"People still have the same fears they’ve had for thousands of years, probably their neighbours or the dark or both.” Halloween is in the air when Music Week drops in on Snapped Ankles leader Austin. That our conversation quickly turns to the heebie jeebies is hardly surprising – Snapped Ankles make loud, saucer-eyed synth music and are forging a career on freaking folk out, dressed in a uniform of masks and forest vegetation. Completed by Zampirolo and Chestnutt the mysterious, surnames-only trio formed around six years in London’s warehouse community, a collection of artists striving for cheap rent. There’s nothing cheap about the thrills on offer here, mind.
“We’re still new to a lot of people, so we get the ‘What the fuck?’ thing even though we’ve been doing it a long time,” says Clarke, who’s finalising the follow-up to last year’s trance-inducing debut Come Play The Trees. For that album, the band forged synths out of old logs. A question about the new album’s germination prompts an engaging tale indeed. For LP two, Snapped Ankles turn their attention from pagans, myth and woodland ritual to… Estate agents. “We stole estate agents signs and put our synthesisers on them and played songs,” says Clarke, reminiscing about a previous warehouse show. “Then we auctioned off the venue. All the other squatters looked in going, ‘What the hell’s going on over there? There’s some blokes with masks on dressed as estate agents selling the place.’ It was pretty revolting, really.”
Snapped Ankles get a lot of “experimenting” done on such evenings. “It’s a place where we can do things that aren’t so ‘bandy’,” Clarke explains. “People will sit and, as long as we keep it short, we can entertain them with something quite different.” The property market and “besuited devils” filter into their next record, and Clarke carefully notes there are some “bangers” on there, too. They honed many of the songs live. “We’d create a dancey, techno beat while singing about the difficulties of living in a hedge fund investment bonanza place like London, in environments where most of the audience probably don’t own a suit, unless it’s for funerals and weddings,” he says.
Increasing exposure means Snapped Ankles are playing more conventional gigs, but weirdness prevails. “We looked for a way to create confusion without traditional rock’n’roll chaos,” Clarke says, before gleefully describing how the band have hired musicians to dress up as them and play along in the audience, wrongfooting the crowd. “At End Of The Road, there was a queue to get into our show and a group dressed up as us playing outside while we were onstage. People were a bit confused. That’s the beauty of the mask, really.”
Isn’t it just...