Get “Pictures of a Floating World” here.
It has been nearly a year since Cheap Sushi began documenting not-so-commercial artists in-and-out of the Bay Area, and, until now, I can finally say that I’ve had the privilege to film and interview a few folks from bands that I’ve followed for over five years.
On our latest Sushi-esq outing, my brother and I had the opportunity to check out the Socal Rock band Silver Snakes, (each were members of former bands I followed including Horse the Band, Cathedrals, and Bleeding Kansas, to name a few) as they melted faces inside one of the Bay Area’s most oddly interesting DIY music spaces, The Burnt Ramen.
Before I dive into the music, I’m sure you’re wondering what made this venue “oddly interesting.” Well, let me show you something (said in Fire Marshall Bill’s tone)…err..Through my words at least. Graffiti, and, literally, a plethora of miscellaneous items blanketed the walls inside the venue–stickers, graffiti, tags, a volleyball, doll heads, and, yes, even a couch–were only a few things that made the inside of The Burnt Ramen stick out like Jay Leno’s chin.
The vibe of this venue reminded me of John Benson’s bus. Sure you probably wouldn’t want to take your fambam to either place, but The Burnt Ramen managed to create a comfortable energy unlike any other music venue I’ve been to.
“Donations” were collected in-between sets. Five bucks. Eh. I would’ve given more if I didn’t spend the rest of my cash on a 32 oz. of PBR. Hipster much? Oh, and might I add that outside drinks were allowed. Freak yes!
The opening band, Ten Thousand Leagues, performed on the floor under a single red light (which happened to go out from time to time), and created an intimate vibe by urging the audience to form a close-knit circle around them as they played. Awesome? Yes indeed.
The Silver Snakes certainly fed off the at-ease energy at The Burnt Ramen when they hit the stage. Though the band was not like the other bands that night, the crowd respectfully gave them full attention as they seamlessly transitioned through several of their songs off their newly released album “Pictures of a Floating World.”
Wait. Why am I still writing? Just check out the video and see the band for yourself. Also, be sure to check out a few additional questions I had with the lead vocalist, Alex Estrada, which did not quite make the video interview.
What got you interested in making music? And what bands were you a part of?
Alex: I’m in the seventh generation of musicians on my father’s side; I was definitely born into it. Music is something I’ve done since I was able to walk. I started my first band while in the 7th grade. We just hung out and attempted to cover all of my favorite Smashing Pumpkins’ songs (Cathedrals often did the same thing). In the last few years, I have played in Cathedrals, Deadhead, Burn your Life Down, Tiefighter, Children of God, and a few more. Right now, I’m just focused on Silver Snakes. I also play drums in Deadhead still, but those dudes are always on tour (Most of the band plays in Touche Amore). Daniel has played with Bleeding Kansas, End of End, Horse the Band, Tobias, and many more. Mike has played with Dear Life and Justin with Death Art.
Tell me a little bit about your former band Cathedrals and why you chose to make the transition to Silver Snakes.
Alex: My buddy Eddie started Cathedrals in 2005 after his band (the CafFiends) disbanded. We went through several line-up changes, but I ended up singing for the last three or four years of the band while Daniel played bass. Silver Snakes was also started in 2005; it was mainly a solo project and remained that way until 2010 when Cathedrals decided to call it quits. I wanted to make this band my main focus. I also wanted to have a speaking voice in my older years.
You said that Silver Snakes initially was a solo project. Who established Silver Snakes?
Alex: I started Silver Snakes in 2005 after my old hardcore band broke up. I wanted to do more of a rock band, and I had no intentions of singing. We kept most of the lineup from my previous band and started trying out singers. I was writing all of the music and wasn’t really happy about not having full control, so I decided to sort of shelve the project and record some of the songs acoustically on my own. I sang on two of them and posted them on Myspace (RIP). I wanted Daniel to be the drummer for this band since the beginning, but I always figured it was a long shot. He’s been my favorite drummer since I was 16 years old. I still cant believe I get to stand in front of him and get punished by his bass drum at all of our shows.
What influenced your transition from screaming lyrics to singing them?
Alex: It just happened naturally. I might do another heavy project in the future, but I really wanted to add another layer of melody with this band. This is the first band I’ve ever had to sing for; I’m still really getting used to it. I still get pretty self-conscious about my singing voice. I never faced the crowd when I sang for Cathedrals!
You guys have a newly released CD “Pictures of a Floating World.” Tell me what inspired the title and the CD as a whole?
Alex: I worked at an art museum several years ago, and one exhibit that always stood out to me was “Ukiyo-e,” which, when translated, is roughly “pictures of the floating world.” The idea of taking a snap shot of a place or situation as a means to express an idea or movement is vaguely what I attached to that translation. I wouldn’t say it’s a concept album, but the song and art do interact with each other. Each song is a story based on my insights, whether they be sarcastic, disappointed, angry etc. A common theme throughout the lyrics is to think for yourself. Everything is so watered down these days. No one questions routine, what they are brought up to believe by their parents, or the mass media. Each song is represented by something similar to a Loteria or Tarot card. People go to a card reader to have someone give them detailed scenarios and readings from a simple sequence of images; we sort of went with that same idea. The images are simple, but there are very detailed stories behind each one.
What can your fans expect from this album?
Alex: I would like to think of this record as a first impression; it’s our first formal release. I think it would be safe to say that it is a very dynamic and honest rock record.
Why would you say that your upcoming album is an honest rock record?
Alex: The music is so straightforward. We made sure that this was a very raw record that really represents us. Lyrically, it’s the most honest batch of songs I’ve ever written. They are all thoughts that I have kept to myself for years. We don’t have filters when we think to ourselves, but we often do when we speak to people or give our opinions. I decided to ditch all of that and just write exactly how I felt about 10 specific situations.