Indie-rock upstarts turn temporal anxieties into timeless songs

“Aging makes me nauseous,” said Chlo White, singer/guitarist in snarls. 

She’s talking about the song “Twenty,” a standout track on the band’s self-titled 2018 EP. The song begins with palm-muted guitar chords and White’s voice: “I’m not who I thought I was gonna be,” she sings, sounding as if she’s on her back in her bedroom, staring at the ceiling and letting the words float from her mouth like a slow exhale.

“‘Twenty’ is about running out of time,” White said. “It’s dying without having done anything. I’m really terrified of not having meaning. That’s why I like to make meaning out of everything, which is kind of unhealthy sometimes.” 

White is 19, which may help explain her anxiety around the two-decade milestone. But snarls guitarist Mick Martinez is 21, and that same feeling hasn’t dissipated. “I share the same fear that Chlo does,” she said. “I’m just as scared. I can’t talk about it that much because it gives me a panic attack.”

Part of what makes “Twenty” so strong, and what makes this indie-rock act a band to keep your eye on, is the way snarls can take something specific and make it feel universal. Grappling with the current version of yourself, and knowing that your younger self envisioned something different — it’s a feeling that can infiltrate the subconscious at any age. 

“When I was thinking about that song, it wasn’t so much running out of time,” said snarls singer/bassist Riley Hall, who’s also 19. “It’s more reflecting on how much I’ve changed. … It’s about coming to this landmark of 20 and reflecting on who I’ve become, how my priorities have changed, who I want to be.”

The theme of identity runs throughout the band’s debut EP, and it’ll also feature prominently on snarls’ forthcoming full-length, Burst, which the foursome is currently finishing with Jon Fintel at Relay Recording (drummer Max Martinez, Mick’s younger brother, rounds out the snarls lineup).

“I have an identity crisis almost every day of my life,” White said. “I especially express that through makeup and wigs. I have a white one, a pink one that fades to blue, then I ordered a burgundy one… I’ll have nine in a couple weeks. Usually the outfit comes first. Then I’m like, ‘What wig matches this pair of pants? How can I pop off right now?’ I like to get crazy. Yesterday I was crying glitter.” 

White pauses and laughs, realizing the makeup is an apt metaphor for snarls. “That fits our band really well: crying glitter tears,” she said.

The bandmates said Burst is full of sparkles — a creative direction they trace directly to “Twenty,” which best reflects the current version of snarls. “[The EP] was a reflection of us trying to figure out what kind of band we wanted to be,” said Mick, who also plays in 2017 Bands to Watch alum Cherry Chrome.

“We don’t play any of those songs except ‘Twenty’ and ‘Emo Track #2’ now. We’re a lot more twinkly and a little more alternative,” White said. “It’s like a melting pot of yummy stuff. Like pho.” 

Twinkly Vietnamese soup aside, the creative process behind “Twenty” also proved to be a foretaste of how the bandmates would write songs going forward. “‘Twenty’ was the only song we really thought about as a group while we were writing. We worked together and wrote it with purpose,” Mick said. “I think all of the songs on [Burst]reflect that. All these songs were written with intent and passion.” 

And the band will continue to explore coming-of-age themes in songs that reflect the exodus from the turbulent teenage years to the harsh realities of adult life, and all the attendant identity crises along the way.

“The older I get, the more I’m gonna change,” White said. “I can’t do anything about it, so I’m gonna write sad songs about it.”