Things used to be heavy. Not the devil-behind-contacts heavy of Wes Borland and the Bizkit boys or the living-dead-comic-book heavy of Rob Zombie. More like the whoa-dude-that’s-deep kind of heavy, where, regardless of sonic overtones, there was some serious synapse firings going on. Music used to have a message, something that you could grab hold of and ponder for a while. Yeah, there was always the fluff, but usually somewhere, someone was saying something.
That’s not really the case anymore. With the onslaught of vacuous teen pop and the testosterone posturing of neo metal, intelligent rock—minus the possibly defunct Rage Against the Machine—seems to have slipped to the fringe. You have to do some serious detective work to find rock that isn’t about a hot guy, farting or male bravado. Smart people have never been cool. And hey, who wants to think when you could be bouncing along to Britney Spears as she apologizes for doing something—whatever it might be—again.
Daryl Taberski is trying to change that. Sure, he might look one step away from being a day trader, but he’s working to bring some brains back to rock. His band, the Buffalo-based hardcore group Snapcase, has spent the last decade smashing together the two definitions of heavy with all the glee of a kid playing crash-up derby with his Hot Wheels. While the rest of the group roles through riffs that could peel the fake scars right off Rob Zombie’s face, Taberski is busy caterwauling out lyrics that seem like they came from a Norton’s Anthology of Self-Help Poetry.
“If you’re a heavy band they think you’re angry and violent,” Taberski says. “That’s just not the case with us. We try to be more intelligent about it.”
Example: “Typecast Modulator,” the first single off that band’s last disc, Designs for Automation (Victory Records). Distortion crashes like 30-foot breakers. The rhythms are relentless. And behind it all Taberski is belting out lines like, “Don’t paint us the perfect picture/We have visions of our own/Don’t give us the safe interpretation/We want to know the ugly truth.” Taberski says it’s just his way of trying to tell people that they have the power to face anything in the world.
“I just want to create more confidence in people rather than just say this sucks or that sucks or the country sucks,” Taberski says. “We tell people to get up and do something about it. We tell people to be confident in their own decisions rather than listen to other people.”
It’s what got Snapcase noticed in the first place. When the group’s first disc, Lookinglasself, came out in ’95, the quintet scored some early recognition for its blend of power and positivity. But even with the accolades, the group couldn’t really push things too hard. Everyone in Snapcase was trying to live normal lives as well—Taberski was doing time at a crisis hotline, guitarist Jon Salemi built hotrods, drummer Tim Redmond was even going for his doctorate in political science. By the time the group got a slot on the ’97 Warped Tour, it was overload. “Before we were involved in school, full-time jobs, or both. The band got to be too much and everything suffered,” Taberski says.
It’s part of the reason that after the Warped Tour, Snapcase folded for a while, taking time to re-evaluate what was going on. Eventually everyone realized that, at least for now, the band is top priority. “We realized that if we wanted to go further we’d have to make some sacrifices,” Taberski says.
Those sacrifices have paid off. While Snapcase isn’t dominating the charts, the group has become one of the most successful bands in the hardcore underground. Designs for Automation became the group’s biggest disc to date; its success led to 15 months of road work, a slot co-headlining last year’s Warped Tour, and a jaunt around Europe with NoFX and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. It’s all more than Taberski every imaged.
“We never really thought about being successful. I was just happy to be in a band, record a demo tape and open for some cool bands we liked. Since then it’s just grown. It’s hard to believe.”
Part of the reason might be that Snapcase has always been honest with all its beliefs while never straight-up preaching. All five members subscribe to the straight-edge credo—the whole clean-living, liberal-leaning philosophy that sprang for early ’80s hardcore. But the group has never used its beliefs as a ploy for publicity, given soapbox sermons from stage, or lectured other bands it has toured with—even when Snapcase had to stand by and watch Limp Bizkit get 12 girls to disrobe during a show in Raleigh, N.C. Taberski says to do that would go against the “free-thinkers rule” mantra Snapcase lives by.
“It’s part of the reason I try to steer away from any one message. Yeah, no one in the band drinks or smokes, but I don’t get up and preach about it. We try to let people make up their own minds. If they want to be straight-edge, that’s fine with me. But we want people to come to that conclusion themselves, not because some guy in a band said you should do it.”
Snapcase opens for Face to Face at the Utah State Fairpark Promontory Bldg., 155 N. 1000 West, Sunday Feb. 25, 6 p.m.