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Features Article

Words: James Burdyshaw

Image: Amy Halligan

Image of singer from the band, Charming Snakes

Representations of snakes range from a monstrous killer in horror films to the embodiment of Satan. Compare this imagery to the ebullient musical hooks and translucent maze of noise that is the Charming Snakes. The hypnotic sound swells between throbbing bass notes as twin guitars shock the listener into catatonic fits like the venomous bite of a cobra.

The Charming Snakes’ sound stretches across an eclectic landscape of influences—like the shimmering power-pop of Superchunk spliced and the psychic drone of early Sonic Youth. Singer/guitarist Ruben Mendez says “My favorite bands right now are Brainiac and Lake of Dracula” With a sardonic smile, bassist Lacey Swain emphatically lists Tacoma resident Steve Miller as a big influence. Rueben continues, “Lacey is really big into the old Trans Syndicate sound with distorted bass guitar. She likes ripping off bands like the Cherubs and Ed Hall.”

Lacey and Ruben are from Texas and were convinced to move from sweltering Austin to rainy Seattle by drummer extraordinaire Kellie Payne. Lacey says, “We worked with Kellie’s husband at this theater down there. I never thought she’d play with us after that big blowout the first time we met.” Kellie explains, “Yeah, Lacey was mean to me. I was going to try out for her band and she said ‘What do you want to be in our band for?’ I told her ‘I guess I don’t.’ Then she ran over me with her bicycle!”

After several bands in Austin, Ruben and Lacey moved to Seattle and formed the Charming Snakes when Joe expatriated from the South. They used a drum machine before Kellie was asked to step in on drums for one show. She’s never left. The opening track on “Ammunition,” their new album on Dirtnap Records, is partially a tribute to Kellie. Ruben explains, “The first song is called ‘Loon’ because when we started playing it, Kellie’s drumming was like Keith Moon. She was really wasted that day and fell over the drum set.”

The band has traveled down the West Coast several times and last year across the Midwest. Happy to play Bumbershoot this year, Lacey states “We have no morals. We will play anywhere.” Just like the snake that charmed Eve to mankind’s ruin.

The Charming Snakes play Bumbershoot Monday, September 4 at 1:45pm at the Sky Church.

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