My interview with Sarah and Stephanie Snyder from Deer Park Avenue

My interview with Sarah and Stephanie Snyder from Deer Park Avenue

I recently had a chance to review the debut E.P. from Deer Park Avenue – “City Streets”.  (If you haven’t had a chance to check out my review, you can find it here.)  At the time, I said one of the things I love most about this blog is the opportunity it affords me to meet new authors and artists.  Sarah and Stephanie Snyder from Deer Park Avenue are no exception to that rule.

After I published my review of “City Streets”, Sarah and Stephanie were kind enough to sit down and chat with me.  We covered a wide range of topics; from musical influences, to pop European bands, to – of course – the impending zombie apocalypse.

The Word Zombie:  Can you tell me a little about each of you and how you came to form Deer Park Avenue?

Deer Park Avenue:  We’ve been playing songs together ever since we picked up our instruments! We’re huge Beatles fans, and when we were kids we both started learning Beatles songs to play together. Our cousin Gregg got us into music big time and taught us our first song, Eight Days a Week on just acoustic guitar and snare drum!

We played every chance we got – we jammed with family and friends, then started forming bands and playing in church, at talent shows, school festivals, even the intermission at our dance recital! Our first ‘original song’ was an instrumental piece we put together when we were 9 and 12 and was around 45 seconds long. Pretty epic! Maybe we’ll revisit it someday…

When we moved to Switzerland, we played shows with our cover band but never played any originals. Once we moved back to the States, Gregg suggested we lay down one of our tracks with his brother Matt at Matt’s studio…that was the first time we ever recorded. We’ve been recording with Matt ever since, and he co-produces our projects with us. We love working with him!

Deer Park Avenue officially started in June 2009…partially because it took us that long to settle on a name we both liked! We basically ‘grew up’ on Long Island, meaning we lived there longer than anywhere else in the world, so we wanted to have a band name that meant something to us. Our friends, church, favourite pizzeria, dance studio, deli, all were off Deer Park Ave.

The Word Zombie:  You have some talented musicians in your family.  Was music something you always wanted to be involved in as you grew up?  If you were not musicians, what would you be doing today?

Deer Park Avenue:  Yes! We love all kinds of music and have been around music since before we can even remember, so we always loved it and love playing, but we really started taking it seriously in our late teens. Career-wise, we actually trained as journalists. But by the time we graduated, we were gigging and realized that music was WAY more fun than court reports and briefs. We’re lucky to have the most amazing parents, who encouraged us to follow our dreams and supported us no matter what. If it weren’t for our mum, who wouldn’t let us quit music lessons, we probably wouldn’t be doing this today!

It’s hard to imagine not playing music. But if instruments didn’t exist, Sarah would probably go full time into web/graphic design – we already design websites for other musicians and artists, indie bands, or photographers or teachers. Stephanie is way into healthy food and a healthy lifestyle, so she would most likely be a nutritionist or have her own orchard.

The Word Zombie:  You’ve been playing music together since you were kids.  How does having your sister beside you make the music making process easier?  How does it make it harder?

Deer Park Avenue:  Much easier, because we can pretty much guess where the other one is going with a song, which is a huge plus when you’re playing a live show or recording. Sometimes we’ll end a song without any warning at exactly the same time! You just feel it. So we always have fun making music, whether we’re just jamming or tracking. We’re able to support each other in other ways too; especially when we get down or things get tough…sometimes it’s hard when you’re travelling, so it’s great having each other around. We’re best friends.

If anything makes it harder, it’s probably when people get mean. People can get weird sometimes on the Internet since they’re anonymous. You can take it yourself, but it’s harder if they say something rude about your sister! But those are the breaks when you’re in a band.

The Word Zombie:  You moved to Switzerland with your family in 2002, and still live there today.  What’s the music culture and scene like there?

The Swiss music culture is pretty diverse. We lived in Switzerland for several years, and are now sharing our time between Switzerland and California. The people here love original music, and they love staying for a show and talking to the band afterward, even if they’re not a particularly famous band. I think a lot of times in the States, people only want to see a cover band with songs they know, or a band that has already ‘made it’. But in Switzerland, and probably Europe in general, they love hearing your stories and are genuinely interested. Our Swiss audience is pretty amazing!! But we’re lucky to have awesome fans all over the world.

The Word Zombie:  As a follow-up, who are the 2 or 3 European bands I haven’t heard of here in the US, but should be listening to?

Deer Park Avenue:  There are so many great European bands! One of our favourites is a German band called Wir Sind Helden (‘We Are Heroes’). Another one we really love is Kyo, a pop/rock band from France. There’s a great band from Basel (our home city in Switzerland) called the Lovebugs. They were the Swiss entry for Eurovision in 2009 and just did a massive performance with the Basel Symphony Orchestra. There are a lot of great bands out of Sweden too – Mando Diao is one you should check out. This is already more than 3…but we could go on!

The Word Zombie:  It’s an old question, but one I still think gives you insight to someone – especially a musician.  What are the seven albums you would have to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island and why?

Deer Park Avenue:  We get very High Fidelity about this kind of thing. We make lists and lists of lists – our Top Tens keep changing. Our musical tastes are pretty diverse, even from each other, but to narrow it to seven we both love…

1) Abbey Road, The Beatles – Pretty much anything the Beatles did is amazing, but we love every single one of these timeless songs. It’s almost a rock opera. It’s one of those albums that doesn’t ever get outdated. The Beatles were good at making records like that.

2) Colour & The Shape, Foo Fighters – This could be the perfect Rock Album. The Foo Fighters are one of the tightest bands around, and are definitely in our top 5 favourite bands ever. There’s so much energy in this record.

3) That Thing You Do, The Oneders…pronounced O-nee-ders! (Soundtrack) – Everything about this album makes us feel good. It was actually after seeing this movie that ‘doing the band thing’ became a serious dream for us (if dreams can be serious…). We even covered That Thing You Do with some friends of ours for a talent show. Everyone should have a pick-me-up album, something that makes them dance or smile when they need it…especially if they’re stranded on a desert island! This is ours.

4) Dookie, Green Day – This album changed our lives! Sarah remembers the first time she heard When I Come Around and saw the Basket Case video and thought…I have to play songs like this. Dookie got us into old school punk. That’s kind of stuck with us ever since.

5) Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Red Hot Chili Peppers – We love RHCP, but this funky rock record is quintessential Chili Peppers. We listen to this album all the time and never get tired of it. It’s something you can plug into and just jam on.

6) More Than You Think You Are, Matchbox Twenty – Matchbox Twenty is such a great band. The raw edge of Rob Thomas’s voice is intense! We love that their songs can start off so small and end up massive.

7) And finally, one of our all-time favourite albums is the soundtrack by John Barry from the film Somewhere In Time. Gorgeous songs. We grew up on soundtracks and classical music. [The Word Zombie – Dances With Wolves by John Barry happens to be one of my favorite soundtracks of all time.]

The Word Zombie:  I described your music as “Sixpence None The Richer meets Green Day”.  How do you describe your sound to people?

Deer Park Avenue:  We like that description! It’s hard pinning your own sound down sometimes, but it’s the first question people ask you. We’ve been compared to the Ataris, Jimmy Eat World, Metric, or “Paramore covering the Beach Boys”, which was kind of a cool description too. We usually just call ourselves pop/rock…equal parts sugar and grit. Someone also once described us as Meg & Dia on Red Bull!

The Word Zombie:  What’s the one question I should have asked you, but didn’t – and what’s the answer to that question?

Deer Park Avenue:  You asked all the good ones! We’ve got some ‘home’ shows coming up, since we’re back in California at the moment. We’re playing at Luigi’s in downtown Sacramento on April 20 and at Old Ironsides in Sac on April 28.

The Word Zombie:  I know you are working on a full-length follow-up to the “City Streets” EP.  How’s it coming and what can you tell me about the new record?

Deer Park Avenue:  It’s going great! We’ve finished the recording and are now in the mixing stage, and soon will get the artwork and promo stuff sorted. It’s due out by late summer and its working title is Project Beta…the follow-up to our first EP which some of our friends would call Project Alpha since we didn’t have a name for it for a long time. We’ve set a tentative release date for August. It’s a little heavier, but still definitely pop. We’ve already started working on new material for our next album.

The Word Zombie:  Once the new record is finished, what does the future hold for Deer Park Avenue?

Deer Park Avenue:  Impossible to say, really. What we do know is that we’ll be writing, recording, and playing songs until we physically can’t anymore. By the time we’re done recording one album, we’re already playing songs together for the next. If we can keep having fun making music that makes a difference to someone, playing shows and meeting awesome people…we’ll feel as successful as anyone in the business.

The Word Zombie:  One last question – once the zombie apocalypse occurs (and I think we can all agree it’s a matter of when, not if), will the two of you be going it alone, or looking to join up with a ragtag group of survivors? Also, do you prefer long-range weapons (guns, flamethrowers) or melee weapons (classic baseball bat) when dealing with a zombie uprising?

Deer Park Avenue:  As the saying goes, surviving the zombie apocalypse is always more fun with friends. So we’d definitely have to say we’d join up with a group of survivors. And as for weapons…no contest. Is there anything cooler than flamethrowers? We think not.

I have to thanks Sarah and Stephanie for taking the time to chat.  If you are in Sacramento at the end of April, try and check them out.  For me, I’m anxiously awaiting their full-length release this August.  I’ll let you know what I think.

If you would like to learn more about Deer Park Avenue you can find the band at:!/deerparkavenue

© 2011, The Word Zombie. All rights reserved.

2 Replies to “My interview with Sarah and Stephanie Snyder from Deer Park Avenue”

  1. Great interview! Questions were solid and Sarah’s responses were very enlightening. Sarah and Stephanie are a true talent and yes, “equal parts sugar and grits” pretty much sums it up for them! Ask them about their books they have written next time. These two young ladies are educated, talented, funny and beautiful!

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