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Miami Duo Snakehole’s Psychic Live Show Is A Must-See
That flaking is standard practice in this town was of no major concern to Miami genre-benders Snakehole. The Miami duo, which comprises guitarist Autumn Casey and drummer KC Toimil, arrived in Brooklyn for their March 31 release show behind their new album Interludes of Insanity, at famed DIY hub Silent Barn just as a cold front swept through town, ushering in frigid temps, heavy rain, and vicious winds. “We didn’t even sell one record at our record release,” Toimil said over the phone, with a laugh. “It was kind of like a bum show for us, but everything else ended up turning out well.”
The Miami native’s not kidding. Snakehole’s forty-minute set rewarded the thirty or so attendees who’d braved the squalls that evening (half of whom stood shivering and soaking) with a different sort of deluge, abrasive rather than aqueous. Even better, the performance validated Interludes of Insanity—released in March via Brooklyn’s Wharf Cat Records—as one of the freshest punk releases of the year, not to mention the band’s strongest work yet: a blistering voyage down a treacherous stream of consciousness, into a clattering dimension where the lines separating songs, genres, and instruments cease to exist.
Snakehole weren’t always a power duo. The project was originally conceived in 2011 as a trio, comprised of Casey, drummer Sandra Calderalo, and bassist Julie Mejia. A short while later, Calderalo moved to New York City, and Toimil took her place. Following 2014’s eponymous EP, Mejia left the band, prompting a search for her replacement, a failed effort that Casey considers a blessing in disguise. “When Julie left, we tried to find another bassist,” she said, “but I think to not do that was the biggest change from then until now, and helped us to explore more in ourselves.”
With no bassist to cushion the melody or supplement the percussion, it was up to Casey and Toimil to carry the weight. Their solution? Getting weird. “The songs have become more like collage work, in a way,” Casey said. “We write a lot of parts and we find a way to sew them together.” Rather than reign in her partner’s sawtoothed tantrums in by way of conventional fills and predictable rhythms, Toimil sticks to her intuition: “Instead of worrying too much about the structure, [I’m] letting it go, and following the ride,” she said.
Maybe that’s why Snakehole’s shows resemble excorcisms. In Brooklyn, Casey played the part of false priest with aplomb, conjuring unruly riffs which slithered, writhed and roared like wraiths. Toimil, by contrast, sat at the kit as if enchanted. Her face slicked with sweat, she pounded the skins with passion, force, and unpredictability, a drummer possessed. The band chalk the frisson up to chemistry. “We’ve definitely gotten more in tune over time….” Toimil said, before Casey swooped in to finish her sentence, as if to prove her partner’s point: ”…but we’ve become more aware that we’ve had that ability.”
The duo’s psychic spirit is strong with Interludes of Insanity, which the duo recorded in Hudson, New York’s Waterfront Studios with Ben Greenberg (Uniform, The Men). It’s not so much a rock album as it is a corrosive patchwork quilt, seven scraps steel wool stitched together with barbed wire. For every burst of punkish firepower (like the two-minute barnstormer “Bum Song”, which sounds like Bikini Kill on acid), there’s a prolonged period of anguish (at the album’s core sits a nine-minute, two-part ambient interlude). Genre-wise, it’s all over the place: “Double Down” and “Hollow Tomorrow” fester in a doom metal cauldron, while “Good Conversation” and ten-minute closer “Izardus” nods to sludge masters the Melvins. If that all sounds like a lot, you’re not alone; even the band acknowledge the grueling nature of an extended period of genre juggling. “I think that part of the performance, the concept of it, is not easy to perform,” Toimil admitted.
Snakehole have come a long way since their first gig in 2011 (held at La Cueva, a now-defunct space which sat above the El Gato Tuerto liquor store in Little Havana). Over the past six years, they’ve shed their skin multiple times, linked with an esteemed Brooklyn label, collaborated with noise icons like Rat Bastard, and headlined club shows everywhere from Marfa, Texas to Memphis, Tennessee. Consider their upcoming homecoming show, then, a hellish victory lap. Hopefully the weather’s a little bit nicer this time around.
Zoe Camp is a journalist born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland and currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been featured in publications such as Pitchfork, SPIN, the Village Voice, Thump, The Fader, Brooklyn Magazine, Ms. Magazine, and others.