Back in 1999, vocalist and guitarist Jo Snyder decided she needed a band to wile away time, and got together with bassist Kelly Martin to form Sixty Stories. They brought in former Painted Thin-drummer Paul Furgale, and culled the band name from one of Donald Barthelme’s short stories. And the rest is history.
Except that it’s not. While the Winnipeg-based Sixty Stories certainly deserve to take over the world, they haven’t yet done so, instead releasing two albums to general acclaim but humble sales. Extensive touring and better distribution should probably help set matters straight. Meanwhile, Ink 19 is glad to chat with Jo Snyder on her band’s new album Anthem Red, so worth picking up that it’s just about laughable.
“The new record evolved quite naturally,” Snyder says. “Paul wrote more of the music on the new record, I write all the lyrics. We worked together on the details but Paul, at the time, was really into making a solid guitar pop record. We were all into it. I imagine the next record will sound a little different too.”
And the new sound isn’t the only change since the band’s 2001 debut album, Different Places To Sit / A Loveless Kiss. Corresponding with the shift towards a heavier, more immediate musical attack, co-founder Martin has been replaced by Sarah Sangster.
“It didn’t work out with Kelly unfortunately,” Snyder offers as some sort of explanation. “Sarah knew someone we knew, and when she tried out for the band she was too talented to pass up. She was a great addition to our band. She really tightened us up.”
Another thing Sangster brought to the band was a degree in graphic design, which has proven quite handy.
“It’s great,” Snyder admits. “We exploit the hell out of her. Smallman Records dips their fingers in once in a while too. Mostly I design the record covers by scratching shit out on a piece of paper and Sarah makes it look good. Paul is really good at graphic design too, as he is good at almost everything, and has done album covers and posters for other bands in the past.”
That self-made ethos also applies to the band’s recording strategy — although contrary to the first album, Anthem Red actually saw the band using a proper studio. Snyder isn’t quite sure she’ll repeat that rather conventional formula the next time around. “The studio was a fun time, and I do not regret the experience at all,” she says. “It felt real pro. However, I much prefer to record ourselves. I like the aesthetic and for a band that is not super popular or selling tons of records, what’s the point in blowing tons of cash we don’t have? DIY!”
And apparently, the band is quite capable of handling their own production duties, as demonstrated by their first album.
“Paul has a fancy computer and knows a fair bit about recording and mixing,” Snyder says. “He has taught me a little and I really enjoy doing the engineering work. I want to learn more about it and the only way for me to do that is if we record our own records. Otherwise there are too many fingers in the pot.”
As idiosyncratic in words as in their music, Anthem Red steers just inches away from the concept album moniker, and Snyder’s lyrics somehow combines enigmatic narrative with brutal intimacy.
“The lyrics on the first record were more personal for certain,” she admits. “I mostly wrote about my family and made failed attempts at metaphors about people getting kicked out of church. The second record was an attempt at a sonic narrative. I wanted to write about a couple of teenage girls who have eating disorders. Of course [the lyrics] are not perfect and people have been misinterpreting them from the beginning. Someone actually accused me of having a knee fetish and writing about abortion. Not that it would be bad if I did either of these things.”
Snyder didn’t expect the strong reactions some people would have to the themes on Anthem Red but has begun to appreciate even the negative feedback.
“Once I got over being sensitive about it I realized that maybe it was better for people to react badly than not at all. I think eating disorders totally suck and hanging around people who have them is really annoying. However, I am interested in a lot of issues. I’ll just take it one record at a time. Could you imagine?”
Sixty Stories will tour the Western States with Greg MacPherson this October, and hope to tour the States again in the winter. The summer will be spent demoing new material for an upcoming record.