Everything Pretty Much Always Goes Back to The Beatles: An Interview with Steve Karsch of Snap Infraction

There’s something timeless about the music of Snap Infraction—or outside-of-time might be a better way to put it. I can point to parts of their songs that make me think of 60s acts like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones or of 90s acts as different from each other as Wanderlust and Stone Temple Pilots, but the truth of the matter is that they’d fit into either milieu just as easily as they fit into today’s independent (dare I say #tweetcore?) music scene. Sweetening the deal is the fact that songwriter Steve Karsch lives a couple of towns over from me in beautiful Delaware County, Pennsylvania!

It’s always cool to meet a musician who lives nearby—especially when I’m a fan of their music! Do you have any gigs coming up?

We do, actually. We’re playing The Fire in Philly on Sunday November 20th with a band from the DC area called SleepMarks.

Cool… I’ll have to look them up, too! Is there anything you’d describe as “Delco” in your music or your approach to songwriting?

Haha. Not particularly, except maybe that I’m partially fueled by Wawa??

Ha! Aren’t we all? Snap Infraction released a steady stream of excellent singles in 2021. I think you’ve referred to it somewhere as “slow-dripping an album.” Why do you take that approach as to releasing a full album at once?

The whole idea came out of a conversation with an old high school friend of mine. We had released two EPs, “Chin Music” in 2017 and “Stiff Arm” EP in 2020, and I was telling him how I wanted to do something other than release “just” another EP. But I also wasn’t keen on taking on a full-album project, and he suggested just doing singles. Just write, record, release.

So as I was driving home from his house I came up the plan that we’d release a single every two months, which sounded easy at the time, but, as these things usually go, ended up being a bit more challenging than I thought. I clearly didn’t even do the math in my head and realize that we were going to end up doing precisely what I was trying to avoid!

In retrospect, though, I’m glad we did it that way because having an imaginary deadline of having to have two songs ready to go every two months forced me to write, and actually finish, songs rather than what I usually do which is think “oh, if I sit around and wait long enough, inspiration is sure to strike.”  I sometimes forget that these classic songs of the 40s/50s/60s were written by people who’s job it was to crank out as many songs as they could.  Even Lennon and McCartney would say “let’s write a swimming pool!”  I’m still trying to write a bottled water!

There’s a cool visual thread running through the singles in terms of cover art—a minimalist cue that suggests all of the songs are of a piece. Was that the plan from the beginning? Who came up with the design?

Well, I begrudgingly came up with the design just because we needed one. The only plan was to keep it simple and consistent so I didn’t have to come up with a new cover for each single. The thread running through them is that each one uses a different major Philly sports teams’ colors (that’s the Union on “Repeat Offender”!). We are huge Philly sports fans, hence the band name and the titles of our first two EPs.

That said, is there a single theme or vibe running through the songs?

Not really, no. I haven’t leveled up to rock opera yet.

Even so, one thing I noticed is that your songs take the listener in some interesting directions. “We Both Believe,” for example, starts out like an acoustic guitar ballad, but then there’s this cool electric piano line that comes in out of nowhere… Then the song builds with moody, haunting backing vocals and a fuzzy guitar riff. It’s a solid arrangement that builds very nicely. Who are some songwriters or arrangers who have influenced your work?

Thanks for saying that! I almost forgot about that song because it was released last and also written last because we had “Repeat Offender” but didn’t have a B-side. I think I wrote two other B-sides for that single but they just weren’t working, so I took a page out of the old Noel Gallagher playbook and wrote an acoustic track with minimal backing. My favorite part of that song is the end when the drums come in and it feels like the song is going to take off and then, boom, it’s done!  Ha!

Anyway, as far as songwriting influences go: everything pretty much always goes back to The Beatles for me. Every song of theirs is a master class in writing, arranging, performance and production! After that, I’m an equal opportunity stealer…it’s a mish mash of a bunch of songwriters: the aforementioned Gallagher, Sloan, John Davis from Supergrass, Dave Grohl, Jason Falkner and anything else that grabs my ear.

The Snap Infraction Bandcamp page lists you and Tony Iannuzzi as members of the band. How did you meet, and who does what in terms of both music and other band-related business?

I’ve known Tony forever. We both grew up in the same town and ever since I’ve been out of college we’ve been in one band or another together. We had a band in NYC called Great Jones in the early 2000s. After that ended, I was still writing songs and sending Tony stuff but we never did anything with it until we got together (a rare occurrence) at his house in 2009 and basically wrote and recorded “Try To See It My Way” on the spot. And then we did nothing for a while. Well, not *nothing*, but we didn’t release anything until eight years after that!

As far as who does what: I probably do the most just because I currently have the most time, relatively speaking.  Tony has his own business which keeps him extremely busy.

I mean, everything we do is still jammed into 10-minute time blocks, I just have more 10-minute time blocks than he does. It’s like “OK, the family is walking the dog, let me see if I can finish writing this verse lyric and record four vocal takes before they get back!” It still amazes me that we get anything done at all.

Also, we recently added a third member, our friend Dave Kerr, on bass and backing vocals.  Dave was in Great Jones with us and was there playing bass the night we recorded “Try To See It My Way” so he’s pretty much always been in the band in one sense or another.

I think you mentioned a little while back that Tony lives across the river in New Jersey. Does that present any logistical issues in terms of getting together to rehearse and/or record? How do you find the time to work together?

In short, we don’t really get together. It’s admittedly a pretty weird setup, especially since we’re only 40 minutes from each other. Typically, I’ll do a multi-track song demo in Logic, with either programmed drums or my awful drumming, and send it to him. He does a few takes until he feels he has a good one and sends it back to me. Then I add guitars, bass, vocals and whatever else to his drum tracks and mix. Sometimes he will mix the drums if he’s not happy with what I’ve done, sometimes I’ll do the whole mix. He’s the one with the audio engineering skills, but not the time, I have the time but lack the skills…it works out well that way!

As far as rehearsals…we’ve only in just the last year starting playing gigs, which is one of the reasons we brought Dave in; we needed a bass player, and Dave is rock solid and a great singer too, so we’re rocking the power trio these days. I’ve been listening to lots of Police live bootlegs accordingly!

Again, looking at your Bandcamp page, I see you’re on a two-to-three-year cycle in terms of releasing music. Why does that kind of schedule work for you? What do you do in the interim?

Our release schedule is pretty loose…until it’s not. Our first release was in 2009 and then crickets until 2017!

That being said, we did come up with a bit of a plan at the end of 2021 regarding what we were going to do in 2022, which was to basically play a few live shows, and in the meantime I’ve been writing and demo-ing songs for a full-length album. Finally! No firm dates or anything yet, but I’m hoping we can get into the studio early 2023.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!

Thank you, Marc!

New Song: “Someday Soon”

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Here’s my latest song… It’s called “Someday Soon,” and when I wrote it, I was thinking about what it was like to graduate from college and realize that I didn’t really have a plan. All I had was a degree and a vague sense that my life should be going somewhere. Exactly where, of course, was anyone’s guess, and as I bounced from one soul-crushing job to another, I kept thinking about how the message throughout my childhood was that I could do anything with my life — anything at all! That I ended up editing accounting textbooks was a bit of a letdown, especially since I was shooting for becoming a superhero or a Jedi Knight or something along those lines. I imagine that feeling of being lost and let a little disappointed in where life has led is something that a lot of college grads go through, so if you find yourself in the boat that I was in way back when, this song is for you!

Musically, it has an 80’s new-wave synth-rock feel with strong hints of bands like the Cars, Echo and the Bunnymen, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and Tubeway Army. It also has some classic rock overtones. In particular, I realized as I was recording it that the instrumental bridge in the middle has a similar chord progression to the bridge in Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May.” In terms of lyrical content, the second verse is my favorite — the one about being thrown from a car. It’s essentially what graduating from college felt like for me.

In any case, if you like the song or know someone who might, you can play it on Spotify or buy it on iTunes or BandCamp. Or if you want a free copy, just shoot me an email, and I’ll send you an MP3 — because that’s the kind of guy I am!

Thanks, and I hope you enjoy the song!

Listen/Download:

 

The Shoot (Part Four)

The story I’m telling myself as Miranda and I drive to the cemetery is that I’ll be home by dinner. Considering that it’s half-past-three and Mike is still, to the best of my knowledge, in the shower, it’s less of a story than a baldfaced lie, but it’s a lie that I cling to as I sling a guitar over my shoulder and start jumping out from behind trees and rising up from behind tombstones per Miranda’s instructions.

“You’re supposed to be a rock star,” she says from behind her camera. “Don’t be so stiff.”

The “rock star” appellation is less a description of who I am than of the role I’m supposed to be playing. There are four characters in the mini-drama that Miranda has scripted: The Hot-Rod Kitten, the Pet Detective, the Rock Star, and Mama. I’m the rock star, and Mike, stretching any and all definitions of the word, is going to be Mama. What doesn’t occur to me is that a Hot-Rod Kitten and a Pet Detective have yet to be cast.

“Move your shoulders,” Miranda says. “Rock out!”

The song I wrote and recorded is playing on her phone. It’s called “Never Talk Back” and tells the story of a prostitute who gets killed because she doesn’t bring in enough money. I think Mama is supposed to be her pimp, actually. Or something like that. It’s been a long time since I wrote the song, and the seven-page shooting script, which we’re pretty much abandoning as we go along, has very little to do with the lyrics. Thank God. Or, to give credit where credit is due, thank Miranda, since she wrote the script.

And, it turns out, is a pretty good director.

The truth, I realize, is that there’s something vaguely comforting about following orders. I don’t have to worry about what to do or say. I don’t even have to run any of my “normal people behavior” scripts. I just do what Miranda says to do and trust that it will all work out in the end, so I try to play some guitar riffs along with the song and start to mouth the lyrics.

“Maybe don’t sing along so much,” Miranda suggests. “We don’t know which clips we’ll be using where.”

“Got it,” I say, settling gradually into the role of the rock star.

“And remember,” Miranda adds. “Don’t be so stiff!”