from side-project to touring band in one yearRegina band Snake River started as the solo project of Christopher Sleightholm (The Lonesome Weekends). Sleightholm takes the country folk elements of the Lonesome Weekends, and adds psychedelic rock distortion; the sound has a haunting, ethereal quality to it. This is more than just a side project for Sleightholm; Snake River has become his sole focus. The band is currently in the middle of an intense ten-day tour, with seven shows and three days of driving – first heading east to Montreal, then back again.
Originally, all elements of Snake River were written, performed, and recorded solely by Sleightholm. When he started touring, he formed Snake River as a super-group, featuring members of other local bands. On the latest album, Songs From The Adjacent Room, he allowed members to add their own input to the recordings, which takes the sound of Snake River to new places, adding depth to the groundwork laid out by Sleightholm. Dustin Gamracy of The Spoils plays drums; extra melody is added by John De Gennaro, formerly of Geronimo on guitar, and Whistlin’ Jeff M of The Wildmen and Failed States plays bass and whistles. All other instruments including guitar and vocals are still performed by Sleightholm.
The band is named after the fictional town of Snake River Mountain and its residents. Lyrics on the two albums McKruski and Songs From The Adjacent Room take conversations, dreams and recollections of these residents. Specifically, the albums focus on author Reginald McKruski and his wife Jeanie McFeven-McKruski.
Sleightholm uses these characters as an outlet for his creativity; their experiences remain distinct from his own.
On Adjacent Room, Reginald and Jeanie are recovering from hangovers and interact intermittently throughout their day. They have private bedrooms adjacent one another. The album McKruski, although released before Adjacent Room, details events that happened three weeks later. The story of the debut album details the strange events of the town culminating in a delirious McKruski addressing the members of a town hall meeting. The events of the party before Adjacent Room are important to this meeting. The chaotic chronology makes Snake River all the more intriguing as a body of fiction; however, one doesn’t need to understand the story to appreciate the music.
Sleightholm loves fiction and draws influence from film and television, specifically David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. The concept of Snake River Mountain draws heavily from Lynch’s fictional town of Twin Peaks. The surreal, supernatural element of the town translates well into the music of Snake River. Sleightholm also listens to a variety of music, some with a completely different sound from Snake River.
As a music writer true to the folk music tradition, storytelling is an important aspect of what Sleightholm does. He also writes short stories and wrote one based on Songs from the Adjacent Room, titled simply The Adjacent Room. This was compiled into a book, handmade in collaboration with artist Amber Phelps-Bondaroff who is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts-Intermedia at the University of Regina. The book can be picked up at shows for those that are interested in learning more about the history of Snake River Mountain.
Musically and lyrically Snake River transports you to a different time and place. One fan described it as sounding how the northern lights look. Much like the aurora borealis, the distorted guitar rolls out and blends seamlessly with keyboard and vocals. The melodies are both lilting and melancholic. Lyrically, it’s the creation of an imagined past, glimpses of dreams, thoughts and recollections. It’s music you can lose yourself in. Multiple listens through each album and I’m still discovering new complexities within the layers of sound.
You can buy a copy of Snake River’s albums at their shows or on their Bandcamp site.