Call & Response: snailhouse

Call & Response: snailhouse

For well over a decade, Montreal-based musician Mike Feuerstack has released solo material as snailhouse. I remember always liking his lo-fi acoustic songs whenever they were played on the Indie Hour, but it was always kind of a mystery because I rarely heard about the band anywhere else.

Turns out that Mike was busy with his main band Wooden Stars. They released four acclaimed albums and after an eight-year hiatus they reformed in 2007 and won a Juno award for their collaboration with Julie Doiron. Mike also plays in The Acorn, who I loved at Canadian Music Week.

Luckily for us, Mike has found the time to record and release a very sweet new snailhouse album called Lies On The Prize (Unfamiliar Records). Mike's voice is soulful and his lyrics are very thoughtful. The instrumentation is top notch and the album takes a few interesting turns as it goes along.

But why is he called snailhouse? What does he think about Toronto? What's up with his CD release show this Thursday at the Drake? I asked Mike these questions and many more.

Keep reading for the complete interview.

blogTO: Why do you call this project "snailhouse"?

The name snailhouse is really just an old inside joke. It's the name I gave the music back when I was just starting out and making tapes for friends and stuff like that. After I started making records, it stuck. I like that it has no strict meaning, only connotations.

How would you describe your sound using only a noun?


This project has been around for a long time. Has it progressed as you hoped it would over the years?

I'm not sure that I had any expectations or hopes when I began. Any such thoughts (as they've entered my mind since then) have been a distraction from actually making music. The music is always getting better and better and it continues to find an audience. That's really what I hope for now.

You were releasing music and touring for a good chunk before the internet boom. Do you find it easier being an independent musician now or before?

Snailhouse music is layered slow to reveal itself - I'm not sure myspace hits are anyone's best introduction to it. However, it is easier these days to get music into the ears of those that want it. Things are different for sure - good or bad, I can't say.

Has your approach to songwriting/arranging changed over the years?

The songs have gotten more direct. The songs are often about uncertainty at their core, but I've managed to be more clear in putting that across. As I improve, I find ways to tackle the same
subject matter as before, but without so much alienating by-product. I also think I've found ways to incorporate my sense of humour into the songs, for better or for worse.

Why is this new record called "Lies On The Prize"?

I get a kick out of the double meaning of "Lies" and the vagueness of the "Prize." You could argue that honesty and ambition are themes on the record, and this title underlines both.

Who did you make this record with?

The record was made with my old pal and collaborator Jeremy Gara. He donated a lot of time and soul to the project in his off-hours from Arcade Fire.

What song on the record are you most proud of?

Would you ask a mother that question about her children?

How often do you come to Toronto? What do you like best and least about our city?

I seem to make it there about once every month or two. I don't go out much, so I love that I always have a comfortable place to stay among friends. I hate parking.

Where is your favourite place to enjoy the sunshine?

From the shade.

What can people expect to see/hear/feel at your Drake show on July 3rd?

People can expect to cry a little and laugh a little. People can expect to see the new snailhouse live band play songs from this new record. Ida Nilsen will also be joining us on keys, and we are grateful for that. If people want to hear the old favourites, they'll have to demand an encore.

snailhouse w/ Tusks, Allison Outhit
Thursday, July 3
The Drake Underground
1150 Queen Street West
Doors 8pm
$8 cover

Call & Response is a weekly series of Q&A's with artists from or playing in Toronto. Photo: The Musebox.

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