On The Radar: Snapped Ankles
Green shoots of creativity as London innovators Snapped Ankles hone sophomore album
Emerging from London’s fiercely independent warehouse venue scene and shunning the constraints of traditional live performance, Snapped Ankles delivered an arresting blast of post-punk brilliance with 2017’s Come Play The Trees. With a restless DIY energy seeing them deploy a synth made from bits of tree at shows bearing as much in common with art installations as traditional gigs, the band distil the dynamic krautrock energy of The Fall and Can.
That fizzing creativity is audible through the insistent electronic throb of new single Drink And Glide, the first from an as-yet-untitled album due next year. Recorded with producer Danalogue The Conqueror from fellow Londoners The Comet Is Coming, it features “the motley cast of Snapped Ankles, drummers, gurus, chemists and witch doctors”.
“Basically, it’s a call out to the new corporate mindfulness, in the manner of a shopping-channel advert,” explains the band’s singer Mr Austin. “The song started with the idea that the 60s counterculture has been co-opted by health and wellness industries, and it was inspired by a poem Graham Bendel wrote entitled Timothy Leary Is Teaching Weight Watchers Classes In Crouch End.”
Saying he loves The Fall because they “were all about really primitive music with good lyrics”, Mr Austin tells Long Live Vinyl that the DIY ethic extends to the band’s infamous log synth, a “rotten old stick with a vintage percussion synth circuit embedded or attached to it”.
“They are as robust as a guitar and can take the beatings of drums – it’s all the things you can’t do with traditional or even modern synths. They came for an installation we created where we made a small ‘forest’ of trees infected by man-made electronics, and they are notoriously difficult to control. Much like theremins, theyare almost untunable, which is cool until you bring in instruments that are tuned!”
Mr Austin underlines the importance to Snapped Ankles of the underground scene they were born into. But with a venue that helped to nurture their talent, Stoke Newington’s Total Refreshment Centre, forced to close this summer, he’s realistic about the challenge of finding inner-city spaces to play. “The health of the DIY scene is not so great, given the lack of affordable space and the high potential land value of selling said warehouses and arts spaces, but it’s there, with great nights bubbling away somewhere. But the people and spaces are pushed a few miles further down the road. We are looking towards Dartford, the Thames Estuary and towards France! Ad-hoc performance events in these spaces have been a necessary ideas incubator for our group.”
So, what is Snapped Ankles’ advice for surviving as a band in a musical landscape faced by diminishing returns, widespread apathy and venues being turned into luxury flats?
“We don’t recommend full-time band behaviour in this country,” says Mr Austin. “We suggest lowering your expectations with this kind of thing. It’s bad for your bank balance, your mental health and life expectancy… unless you can survive on crisps and cheap lager. We would recommend other professions, such as woodcraft or forestry management, and make amateur music in your evenings and weekends.”