My first attempt to reach Jon Snodgrass wasn’t overly successful. We seemingly somehow had gotten our wires crossed and miscalculated that whole time zone factor. He and Drag The River were making tire tracks down the road by the time I dialed him – with Jon at the wheel. Two days later, I caught him with a few minutes to spare before sound check.
“We drove all the way from Columbus, Ohio to New Jersey today” Jon sighed. “It has been a very long day and we’re all very tired”. Understandably so, as the boys are reaching the tail end of a tour that kicked off on the 11th of October in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And will have crossed boarders into Canada by the time this reaches readers. Not to mention that the drive from Columbus to New Jersey takes about eight hours, and that is bound to take a toll on a band.
I asked Jon about life on the endless highways of touring. “It’s awesome”, he replied. “It’s what we chose to do. We normally fly out here but I decided it would be smarter to do it in a van and we’ve got the worst part of it out of the way now. The rest should be smooth sailing”.
I imagine life on a bus or in a van would be more interesting than soaring high above the clouds. There’s far more to see out the window along the road than there is way up in the atmosphere. “What’s the weather like up there though? That’s what I’m curious about” asks Snodgrass. Catching me off guard a little. Its normally me that asks the questions. For a second I think he means on a plane. A split-second later, I figure out he means Montreal. Where the band will soon be. I shoot back with the temperature and quick summary thinking it may help the band in their travels along the weary roads, somehow.
Then instantly realize that Canadians and Americans don’t use the same system of measurements. And that I’ve long since forgotten how to calculate between the two. He has lived in Colorado, however, and which is home to the Rocky mountains. So I doubt the beginnings of a Canadian winter will pose much of a challenge.
Snodgrass, who has spent time with the likes of Lagwagon, Bad Astronaut and Scorpios, may be better known for his acoustic compositions than anything else. Despite this, Drag The River have set aside their acoustic instruments for this tour and are traveling as full-blown rock band. This is somewhat the opposite of what seems to be the current trend in Punk-Rock recently. Where musicians have been hitting the road, strumming out normally boisterous tunes in a more folk inspired way. “Its a lot less gear to travel with” chuckles Snodgrass, “It’s all rock ‘n’ roll though, know what I mean?”.
See also : Tony Sly of No Use For A Name
“I always liked acoustic because I write all my songs on an acoustic guitar. But these days, we don’t even bring an acoustic guitar out with us – we’re back to being a rock band again”.
Snodgrass was recently in town (which is code for Montreal) with Scorpios. Along side Lagwagon’s Joey Cape, on a tour dedicated to the duo’s close friend and band mate – the late, great Tony Sly. Of No Use For A Name fame, but you all knew that. Sly’s passing has touched many, but seems to resonate greatly here in the province of Quebec. His last show with No Use For A Name took place in Montebello at Rockfest. And Quebec City was where No Use For A Name played its final gig in his honor following his demise. I asked Snodgrass what he remembers most about his friend.
“Oh man, he had a really good sense of humor and that’s something I miss a lot. There are so many things that I’ll see and think about how he would have thought that was funny. He grew up in California but his family is from the UK, so he had that California sense of humor with that dry UK wit, you know? It was a special thing”.
Fat Wreck Chords chose to put together a tribute record in Tony Sly’s honor. Jon Snodgrass was among the artists invited to participate in the project. “Yeah, I did a couple of things. I sang with Tim from Rise Against (“For Fiona”) and Scorpios did a song (“International You Day”). Then I did a song (“On The Outside”). I was out of the country and I shit the bed, and I sang my part when I was in Berlin with this girl who was a mutual friend of all of ours. But, I was lucky enough to make my way onto three songs”.
The proceeds of the record go to the Tony Sly foundation, which benefits his family. The album can be ordered off the Fat Wreck Chords website for a mere twelve bucks!
Fat Mike himself appointed most, if not all, of the artists on the compilation with the tracks he thought best suited for them. The result is pretty impressive. “He wanted me to do “On The Outside” and I thought shit!.That’s prefect!” recalls Snodgrass. Judging by the final product, yeah, it was perfect. As is the entire record.
Drag The River play Montreal on Thursday, December 12th at Divan Orange with Cory Branan. Definitely not a show not to be missed. Then, the Drag The River lads play three gigs around Ontario. Vankleek Hill on the 13th at Windsor Tavern. Toronto at The Silver Dollar Room on the 14th and Hamilton on the 15th at Club Absinthe.