by Malcolm Petch
Snailhouse is booked to play Streaming Café on October 1. What the heck is a snailhouse? “Snailhouse,” according to his bio, “is an ongoing collection of songs by Montreal-based Mike Feuerstack”.
Feuerstack is a singer/songwriter and guitarist who works on his own music and contributes greatly to the projects of others. And he’s got one of the best-written blogs around – it’s easy to tell this guy loves words.
If you’ve never heard of Snailhouse or Fuerstack before, perhaps an overview of some of his connections will help you place him in the circle of Canadian musicians. He’s been producing a new Paper Beat Scissors album (PBS is Tim Crabtree, at SC on Sept 10), which is being mixed by Jeremy Gara of Arcade Fire. He plays guitar in the band Wooden Stars, which won a Juno with Julie Doiron for their alternative album Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars. Snailhouse, the full band version, has included Gara on drums and fellow Arcade Fire alumnus Sarah Neufeld on violin. Mike Feuerstack has toured extensively with both Catherine MacClellan and Olympic Symphonium (at SC back on May 8, 2010) and, in fact, has OS members Kyle Cunjack and Nick Cobham as part of the big-band version of Snailhouse. Feuerstack is part of the band Bell Orchestre. Feuerstack/Snailhouse’s album Lies on the Prize was nominated for a 2009 Polaris prize. And Snailhouse is now in the entourage of record label White Whale.
The list could go on, but hopefully the picture is getting clearer. This guy knows his stuff, and respected people around him know that he knows his stuff, and call on him regularly to contribute his stuff to their stuff.
Actually, Snailhouse itself could be called a contribution project. Mike writes the songs, and pulls in his friends to help him when he records his music and tours. And his songs are variously classed as “a bit ‘pop’” and “lo-fi” and various other monikers, but the best way to get the sense of what Snailhouse is all about is to listen to the music directly. Several of his albums are on bandcamp (for example, http://snailhouse.bandcamp.com/album/lies-on-the-prize), available both for purchase and for listening.
One thing that seems to strike everyone on deeper listen is the word-craft that has gone into this music. “…his honest, poetic lyricism and dark, brooding vocals completely captivates you as a listener,” says Jessica Russell of TV Guide. “…another collection of Mike Feuerstack’s intricately constructed, beautifully-written songs. Feuerstack’s lyrics are as witty as ever…” says Kate Harper from CHARTattack. And from Alexandra Davis of Here: “Listening to Sentimental Gentleman will make you wonder why the force behind Snailhouse, Mike Feuerstack, isn’t better known. The music and vocals are lovely, but it’s the insightful and clever lyrics that take the album from good to great, as Feuerstack weaves captivating stories about love, dreams and success.”
Exclaim magazine described Feuerstack’s Wooden Stars as ‘engimatic music nerds’ back in 1999, noting, though, the band’s Juno win with Julie Doiron and Feuerstack’s edging toward simplicity since that time.
With the rave reviews coming in as a result of his new album, Sentimental Gentlemen, Mike Feuerstack’s Snailhouse project seems to be around for the long haul. His show at Streaming Café on October 1 promises to be an evening of great music in a listening-room setting. It’s not every week that we get to hob-knob with an alternative-acoustic-pop artist who’s been playing alternative rock shows with well-known acts for more than a decade. We are definitely looking forward to the show!