When the local humanitarian organization Rise Up International staged a Battle of the Bands in June, the lineup featured some of Bend’s best young musical combos.
The competition appeared fierce. Local alt-rock quintet The Snag jumped on the bill mainly for the exposure, said Forrest Grenfell who plays keys and bass in the band.
“We just were playing the show to try to get a little more of a reputation,” Grenfell said, “but it ended up pretty good for us.”
If there’s an Understatement 101 class at Mountain View High School, Grenfell must have an A+. The Snag won the whole thing, much to their surprise.
“I have no idea how that happened,” Grenfell said. “We played the worst show we’ve ever played at that (battle), and I didn’t really feel like we had very many people watching us, either.”
That may have been true, but people are watching The Snag now. The band will celebrate the release of its new CD, “The Anteater,” with a show tonight in Bend (see “If you go”).
Let’s get the introductions out of the way. Grenfell is 16, and soon to be a junior at Mountain View. His band mates all go to Bend High School, and all are rising juniors except Jake Stein, 17, who’s heading into his senior year. Eric Eschelbach, 17, and 16-year-olds Beaux Hayes and Sylas Johnson round out the lineup.
The group has been together for more thana year, though you might call their initial gathering a false start, sort of. In May of 2008, Grenfell, Johnson and Eschelbach started the band, inspired in part by watching older brothers do the same. Shortly thereafter, they swiped Stein from another band and brought him into the fold.
“We all had wanted to get something going, and all of us had a few little pieces of songs that we had written,” Grenfell said. “So we decided to put something together.”
But that was before summer break. And summer break can be busy. The Snag was fairly inactive in between school years in 2008 before regrouping in September and realizing that they didn’t like the songs they’d written just a few months earlier.
“We actually just decided to ditch all the songs that we’d done and start over,” Grenfell said. “I don’t know exactly what it was. Maybe it was just that we were all a little more used to playing with each other, but we listened to what we had and decided it really wasn’t the direction we wanted to go. It was a little more classic rock sounding than any of us really cared for.”
Led by a synthesizer that Grenfell received for his 16th birthday last September, The Snag forged a new trail, one that could be described as more indie-rock or alt-pop. On “The Anteater” — which was recorded over five days in June at Grenfell’s house — the guitars jangle, the synth squirms, and Hayes (recruited to the band via Bend High’s jazz choir) belts his vocals like a lo-fi Jim Morrison.
Most importantly, perhaps, The Snag’s songs sort of wander through a hazy world, seemingly in no particular hurry to get wherever it is they’re going. The whole project has a charming, loosey-goosey aesthetic that makes up for whatever shortcomings you might expect from a very young band.
The five members of The Snag are teenagers in the Internet age, of course, which means they can listen to anything they want any time they want. And so, they split their time between classics (The Who, The Beatles, The Doors, Led Zeppelin), as well as modern acts (Muse, The White Stripes, Phish, Radiohead, Beck) that have little in common except a commitment to making music in new and grand ways.
Unlike last year, the guys have kept The Snag on the front burner this summer. The band hasn’t played a lot of gigs, but its members have been working on the CD and working to improve their individual skills. School will start up again soon, and they’re looking forward to playing whenever it’s possible to fit a gig in between sports, homework and other responsibilities.
“We’ve tried to focus on making (the band) really solid, and we all try to keep it pretty far up on the priority list,” Grenfell said. “This is pretty much where we want to go — to just keep playing.”