Snow Ellet has played all kinds of rock music in his 25 years, but the pandemic drove him back to his roots. “It's a quarantine project, which is kind of a wack backstory, to be like everyone else,” the singer/songwriter born Eric Reyes says on the phone from the northern suburbs of Chicago. “I was doing a shoegaze thing a while back in 2019, and it just didn't really take off. Eventually, you just end up being like, ‘Oh yeah, man, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtrack is sick.’ And you're back at square one. The shoegaze songs were getting so poppy that at the end of the day, I was like, ‘I should just turn the reverb off.’”
The debut Snow Ellet release, suburban indie rock star, is five quick tracks of hook-filled pop-rock reminiscent of the bands that populated late-‘90s alt radio and ‘00s Warped Tour lineups. His tongue-in-cheek lyrics—“yeah I guess, I’m kind of cool / to some I’m genius, like I always knew”—muddle self-deprecation and self-promotion, revealing them to be symptoms of the same anxious complacency.
Reyes recorded the EP throughout 2020 from his parent’s home and released it himself this March. The surge of attention around this project is a refreshing change for Reyes after his previous gigs, which included a “butt rock” band whose name he prefers not to publish that placed two songs with WWE in the mid-’10s (“I didn’t see a penny from it”) and drumming for a pop-punk singer, including a few stops on Warped Tour 2018.
“More than anything, I'm honestly thankful that literally, anyone listened,” he says. “I've always been a supporting member in bands, I've always been just one of the people in the background, so it really does feel validating to have the amount of people that have said nice things, to say those nice things. I'm just really geeked. I'm super stoked on whatever is coming next.”
You mentioned returning to that pop-punk sound. Was there anyone in particular that you were inspired by?
Literally, today, I was going through my old [music] from high school, and I found an old Starting Line cover that I did. So that's where I'm coming from at all times. Saves the Day, Starting Line, a lot of the '90s emo-core bands, Get Up Kids, all that stuff.
The first song, “to some I’m genius,” really grabbed me with the meta-songwriting about wanting to be a rock star. Where did that concept start with you?
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Lyrics are always the very, very, very last thing that I think of. I know a lot of people take a lot of legitimate pride in their lyricism, but for me, when it comes to songwriting, first and foremost is, do I find the way that the vocal melody interacts with the instrumental gripping? I have a million projects on my computer where the song is done, and it has vocals but with no lyrics. And so I end up Mad Libs-ing it all in later.
Sometimes [I write] something that I feel is almost careless, and I'll go back and reread them later, and I'm like, “Oh, this is a relatable, cohesive story that is pertinent to my life.” It's weird the way that my subconscious will leak over like that. This song is very telling of my actual state, perhaps a little bit hyperbolized because it does at one point say that, like, I'm a genius, and that's not how I actually feel. It’s that push and pull of like, feeling completely inadequate, and then feeling like you're slept-on. The total tug of war when it comes to that.
The bridge section about writing a song for the kids or whatever, I just thought that was kind of funny. Oh, yeah, dude, I'm a genius, you know, who has 23 monthly listeners. Not that that is indicative of your worth, or whether or not you're a genius, but you know what I mean?
There’s a lot of self-deprecation and humor, but the subject matter can be bleak compared to the upbeat music.
After going back and listening to it, it's definitely odd that you can tell that I was going through some sort of turmoil during this time period because the lyrics are pretty bleak; I think that's a pretty good way of putting it. I mean, “in reverie” is the closest the EP gets to being very straightforward emo. I like it when bands have a nice juxtaposition between, either the music is incredibly depressing and the lyrics are weirdly hopeful, but I think the other way around is a lot easier for me to do.
Looking towards the title, did you grow up in the suburbs?
Oh yeah, baby. Born and bred. Right now, I live in the super north suburbs, right by Six Flags Great America. I went to Columbia, and I also lived in Wicker Park for a while. I've been removed from living in Chicago proper for a couple years now, but I think I'll be back in the next six months.
Me and my friend group always talk about this, but there's some weird thing, like a rift almost, in terms of their music tastes, between people who grow up in cities, versus kids who grew up out in the ‘burbs, they're skating in empty bank parking lots. That experience has shaped me so much.
I think suburban music is often written off as “cringe.” I don't know what it is about living in slightly more desolate areas that makes you want to listen to these things, and I do feel like it’s slightly cultural. You can hear the suburbs in the EP, and it just is what it is. I’m never going to be able to write it out of myself. So I just tried to embrace it.