Snakeskin Sheds Her Former Life On Debut LP
Shanna Polley, aka Snake, is the center of a universe she has built through years of relentless and original creativity. Her first full-length album under the band name Snakeskin, Hangnail, was released in early 2018 by State Champion Records, a label run by Tracy Robinson. It mixes the best of the Breeders’ fuzz with the enlightened darkness best channeled by the Cocteau Twins.
If you were to check out Snakeskin’s band page, though, you’d see that Snake has an archive of EPs, demos, and reworks of multiple songs, evidence of an artist who is constantly pushing sonic and visual boundaries. I’ve been fortunate enough to see Snake play numerous times; as a solo artist, her voice commands the room, and her full-band show takes on the mood of a near-religious experience. I can’t tell you how many times the banger “Alone in a Crowded Room” has brought me to tears. This interview came about over the course of a few weeks, with Snake creating multiple visual and aural answers to my very rote questions.
How are you? How has your day been so far? What did you have for breakfast?
You recently released the album Hangnail, which I understand has some songs you wrote in high school. How much have those songs changed since they were originally written?
They changed a little bit and also a lot! Here are some side-by-sides of what I was doing high school vs. when Hangnail was happening (accompanied by little samples of my high school demos vs. Hangnail) that I recorded in a little studio I made in a closet!
Would you mind also giving us some insight into inspirations for your lyrics and song structure?
Do you have a favorite song from the recent album? Why?
Picking a favorite song is kind of like trying to pick a favorite emotional event. They're all equally strange events in my horrible heart.
According to your Instagram, it seems like you're an avid gamer. How does this inform your writing?
I love video games. I made a Triforce sticker that is on my guitar. Video games are so amazing and I’d love to write music for video games one day, but for now i'm expressing myself like this:
I saw you had a pretty visceral response to the recent hit Celeste. Talk to me about that.
I cried out loud every 10 minutes during Celeste. I recommend everyone play it. It changed my life. It's a game you just have to play to understand its value.
Are you playing any solid games right now you could recommend?
Click to pause the gif for a recommendation of my most recent faves!
Are you working on a new album right now, and if so, is the process different than with previous albums? I.e. are you writing this with a band in mind, or solo and then bringing the pieces to the band?
It's kind of a concept album. I'm using the concept I'm exploring to play with sounds and visuals and song structure. I have never been more excited about making an album.
I've also seen that you do a lot of visual and video work. Do you consider yourself solely a musician, or more an artist with multiple mediums? Or are those titles lofty and absurd, and you just consider yourself a "creative" through and through?
You also just graduated Columbia, yeah? Congratulations! What was your major and how did you balance school work with music and everything else?
I did a major that was concentrated on music composition, sound synthesis and programming.
Here is a little video from college about what I did and how I was able to do it.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Here's my collection of essays about art that I made for my Facebook page for my drawings. The page is called DRAW 1.0 WITH SNAKE. Just type it into Google, you’ll find it.