Is there anything more adorable in the world than nerd love? There just can't be, and therein lies much of the appeal of nerdcore duo Snailmate, which is made up of local music nerd and former Sister Lip drummer Ariel Monet and her rapper beau Kalen Lander, formerly of TKLB?.
The pair has been performing together only since April and started writing songs together in October, but already they have covered more ground touring than many established local acts. They also have managed to record their first EP, Escargot (due for a July 25 release at C.A.S.A. Sunba in Tempe), in the nine-month period between in October and July, a feat that neither Monet nor Lander's previous projects was able to accomplish. Sister Lip dropped an album; it just took the band well over two years to do so, while TKLB? never released a single official recording, Lander says.
"TKLB? was the Kalen Lander Band, and it was me and a DJ, and it was supposed to be a traditional hip-hop thing, and I just didn't want to do that anymore," Lander says. "I just felt like it wasn't going anywhere. Everything is live now, no backing tracks. I just got over the whole dude-with-a-microphone-and-CD-player thing. I went down that road and I got tired of either having a DJ or an iPod. I would hop up on stage with Sister Lip or Japhy's Descent or the Sugar Thieves, and that was always way more of a rush to me than playing with an iPod."
While perhaps Lander thought of himself as just a dude with an iPod and a microphone, Monet became enamored of the nerdy MC from a young age, claiming TKLB? has been her favorite rapper since she was 16. "I got all my friends at my high school into him, too," Monet says.
But besides being afforded the chance to work with her significant other/childhood hero, being in a two-piece band with her boyfriend also allows Monet the opportunity to tour just about constantly. The mohawked drummer says that after a three-month jaunt across the country, her bandmates in Sister Lip were no longer interested in touring for that long. So she decided to bow out of Sister Lip in favor of a group that was more focused on touring, also one that is able to tour cheaper and more comfortably. It's a lot easier for two people to crash out in a coupe, provided they don't mind getting more familiar with each other than those in a more conventionally sized band.
"We can sleep in a car together," Lander says. "We can share very confined spaces, so if we had anyone else in the band, we couldn't tour as much.
"More people in the band means more ideas, more opposing directions, and schedules to work with," Monet says. "We actually had a couple more members and auditioned some people, but it just wasn't working."
Their flexible schedules — Monet is a sound technician at Rogue Bar and Lander is a bartender at Rhythm Room — have allowed the group to amass more out-of-town shows than local gigs. And they have two more tours lined up following the EP release, leaving for 15 days in September before spending October through December on the road.