Interview: Jon Snodgrass Talks ‘Barge At Will’

Jon Snodgrass spent time at home in Fort Collins, Colorado making a record with friends, his buddies, and he wants people to hear it. He made Barge At Will, out March 29 on SBAM, at the Blasting Room with Bill Stevenson (Black Flag, Descendents, ALL) playing drums and includes Chris Wollard (Hot Water Music), Chris Cresswell (The Flatliners, Hot Water Music), Peter “JR” Wasilewski (Less Than Jake), and Scott Reynolds (ALL). In typical Snodgrass fashion, he wants them to know he appreciates them and fans to know they are important to him in the process. Although, he is very humble, and the wolf-like crooner gets selective when talking about the songs or the people he created it with. He is almost shy about it. Nonetheless, he will bring the tunes to music fans and baseball fans in small batches starting around baseball’s opening day this spring.

“I’ll go out. I’m not really trying to, but I grew up listening obviously to Mike Watt and all that, playing 41 shows in a tour. I don’t really want to do that. I like playing four and then going and seeing a baseball game and hanging out with my friends that live in that town, having a little bit of time, and then doing the next weekend somewhere else. And then I leave my van and I fly home. I leave my van somewhere that I know will strategically be easy for me to pick up three weeks or a month later. And then I pick it up and I do it all over again. I slowly move it around the country.”

While Snodgrass still lives in Fort Collins, he thinks of his tours and shows, the places he goes, also like home. He feels at home around the world and around the country.

“I still have the same van that we’ve used for a long time and what I do now, I would like to fly, say to Boston, perfect example. I would fly out there, I play in Boston and Providence. Maybe go down to New York, maybe go up to Montreal, either rent stuff or find a band that are friends and use their shit. What I’m doing now, I’ve been doing this the last couple of years, it has to do with the baseball schedule. When the schedule comes out, I look where the Rockies are going to be, and then I also look at the offers that I have. Normally early on there’ll be a couple of things that come up. I try to draw the dots. I leave my van. I’ll just fly home and I’ll leave my van in different places. There’s a spot, I leave it in New England, and there’s a spot I leave it in St. Louis, and there’s a place I can leave it in California. All these places seem like home.”

Then there’s home plate at a Major League baseball game. “That’s what the song ‘Crunch the Numbers’ is about,” Snodgrass says. “Literally crunching of the numbers. When I talk about ‘Crunching the Numbers,’ I’m talking about me trying to book a show that’s close to the stadium and my hotel’s close. I can say that this year I will see the New York Yankees and I will see the Nationals, and I will see the Cincinnati Reds. I’m hoping I will see the Dodgers and the Angels and the Padres within a 10-day stretch.”

Next to playing music, baseball is a love and a metaphor for him.

“I fell in love with it for a couple reasons,” he explains. “But I got back in with it in 2017 whenever my son Hopper was just walking by the TV and then stopped and started watching this game. I wanted him to play baseball and not football. I don’t want him to get hurt. That’s all there is to it. You can get hurt playing baseball too, but it seems safer to me. Anyhow, that would be something that we could both watch together. I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to be a Colorado Rocky fan.’ And those two years, they were great and now they’re not great. And it is an act of humility to me. It teaches me to be humble and that’s it. I’m not a sports guy, but I am a baseball guy. There’s a lot of things happening in there. The whole glass half full kind of situation, you’re going to win or lose and it’s kind of how you handle your life when you’re winning or losing.”

There’s more than just the theme of baseball on Barge At Will. There is ode and honor to friends and loved ones. “Dan’s Amp” is what Snodgrass calls a celebration of life to the late long-time Descendents roadie and Bill the Welder guitarist, Dan Snow.

“Dan’s Amp” is Dan’s amplifier. That’s Bug’s Amp, he had this little Fender amp. He found it in the trash. He was walking by this years ago, and he looks, and you just know what those grills look like in that color. He just sees this, and someone had discarded and he’s like, ‘fuck.’ It had a little bit of a problem with it, and he used to play it. That’s the line, “It’s falling out, laid on the side.” He used to have to play on the side because it was rattling shit. He just had to get new clips and paid 10 bucks to fix it. Got it fixed up. Sounds awesome. I love it. I always wanted it. It’s like a celebration of life type of thing. That happened at the Surfside. I played a couple songs that Bug and I had written together through that amp. I was just joking about how I want that amp, I’m taking it. I just took it, but I knew I was supposed to return it. I knew I would return it. I took it, but my only use for that amp was because when I played through it—that riff, there’s just certain guitars and certain amps—I played that riff, I’m like, ‘Ooh, I did Bug with this.’ That was the thing. That’s why I say in the song, “It’s my only plan for Dan’s amp was playing that riff and writing a song out of it.” And when I had that little riff I just made up just enough chords to explain that.”

Baseball and jingles got Snodgrass through the Covid pandemic, and resulting in Barge At Will.

“I was doing this baseball interview, and that was before Covid happened because the baseball season starts in the middle of March, and it was March 17th or whatever, I was doing this interview with a Rockies podcast and then it didn’t start, the world ended. At the end of the podcast I said, ‘you guys need a new jingle. This thing that you have it is fucking terrible.’ So, I wrote a new jingle for them. Then when that happened and they aired the thing, they made a comment, ‘so this guy’s a cool guy. He says he likes making up these songs on the spot.’ Hit him up, you can get a jingle. I ended up having to tell them a week or so later, ‘you don’t have to say that anymore because I’m kind of backed up with work,’” he laughs.

As the jingle thing ended Snodgrass says, “I was talking to Bill, after we did all this stuff and Bill and I had recorded all of these, he goes, ‘okay, let’s just make a real record.’ I’m like, ‘okay, cool.’ He says, ‘just send me what you got, and I’ll start working on it next week.’” Stevenson said to Snodgrass, “I love hearing your guitars over my drum. I’m like, ‘yeah, I like it too.’ And he said, ‘how come we haven’t been doing this over the last 26 years?’ And I’m like, ‘I didn’t know that was an option.’ It was fucking crazy.”

Away they went on a new album.

“When I was doing those jingles for people, there were a lot. And there’s a couple ways I like to write songs. Some of my best songs were written in the time it takes to almost play, and it just kind of comes close. And then there’s a little fine tuning later, but not too much. “Crunching the Numbers” was written in less time that it takes to play the song. I wrote “Slugs” live on a podcast because Mike Herrera asked me to do it. That song is about acceptance. That song is about treating people how you want to be treated. That sounds like some silly song that’s like 59 seconds, but there’s a couple sophisticated changes in there. It’s about accepting people of all stripes.”

In the end, Barge At Will came together and has a natural feeling. It incorporates his buddies well.

“Bill told me to gather up the songs,” he says. “I was like, ‘okay, this is my chance.’ I went through my Rolodex of stuff. If I can’t finish something, I try not to force songs, I’ll let ‘em sit for a little bit. I went through and looked. I know what songs sound labored over, and none of those are on this record.”

Barge at Will is out Friday, and you can pre-order it from SBAM. Follow Jon Snodgrass on Facebook and Instagram for future updates.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Maranhas

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