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Wednesday, October 01, 2008 

GoGirls Interview With The Snake Charmers

by Annette Warner

The Snake Charmers have come forward to confirm the fact, yet again, that you don't have be a touring band to be considered, a great one. My interview with the front woman of the band, Marie Angell, promises to share something a little wise, a little fun and something very attractive these days - that being the personalities of musicians who don't appear to really want fame...rather just a good local gig with happy listeners. Their first pro release, "Been Gone Too Long", though delayed because of Hurricane Ike in their region, is still going to be some ear candy around late October/early November. Stay tuned for more, and go visit their myspace for a taste. www.myspace.com/thesnakecharmersmusic - Enjoy!

What drives your music. When did you first know you had to do this thing called music or bust?

Since there are 4 of us in the band (Marie Angell, Will Blumentritt, Larry Meeker and Eric Blumentritt), we all have different, yet similar, routes to music lives. As the "frontman," I'll answer for everyone (that's what I do anyway).

For me, I always loved singing and performing. My mother said I sang before I talked. My father was an excellent singer and I was always surrounded by music. I memorized the hymns in church before I could read and sang and danced in grocery stores when we shopped when I was a little kid. I took piano, played organ and piano in church, started playing in pop bands when I was about 20. I've been in a number of bands, had my own bands a couple of times. I've played all kinds of music in all kinds of groups, but playing with The Snake Charmers has been the best time of my life.

Will says he took up the bass as an early teen to imitate, yet not be an exact copycat, of his older brother, Bruce, who plays guitar and sings beautifully. He attended HSPVA (High School for the Performing and Visual Arts) and so was immersed in music from that point on. He's been in several bands over the years. In high school he began playing with the variety band Midstream, some of that time with (GoGirls Founder) Madalyn Sklar's brother Maury, and stayed with them for almost 30 years. He's thrilled to be able to play the blues, especially original music, something he scarcely dared dream of doing.

Larry's father is a professional drummer and Larry originally took up the sax, but soon shifted to guitar. He studied music in college, has been in a number of bands and, although he is a very busy man these days, he makes music a very high priority. If he's not having a good time playing with The Snake Charmers, he's very good at faking it.

Eric's mother is a professional violist and his dad is Will, our bass player, so he was always steeped in music. He took piano lessons and was deeply intrigued by drums when he was quite young. In his teens, Eric began to seriously study and practice drumming, and he also plays guitar, bass and a bit of many other instruments, including mandolin, sitar and sax. Although he came to The Snake Charmers through nepotism, he has grown to enjoy being part of the process of creating an original sound.

What kind of advice would you offer up and coming artists that get discouraged other than don’t give up?

As someone who has been discouraged and given up (and back on the horse again), the hardest thing to learn about this, or any business really, is you have to face rejection head on. Sometimes you're just not the right fit, sometimes it's factors you will never know, sometimes you're just not good enough. Understand why you were rejected and act accordingly. Try not to take it personally.

You have to be the best you can possibly be, work at your music, and then go forward. Decide what you're goals are and then figure out how to get there.

Most importantly, if you're going to do more than play in your living room, you have to treat your music career as a business.

Describe your ideal venue.

Our ideal venue is anywhere people show up and have a good time! Taking this question a little more seriously, we really love to play at mid-size rooms holding maybe 200-300 people with a good size stage and great sound.

But we've played at some magnificent hole-in-the-wall places and festivals with several thousand people, and as long as the audience responds, it's all good.

Describe your music's evolvement since you first started performing? Tell us about the inspiration for your first major CD release.

The Snake Charmers were founded by Will and I on the idea that we would "play what we like and like what we play." Everyone in the band, except Eric, spent many years playing music other people wanted, so we decided that, since we didn't need to make a lot of money, we could throw all caution to the wind.

I had a few songs that I'd written over the years I thought would be right, Will really wanted to play the blues and Eric tolerated us. So we started off playing a wide variety of music, mostly with substitute guitar players.

About 2-1/2 years ago we found Larry and decided that we would get serious about becoming a blues/blues rock band and start doing more original music. It wasn't so much a conscious decision as it felt so right when we were playing the blues.

In today's music world, you have to have a CD because it's so easy to make one. And none of us in the band had ever made a serious, full length CD of original music, so it was an exciting prospect. When I was starting out in music, you just didn't go and make a record unless you were with a label or rich.

We began messing around with a couple of songs I had written, although they weren't really a perfect match for what we were doing, but it got me into the right mindset for writing songs for The Snake Charmers. I began to crank out songs and we began polishing them up in live performance.

That gave us the confidence to know that we could definitely produce a full CD of original music. We intended to do a pretty basic, do-it-yourself kind of album, but once we got into it, we decided we wanted to have as professional a CD as we could. Will forked over the cash. He says that some men buy a boat or a fancy car, he bought a CD--which costs a lot less and you don't have to change the oil.

Ironically, although all the songs fall loosely into the blues/blues rock genre, the music, although it is all original, is a pretty eclectic mix, which reflects our first vision of "play what we like, like what we play" regardless of genre.

What do you think is number one for a musician to think about before preparing for a CD project - and do you have any tips on saving time in the studio?

Learn from our mistakes! The first thing you should do if you want a polished, professional sound is to make sure you really know your songs. Play them in public for a while, really look at the lyrics, see if a different word or a different note seems to work better as you play it time and again.

Know what you're going to do when you go into the studio. Chart it out. You'll still have inspiration and happy mistakes, but it will save you tons of time and money if you have the arrangements laid out guiding you.

Find a good studio and work with a sound engineer you feel comfortable with. If you feel intimidated or you don't connect with the engineer, go elsewhere.

If you have to record yourself, which is certainly a viable option these days, get someone whose listening skills you trust to evaluate your tracks. If you can, pay a professional to give you some feedback on what you're doing. It will make a huge difference.

What makes or breaks a musician just starting out in your opinion?

Be a good musician. You don't have to be a virtuoso to play popular music, but you need to be the best you can be. Most great musicians work at improving their whole lives. Learn your instrument, learn about songwriting or whatever you do.

Some musicians, especially those starting out, spend too much on things that don't matter, like top of the line equipment when middle of the line would do for now. Great equipment doesn't automatically make you a great musician.

Certainly, the rejection and the hassle that comes from working with clubs, other musicians, the whole business side can break a musician. You have to take a lot of things in stride and go forward.

Describe your toughest moment in your quest for a pro music career so far?

It's all tough! In music, or any entrepreneurial career (musicians are definitely entrepreneurs), you never reach a point where you can completely sit back and relax and say, I've made it! That's what makes even multi-platinum artists crazy. Which is not to say that you shouldn't enjoy whatever success you have and be satisfied with it.

What's been painful for us lately is that so many venues have closed and more will be closing. We just lost some great places in Galveston and the surrounding areas. It also seems as if many people aren't that interested in hearing live music these days, especially going to smaller venues with local bands.

Are you planning a tour and if so…where do you plan to take your music outside of Texas?

We will probably never be a serious touring band, but we do intend to work in the wider region--Austin, Beaumont, maybe even Dallas. There's a great place out in Alpine we'd love to play. We'll be applying to selected festivals out of state.

Since we all have day jobs, we have to be very selective about combining out of town dates with vacations.

Tell us something you want the independent music world to know about you.

The Snake Charmers are a serious band but we don't take ourselves too seriously. Our music has a lot of variety, a lot of soul--you won't hear the same basic 3 chord songs over and over. In "Been Gone Too Long," we try to capture little slices of life that happen to everyone: heartbreak, flirtation, standing up for yourself in a way that makes them feel something, move around a little, snap their fingers maybe.

What can your fans expect at a show?

When The Snake Charmers play, we do our best to give everybody a rockin', swingin', bluesy time. We put everything we have out there on the stage--I'm always going to sing my heart out, the guys are going to throw themselves into the music. You're not going to hear what some people call "that same old blues crap" from us. We like to mix it up, play songs all across the blues spectrum and have a good time doing it. Our hope is that the audience comes along for the ride.

On gogirls music…

GoGirls Music has been a great help and inspiration. GoGirls has provided wonderful opportunities for us to play, given us some great insight into today's rapidly changing music world and we've met some incredible musicians.

Although everyone in the band has spent many years playing (including Eric since he started young), we haven't always been able to meet many people in the music community.

Through GoGirls, we've made some wonderful friends and we love Madalyn's energy. It's been nothin' but net with GoGirls. 'Cause, hey, chicks ROCK!

The Snake Charmers are:

Marie Angell: Vocals, Keyboards, Songwriting
Will Blumentritt: Bass, Project Manager
Larry Meeker: Lead Guitar, Energizer Bunny
Eric Blumentritt: Drums, Musicologist


In addition to being the Founder, and Editor of CoffeeHouseTour.com, Annette Warner is a freelance sales Copywriter and Web Resource Developer with her own business; Awesome Webs. She also enjoys duties as a part time event planner and booking and music entertainment manager for several local festivals. She holds the position of Editor with the oldest and largest online community for Women in Music, www.gogirlsmusic.com and is the SC and NC Chapter Coordinator for the organization. She organizes and promotes the Wilmington, NC based and successful AWEsome 'Live Performance' Songwriting Competition now in it's 11th year. She is the owner of A. Warner Entertainment, a Live Entertainment Publicity Planning Agency. In short..."Some serious A'netteworking since 1995." Annette resides in Wilmington, NC with her tiny Chihuahuas, Kirby and Sofe. You can reach Annette at Awarner at coffeehousetour dot com.


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    Madalyn Sklar is a music business coach & consultant, blogger, social networks expert and author. She has spent over 15 years helping independent musicians and music business professionals achieve greater success. Her motto is: working smarter not harder. She also founded GoGirlsMusic.com, the oldest + largest online community of indie women musicians.

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