Austin Duncan, otherwise known as Snayl, is at the forefront of an emerging electronic music scene in Champaign-Urbana. I was able to sit down with him and learn more about his music and the local electronic music scene.
Smile Politely: Your music is very immersive. When you make your music do you think about creating a specific mood that the listener can immerse themselves in?
Austin Duncan: I’ve described my music before as being “music for daydreams” – you don’t necessarily need to close your eyes when listening to it but it takes your mind to new places. I try to make songs that are sonically powerful so that the music takes up all this space inside of the listener and allows for a more immersive experience. You can have the same beat over and over again but if little things are constantly changing it creates a certain kind of mood.
SP: It’s really cool when a song has a bass line that repeats over and over and you get so sucked into it but then after twenty minutes little things get thrown into the mix and it just blows your mind.
Duncan: Yeah! Fela Kuti makes songs where it’s the same guitar riff for ten minutes and then he starts singing — I love that.
SP: Why is daydreaming important to you?
Duncan: It’s good to take a step back, people get so absorbed in day-to-day life. Just take a step back, close your eyes and take a deep breath. I like the idea of music being able to take you somewhere else — just letting your thoughts flow and going wherever your mind needs to go.
SP: What originally inspired you to start making electronic music?
Duncan: After High School I was going through some rough times in my life. I was dealing with a lot of emotional problems and I didn’t have any creative outlet, I was all pent up. Then a friend showed me how to make music using Ableton Live and I started working with it I realized that I could make my own music and have it mean something to me — it changes my mood when I’m doing it.
SP: For someone who isn’t that familiar with electronic music – how is your style of music different from the more mainstream EDM music scene?
Duncan: I’m not saying that my music is not danceable but it’s not really about “raging” or getting “turnt up”, my music is more reflective and introspective. I’ve met a few people who say they don’t like electronic music because they don’t like Skrillex or Bassnectar but there is so much more to it than that. With electronic music there is unlimited potential with the kinds of sounds you can make — I can have a hi-hat and make it sound completely different or I can use bird chirps as an instrument in my music.
SP: Describe your songwriting process.
Duncan: When I begin writing a song I usually have a clear idea of what it is going to be but after five minutes I’ve already forgotten what that idea was and it’s become something completely different, every song just makes itself. It’s like that quote: “every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it”, that’s the way I feel about writing songs — the song is already there I just have to let it out.
SP: What kind of music influences your style?
Duncan: I love Phil Collins — Phil gets me in the mood, you know what I mean? Lately I’ve been on a really hard jazz kick — I can’t stop listening to Charles Mingus. It’s been like two months where every day I have been listening to Mingus. My music is starting to become a little more influenced by jazz — I have been trying to make music that isn’t as straightforward, I try to use different time signatures within the same song. Other musical styles that I am really into are melancholy, shoegaze stuff, as well as old 70s British prog rock with bands like King Crimson and early Genesis.
SP: Nowadays people tend to find most new music online, do you think this is especially true for electronic musicians due to the fact that there isn’t as much of a live music scene associated with the genre?
Duncan: Yeah, most of the electronic music that I listen to I have found through online communities where artists are able to collaborate and share music with one another. I’m currently trying to make it so that you will actually be able to hear about electronic music artists who are performing live so that they can collaborate and create a community that exists locally, not just online.
SP: How does your music fit into the local music scene? Have you had any trouble finding venues that fit with your style of music?
Duncan: Yeah, it was a little tough being able to get my foot in the door. There wasn’t much of a local electronic music scene that I was aware of when I started but I was able to organize a couple of shows at the Institute 4 Creativity this past year that went really well and by doing that I was able to find some people who were making similar music locally. I would like to be able to put on shows at some other places in addition to the I4C so that people can become more aware of the local electronic music scene.
SP: What projects are you currently working on? Any upcoming shows?
Duncan: I open for Terminus Victor at Mike N Molly’s on December 11th. I am also working on another show that will be at the Institute 4 Creativity that will happen in late January. I will be performing in that show in addition to VibraSpore, which is Clayton Thompson’s electronic project and he will also be doing visuals as well. Another artists performing will be twoleggedzoo who I recently found out about and then there might be a couple more that have yet to be confirmed on the lineup. I am also working on an album that will hopefully be released sometime in the spring.
Check out Snayl on Facebook and Soundcloud. Snayl performs this Friday at Mike N Molly’s with Terminus Victor and Pale Dain.