A Bird In The Hand
With over 20 years as the leader of The Blackeyed Susans, Rob Snarski has stepped out from behind his band for his first ever solo album, Wounded Bird. He performs at the Astor Lounge this Saturday, August 16, and at Mojo’s for a 1pm matinee show on Sunday, August 17. CHRIS HAVERCROFT reports.
Rob Snarski spent his formative years in Perth as his family owned an orchid in Karragullen where he grew up with his brother, Mark, and formed Chad’s Tree.
Snarski first moved from Perth with Chad’s Tree before returning to join The Blackeyed Susans with Dave McComb. He now lives in Melbourne, but a trip to the West always has a sense of history for Snarski.
“I have no family left in Perth now so there is a sense of dislocation as I don’t feel I belong there even though I spent a huge amount of my life there,” says Snarski of landing in Perth to play gigs. “I grew up in the outskirts of Perth and we had 89 acres, an orchard and a farm. Coming back to Perth I have a flood of memories and it is always interesting. I get off that plane and I am bashed with that intense light and the intense heat when it is summer. It is different to living in Melbourne, that’s for sure.”
Wounded Bird became a solo record by default. In making the album Snarski had been going through a difficult time as there were corrupt hard drives to contend with, and a computer was stolen that contained hours of recording. As a result, guest musicians who had been part of the record were gone, never to be heard.
There was a time when Snarski thought Wounded Bird was cursed and was never going to get finished.
“I hadn’t planned on making a solo record. I was working on a record with Dan Luscombe as a follow-up to a record we had made about 10 years ago called There Is Nothing Here That Belongs To You. In the process, I found myself driving Dan home after a recording session and he said, ‘I think this should be your solo record’. I really didn’t know if I should accept it as a gift or take it as a punch in the face. In a way I guess that it has been a great thing that he suggested and I certainly took more ownership and responsibility for the songs and was more proactive in finishing it.”
To finance the release of the album, Snarski underwent a PledgeMusic campaign. People were encouraged to donate to the making of the album and in return Snarski would do things such walk your dog with you, DJ at your house, sing a song from the album down the phone, record a song of your choice, and come to your house and make you vegetarian frittata. There were around 300 pledges which sped up the production of the album.
“The pledge campaign blew me away. I was approached by my manager to start the pledge campaign and I knew very little about them at the time so I was reluctant to be part of it and it didn’t feel comfortable. It felt like holding out my hat and asking for donations, but the funny thing is that everything I have done for the pledges has been a joyful experience and musically challenging. I have put myself out there and taken myself out of my comfort zone and found it be a really rewarding experience.”
Snarksi is a typical artist in that even when people are praising his work and view his voice as a gift from the gods, he is prone to focus on the flaws of his work. It is hard to believe that he could listen to his live recording and cringe at the pitch, but this is what he does. Luckily with his first solo album there will continue to be enough praise that he won’t have time to focus on any perceived flaws. Wounded Bird is a stunning listen, often in spite of the heavy tales.
“The themes that I approach in the songs are not all the negative,” Snarski clarifies. “There are points where I address the strength of character that builds you into the person that you are. It is not only the scars that are left behind. Sure there are things like rejection, infidelity and break ups but there are things like sexuality, resolve, resilience and then you go into folk tales, loneliness and self harm, but it is not all dark and it is not all bleak, that is for sure.”