entrance’ and ‘en-trance’, but they are spelled the same so that was impossible. The idea with this one was to directly sing/play/drum about the Sublime. This is something I often encroach upon or reference, but I was determined to directly address that notion in all its blindness and all its nuances. To me the Sublime is as close as westerners often come, in our daily lives, to an experience of Gnosis, without special practises, and so I feel that for me the Sublime is an important meeting space for western art and western mysticism. The lyrics have no other special meaning, just the crystal wall of god-head, the ash of all else, the confluence of low and high. When we play this song live, I add a lyric which references a herb I have never touched, which I otherwise never name, and which for me is the epitome of the westerners struggle. We know we must never harvest this very sacred and endangered herb, but we desire its healing, and many of us may need its healing, so we sit in the balance, working through layers of intergenerational trauma, wading through, or often lost, and as we progress, time passes, and the earth heals, even though we may not feel it. Perhaps one day this herb will flourish again, and we will have it in our lives, maybe not, we do not know, perhaps we must not know.
This song was the result of a collaboration with Brett Netson, who we share the physical release with, and to whom we owe thanks for the production, engineering, and label work on this record. Brett played on one or two of our songs when we were on tour together, and we wanted to work on a song. We hooked up all the guitars and pedals and amps that we could find, hit record, and then repeated that process a few times to layer. Some sounds were already on that reel, and were not recorded over, which was serendipitous, and I think one of the best parts. Brett also used vari-speed and reversed the reels for some things, so its a 5 way collab, Brett, Me, Susie, Michael, and that MCI machine. I like these kinds of songs because they shed a layer. There is no object which you hear introducing a subject, there is just the subject itself, and so this kind of song has a use, unlike a normal song which discusses a use, and may be useful as such. This kind of song is either useful or not, you can’t put it in your journal and think about it later, and maybe use it later, as you see fit, if need arrises, you need the recording, and it’s only good while you have it playing. Maybe that’s not true, I don’t know, I like both kinds of songs very much, but I do like this kind in a special way.