Give Praise to the Formula: An Interview with Sneaks
Sneaks. Photo: Nina Corcoran
There is a beauty in brevity. There is an art to only saying this, truncating communication to stress only intended meaning, the importance is in meaning and intention. There is the idea of having all of this, but only needing this, the magic within these elements, not a subtraction, but the maximizing of these things to express this idea. We live in a world that stresses commodity and volume, an idea of all as complete, but a complete self is not one that is dependent upon the all, it is in just, just this. Eva Moolchan of Washington D.C. performs under the moniker Sneaks. Combining minimalist hip hop, dance, punk, and shades of electro, she gets away with the formula, she gives praise to the formula.
“So I have a rhythm,” notes Moolchan. “I kind of let it guide me, whatever comes up with the rhythm in that moment is what I kind of improvise on, usually.”
Rhythm is an important aspect of our lives, locating the beat, knowing where the beat is, knowing what to repeat and what to abandon after so many repetitions, understanding the groove and working within that groove. The groove is the guide, but there is also what happens, in that groove, scientifically, in theory. How many words in a sentence, how many notes within a percussive pattern, how many syllables within a sentence that match the rhythm pattern of this percussive stance? How many times to repeat this rhythm inside of a defined time structure, using this lyrical pattern inside of this rhythmic structure?
“I work with these kinds of restrictions in a way, I don’t really know how far I can go, I test it out, and you know when the song hits the spot, so… yeah,” Moolchan so eloquently states. “I feel like I started with very little, I was in my dorm room, and I didn’t really know what was going to happen. It was surprise for me to go minimally. But in the past I’ve always appreciated minimal music, like electronic wise and even hip hop and rock, there is this sort of directness I enjoy.”
Directness yes, but also mystery. A lost jewel on this world of over-expression and reveal. The therapists have convinced us to share more, to put it all on the table, but doesn’t that basically reveal what to rob you of, what to take from you? There is the beauty in discovery and interpretation, can it be that simple? When listening to Sneaks there is a notion of looking beyond the surface, noticing the subtleties within the picture. Upon repeated listens, Sneaks reveals more as form sets in. It is like looking at a tree, then noticing patterns of bark, ants crawling up the side, dead leaves vs. live ones, branch forms, roots, etc. But upon first gaze, it is a just a tree.
Sneaks works with maybe three instruments: bass keyboard, percussion. Her first album, “Gymnastics” maybe topped out at 15 minutes, her latest is around that too, but the meditations within these structures is an exercise of restraint and control. There is a matter of style, an acknowledgement of style as a determinant; adapting to a self-set specification, making things yours as opposed to making your thing fit everything else. The beauty of Sneaks’ music is the dedication, the furnishing of the space, the pooling of resources within the skeletal frame, I will create a world, with many scenes and settings using only these colors.
“Going into it, I think I had certain components, but I’m always curious and I think that curiosity leads me to strange places and sometimes it’s unfortunate, and sometimes it can be a little strange, the curiosity, but I’m open to it. And also, a little back story, I was in an apartment in Baltimore and my friend Luke actually had all these keyboards around the house and it was a snowstorm, and I was like ‘oh my god, no one’s in the house!’ and I have to be here alone and so I just explored the instruments he had and that’s kind of what you hear on It’s A Myth.”
A Sneaks song, instead of Sneaks doing a version. It’s A Myth is only her second proper album. It features a little more instrumentation, adjustments within the frame. There is more to the whole (in concept), the songs working as individual pieces but also in the aggregate.
“When you said ‘from this arc to that arc,’ I instantly resonated with that terminology because I feel the same about it,” comments Moolchan, “ I think it is, as an artist, only my second album, I’m still learning very much in the process, trying to collect stuff together and trying to differentiate which is worth it, which is not, and with Myth, it’s definitely a little bit different, but I think there’s something for everyone in a way, if you open up to it.”
The album was recorded in the studio of and with Mary Timony and with Jonah Takagi which is different from maybe the insular process of recording Gymnastics.
“I think that [a bit of outside influence] was inevitable, going in the studio I know it was going to be a different processs from the first time because it’s coming out on a recognized label [Merge], so you have a bigger platform, so with a bigger platform, you want to have a bigger studio, and with bigger studio you want to have, like, people, and then it just kind of expands, which I think you can hear on the album.”
Sneaks will be in town with the equally superb Downtown Boys on March 10 at Walter’s Downtown. As directness is a motivation, there is nothing more direct than a live show, and I feel the music will excel in this environment. For all the cerebration and conjecture are irrelevant to the moment and the feeling, and that is what the live experience is, the moment and the feeling.
“Yeah… yeah… yeah,” added Moolchan.
Sneaks performs at Walter’s Downtown with Downtown Boys and Giant Kitty on Friday, March 10. Doors are at 8 pm and tickets are $10 at the door.