In the six years between the release of the self-titled debut of awkwardly punctuated Phoenix band Snake! Snake! Snakes! and the upcoming release of the group’s sophomore record, Tranquillo (due out April 9), the rock ’n’ roll four-piece has changed an awful lot.
For starters, the group traded in ivory tickler Georgie Rodriguez for a second guitarist, Dan Tripp. But that change in personnel really shifted the band’s entire sound from a more dreamy, piano-based aesthetic to a harder-edged, more punk guitar-based one.
“The new album is really a road map of all the changes the band has gone through, losing a member, gaining a member, new influences, each of us going through things in our personal lives and whatnot, and I think this album really showcases all of that,” says drummer David Cooper. “It’s a great transition into our new sound and feel. It’s been a long road, but I think it’s just what we needed.”
But just like fellow serpent Snake Plissken said in Escape From L.A., “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
“I don’t feel much of a difference. The process still feels the same. I guess it all really depends on the individual,” says singer Jonathan Messenger. “I still sit at home writing songs in my room, play out new songs at shows, still learning to record myself, but maybe for others it’s different. I guess they have better jobs with more responsibility.”
The 31-year-old does admit that he and his bandmates are playing far fewer house shows these days. But that’s just one way that Tres Snakes (as the band is informally known) is starting to show its age. Some others are far more personal, like the settled-down life of bassist Chris Sanchez, much of Messenger’s lyrical content, and the gray hairs on Tripp’s head.
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But even as they grow up, many of the stories Messenger has to tell draw from his more youthful years.
“When I was just getting out of high school, I was living on the street,” Messenger says. “Sometimes I’d get lucky and have a place to crash for a while. But I remember being at a pay phone and calling all these numbers to find a place to crash and found out an old friend was having a house party, so I went over there for the night. A lot of my old friends were there, and they were talking about what college they were going to, or what car they just bought, or some girl at the party they were into, basically the same shit from high school, all the while I was trying to figure out where to live and how to survive. I just felt really out of place.”
Tres Snakes has never been quite punk enough to resonate with the punk scene. They aren’t quite weird enough to fall in line with the Trunk Space/DIY crowd. They aren’t quite hip enough to fit in with the Valley Bar bands, so the sometimes surfy-sounding, fuzzed-out quartet just plays with everyone. Whether headlining a bill along with Fathers Day and Treasure Mammal, one of many at Dia De Los Crescent, or rocking a “Weirdo Party” with the Freaks of Nature at Lost Leaf, Snakes just make their sound and stage show fit in. Not like they need to, though: As long as the band continues to make music, its followers will go wherever the music is.