An Interview With Ben Bowman of Snow Burial
Snow Burial Biography
From deep in the heart of the Chicago, Illinois's heavy music scene, Snow Burial (with a newly minted deal with Prosthetic Records) released the brutal, intricate, and head-bang-able Ostrava. It was released back in September of 2019 and was produced by Shane Hochstetler. The nine-track release explores life’s beauty alongside life’s horror, while inducing fits of head-banging, hardcore dancing, and the occasional devil horns thrown up in the air...
The headbangability of the nine tracks on Ostrava contradicts the intricacies of the album's many layers. Technically, it harkens back to the era when heavy metal musicianship was king, but the songwriting is what takes the spotlight on this album. Snow Burial creates elegant songs that are raw, honest, polished, and beautiful. Their mixture of melody and aggression generates a sound that combs the depths of Doom and Sludge and welds it together with rock ‘n’ roll sensibility, and even the occasional bit of shoegaze.
The coalescing theme of Ostrava is one of duality: failure and triumph, celebration and mourning, isolation and family. The album is shaded by dark tales of living in this political era. The result is a fascinating collection of songs that resound universally, with equal parts grief and gratitude bundled up into digestible chunks of post-metal fury.
Guitarist and vocalist Ben Bowman took some time out of his crazy schedule as a dad and a musician to answer some questions for me. Check it out… and don’t forget to add the record to your playlist.
Interview With Ben Bowman of Snow Burial
Justin W Price: What’s the current line-up for Snow Burial?
Ben Bowman: Myself (Ben) on guitars, synths and vocals, Nick on bass and vocals. Brandon on drums and vocals, The king of Sweden on samples.
JP: How has the tour support for "Ostrava" gone?
BB: It's gone pretty great! We rolled through the east coast in October and got to play some incredible shows. Highlights include playing with our boos Irata, Horseburner, and Harsh Realm, making new friends in Symptoms in Harrisburg, PA, and subjecting my bandmates to the horrors of garbage plates.
JP: How do you feel about Ostrava? How does it compare and contrast with your past work?
BB: There are some obvious differences, such as a new bass player, changes in gear, and adding more instrumentation to the recordings that really change the sound. Some not-so-obvious changes are a bigger focus on songwriting, editing, and hiding odd-time in catchy riffs. Editing was a big theme, whether it be to cut down a song to only what's necessary or to cut songs from the record that didn't feel cohesive. There are songs that we wrote that we really like as "Snow Burial" songs, but didn't make the record because they didn't fit into the whole picture.
Compared to past records we are similarly motivated by just making music that inspires us and that we find satisfying. And songs that kick ass.
JP: Why the name “Ostrava”?
BB: While we were on tour with our homies Monolithian in Europe in 2018 our van blew up and we got stuck in Ostrava, Czech Republic for almost a whole week. We ended up cancelling a ton of shows and had to navigate getting the repairs done in foreign language while everyone back home (some 4500 miles away) were worried sick about us. It's the kind of thing that can kill a band.
We, however, survive. I managed to drive 17 hours straight across mainland Europe, get stuck in customs for 2 hours, take a ferry to Dover, and then drive another few hours to London to make Deserfest as the last show of the tour. It felt only right to name this record after that experience.
JP: How often does Snow Burial perform?
BB: We play Chicago a few times a year and tour as much as possible for a band with homes, kids, and careers outside of music. This year we've got a few midwest runs booked and are working on two longer tours for the summer. Fingers crossed we'll be hitting the East Coast and Europe again.
JP: Where do you see Snow Burial over the next decade?
BB: Burning every calorie we can to keep making records and touring all over the world. We've all had more than our fair share of musical downtime in our lives and don't need any more.
JP: What are some of your musical and lyrical inspirations? Is there a specific message or underlying theme to their lyrics?
BB: Each record is a bit different, but typically the lyrics cover exploitation and the juxtaposition of beauty and terror. There's a few different approaches in the songs to covering those topics, whether they be outright political commentary, personal stories of loss, or more abstract interpretations of those themes.
Musically, we've been inspired by so many different bands and genres it's tough to draw straight lines. I'll take chord shapes and vibes from Deftones, obtuse lyrics and structures from the Melvins, atmosphere from Cult of Luna... Jazz like Coltrane and Dave Brubeck have had a big impact on me. Run The Jewels can teach you a lot about being heavy without any full stacks around. The list is almost endless.
JP: Does being from Chicago affect your sound or lyrical themes?
BB: Absolutely. There are a ton of amazing heavy bands in the city and all inspire us in some way or another. We've all been going to Pelican and Russian Circles shows for over 10 years. Our dear friends in Huntsmen and Varaha are a big inspiration while also creating a wonderful community. There's at least 20 local heavy bands that we love seeing and new ones keep popping up putting on amazing shows and great musical ideas. Heck, even our name is inspired by the cold desolation of our winters.
An incomplete list of awesome Chicago bands we've seen or played with: Electric Hawk, Swan King, Djunah, Immortal Bird, Anatomy of Habit, Zaius, Rezzn, Scientist, Faces of the Bog, Bloodletter, Atlas Moth, Meth., Neckbeard Deathcamp, FACS, War Brides, Meat Wave, Rollo Tomassi, Corrections House/Mirrors For Psychic Warfare/Sanford Parker, Black Road, Indian, Barren Heir, Bearclaw, Bloodiest, Bloodyminded, Yakuza...
JP: What is the songwriting process like for Snow Burial? Is there a primary song writer or is it a collaborative effort?
BB: The songs usually start with a riff or collection of riffs I have and then we collaborate on its structure, vocal melodies, harmonies, etc. Sometimes the initial ideas are more complete, but it's never really "Here's my song, guys, get to writing your parts."
JP: Are there any causes that Snow Burial has thrown their weight behind?
BB: We've proudly contributed to compilations that have benefited Planned Parenthood, played benefits for the Sierra Club and marched in Chicago a few times against Trump and anti-immigration policy. There are too many people ruthlessly getting ground into dust to stand by idly.
Just for Fun
JP: Which dance move are you the most skilled at?
BB: The awkward nerd, but learning to tango is pretty great.
JP: Does pineapple belong on pizza?
BB: I'm not here to yuck your yum. Treat yourself.
JP: If you could write a letter to your ten-year-old self, what would it say?
BB: The world is going to get stupider and wilder than you can possibly imagine. Enjoy having no responsibilities and be kind to yourself.
JP: What would your final meal be if you were on death row?
BB: Does a big plate of "fuck the government for executing anyone" come with fries or just potato chips?
JP: What are your hobbies, outside of music?
BB: Having a four and a two year old kinda deletes any free time you have, but I absolutely love cooking, eating delicious meals and seeing movies. Ideally all with my lovely wife.
JP: What are your top five desert island movies?
BB: Big Trouble in Little China, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Anchorman, The Seven Samurai, Princess Mononoke
JP: Why should people devote their time to listening to your music and going to your shows? What makes you guys different and special?
BB: Our music draws you in on the first listen and rewards diving in to pick apart the layers of rhythm and harmony. Live, we put every ounce of energy and passion we got into the show. If we ever get competitive, it's that we try to blow every other band we're playing with out of the water, so to speak. We want to "kill," to use comedian-speak.
JP: Do you have any advice to young musicians out there about how to handle yourself in the industry?
BB: Get your shit on and off stage like there's a fire. Don't ever pay to play a show or pay an agent up front. Don't stop.
JP: Is there anything else you would like to add?
BB: We'll be announcing shows and tours soon and we can't wait to see everyone out on the road. Also, go to local shows at bars. You'll get to see incredible music up close and personal for very little money.
- Snow Burial
Snow Burial Snow Burial is a hard hitting post-metal trio from Chicago. Their music is melodic, rhythmic, and brutal. Ostrava, released 20 September 2019 1. Tyranny 2. Sever The Bloodline 3. The Afterneath 4. Třinec 5. Ostrava 6. Gaping Wounds 7. Bur