These Arms Are Snakes Bite The Dust; ’03 Interview Rises From The Grave

Well, poo. These Arms Are Snakes broke up today – or made the announcement, at least.

Dudes was cool. A few months ago, one of them – a Mr. Brian Cook – gave me a most cool 500-song response to Pitchfork‘s best-of-the-aughts list. Maybe someday it’ll spring up on the Bad Penny.

Till then, I’ve trudged up an early, hard-to-find TAAS piece I wrote the year after they were born. (Scroll below for the goods.)

But first, a few words from our departing friends:

“It’s with a heavy heart we tell you that These Arms Are Snakes is no more. It’s been a great run and we’d like to send out a very hearty ‘Thank You’ to everyone that we’ve worked with or anyone that we’ve toured with; anyone that lent us a floor, towed our van and / or trailer, lent a van, given us a listen, downloaded our records prior to their coming out, bought our shit, or asked us where our band name came from; everyone who cooked us food, made habanero-infused tequila, had a safety meeting with us, let Steve [Snere] gyrate all over you, had to live with any of us, made us pay shitloads of money to get off your punk label, got us into ‘Lost,’ found Steve drunkenly wandering the streets of Tokyo alone, played Madlibs in the van (plural nouns), lost money promoting one of our shows, took Chris [Common] to the hospital, put up with our drunken sorry asses, got into a fight with us, etc. etc.

“This band could not have been possible without all of you. We sincerely thank you.

“Much love,

“TAAS 2002 – 2009”

They’re quite possibly the best new punk band 2003 has produced thus far. The Blood Brothers just took them on the road for a full month, well before even a drop of their music reached stores. And their name will knock your grandma off her rocker and into the kitchen sink.

Watch where you step. These Arms Are Snakes are ready to strike. “We started playing shows at the end of December,” says a coolly reserved Ryan Frederiksen, the man behind the axe. “We got on board with Jade Tree around that time … it’s been astounding; not something any of us anticipated at all.” The momentum has slowed, at least for today, as band members Frederiksen, Steve Snere (vocals) and Brian Cook (bass/keyboards) talk with Thrasher via telephone. Holed up in their publicist’s office in Chicago, the triumvirate – plus drummer Joe Preston and keyboardist Jesse Robertson – is enjoying an unexpected day off due to the cancellation of the Columbus, OH-based More Than Music Fest.

Lucifer knows these guys could use a brief respite, given the fact that they’ve been running at breakneck speed since late last year. There’s nary a trace of exhaustion, though, as is often the case with even the newest of bands – a fact that is made all the more surprising in knowing that some of the members just came off harsh break-ups with their former projects.

Of the hard-bulled punk unit’s previous affiliations, Botch, which featured Cook, comes closest to the Snakes’ sound. Still, the song and dance is noticeably different, with the new incarnation shaving off the influential Seattle group’s most brittle and splintered moments, and evening the sound out into steady, less abrasive gyrations. They’ve managed to strip away the most confining elements of progressive hardcore and refreshed the sound with vocal inflections, thump-ier beats and even some white-noise exploration. “The nice thing about TAAS is that everyone seems pretty open,” Cook chimes in. “With Botch, there was this constant thing where if it wasn’t loud and it wasn’t rocking, it wasn’t our thing. After awhile, you feel like a one-trick pony. With this band, I can see us evolving over many records, reinventing ourselves.”

“We’re a young band, so we explore every aspect we can,” says Frederiksen. “Classic rock falls in there … we love it when people say, ‘Hey, that sounds like Sabbath!’ People who pigeonhole us as hardcore – that’s their loss.” He adds jokingly, “Brian sometimes yells at me, ‘We’re a ska band!'”

Of the three, though, it’s the bronze-voiced Snere who seems to have the most disparate tastes. When asked which singers he most admires, he replies: “I really like Sean McCabe from Ink & Dagger, but he passed away, which is a bummer. Doseone from [Anticon hip-hop group] Themselves has crazy lyrics that are totally out there. And then Axl Rose is my all-time idol.”

It was Snere, actually, who seemed to have the most difficulty making the transition from his old gang, Minneapolis’s Kill Sadie, to the Snakes. While other members of the group went on to join Pretty Girls Make Graves and Minus the Bear, Snere sounds as if he were left out on the clothesline. “I had two years of post-band depression. So when Ryan asked me to be in this hand, I said ‘yes’ – I just liked the name so much.”

So far, the venomous virgins have just one item to their name – a five-song EP titled This Was Meant to Hurt You. Get it. Now. With rollicking rhythms and scintillating segues that will rocket any fans of discordant punk into a state of nirvana, it’s one of those records you’ll have a hard time wearing out. The band isn’t planning to put out its debut full-length until early next year. In the meantime, it’ll be what you’d expect for the boys: more touring, writing. They also plan on dodging any more run-ins with the fuzz.

Frederiksen recalls a recent close call: “We got pulled over on the way to Sioux Falls, and the cop was like, ‘There’s a lot of drug trafficking around here, and you guys look like you do drugs.’ He put Steve-whose license was expired – in the back of the police car, and then he had his dog crawl into our van. Luckily we didn’t have any drugs.”

Originally published in Thrasher, December 2003.

If you dug this, you might also dig:

• “Spencer Moody On Murder City Devils’ Breakup: ‘Everyone Was Ready For A Change’
• “Jesus Lizard’s Duane Denison: ‘I Can’t Imagine Ever Doing A Reunion Tour’
• “Mike Patton And Duane Denison Talk Tomahawk ‘Downtime’

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