Snarls’ music is as much about self-preservation and baring teeth as their name suggests, even though that wasn’t the point. One day someone blurted out “The Snarls” at practice. From there they dropped “the,” and the Ohio-based band had the perfect moniker to contain their roaring emo pop-punk fusion.
Guitarist Mick Martinez and singer Chlo White assure me that there was no overdrawn origin story. “If you want to put more meaning to it, we all like dogs,” White casually jokes over the phone. “And generally, if you fuck with my friends I’m gonna hurt you. So like a protective dog,” she laughs. From their teeth-gritting melodies to their confrontative lyrics, Snarls attack their confusion and distress about age, death, and confounding relationships. Their tidal waves of overlapping guitars feel like a ravaged expression as much as they are a defensive warning.
Most of the four members grew up in the surrounding area of Columbus; White hailed from Indiana before moving to Ohio when she was seven. “We’re all from small country towns,” she says. Whether in Plain City or Circleville, White and Martinez both had a Bring Your Tractor To School Day. Akin to their music’s urgency and widescreen pop melodies, the band’s conception sounds seamless.
Snarls came together through a tangle of childhood friendships and encounters at their high school, the Arts & College Preparatory Academy. Max and Mick Martinez are siblings and bassist Riley Hall is their childhood friend. Hall crossed paths with White while attending the Academy. They began playing together. “Chlo and I met at a later date,” Mick explains. “She had no idea that Riley and I already knew each other. She went to Riley like, ‘Oh my gosh! You got to meet this girl Mick,’ and Riley is like, ‘Wait, I have known her my whole life.’” It wasn’t until late 2017, when they brought in Mick’s younger brother Max, that things started to fall into place. “We cycled through some other drummers and keyboard players and then all of a sudden my brother was a great drummer, just out of nowhere,” Mick laughs.
Six months later Snarls had a handful of songs and independently released their acclaimed self-titled EP. It showcased warbled basslines with simmering depression that steamrolled into restlessness. On the penultimate track “Twenty,” White’s vocals are like a deer caught in an open clearing. “I’m not who I thought I was gonna be,” she sings on the opening verse. “Twenty seems further than it ought to be.” Her voice is calm and vulnerable, all the other instruments a safe distance away. It captures the meaninglessness of age — a song worthy of inserting whatever number one feels distant from.
White and Martinez explain that this was the song that brought the band together. The members range from 18 to 22 years old, ages that can feel both like not enough and way too much. It bonded them through youthful anxiety — a growing epidemic for a generation that’s unsure if the world might dissolve from political bullshit or climate change erosion.
An updated version of “Twenty” is featured on their forthcoming debut Burst, illustrating their strengthened blend of dream-pop, shoegaze, and emo. Where their EP was grungy, lo-fi bliss, these 10 new tracks shimmer and spark like a match hitting sulfur. Burst contains a grander feeling of disillusionment and anxiety, but it boils into a sense of motivation. It’s an upbeat testament that “it’s okay to not know what you’re doing,” as White puts it.
Take their brilliant single “Marbles,” a witty spiral about losing one’s mind, pieces disappearing under the fridge and someone sweeping them away as they scrounge for them. It’s fickle and winding just like the human brain, but it also captures the urgency that’s inherent in Snarls’ music. Even when sanity slips out from under them, they ground themselves in small routine acts that might eventually lead to clarity.
Their latest single “What’s It Take,” which is out today, has the most arresting transitions from Burst. The song enters a daydream in the second half, spacing out into free-floating psychedelia. Then, suddenly, White comes to and shouts, “What’s it take to be touched by you?” Snarls relentlessly search for a connection, maybe reprieve.
Burst’s tension comes from the dissonance between the band’s age and their favored topics. The album takes its name from the final track, which asks for death in the most extravagant manner. When her final day comes, White asks to burst with a “crack of thunder and a lot of glitter.” Their music’s emotional voltage thrives off her and Hall’s sensitive songwriting. White tells me her writing feeds off melodrama, inflating itself with intense emotions that leave no room for rationalization in the moment. In the end though, it pays off in the real world.
“These songs have shown me what to chase after, what to wait for,” she dryly observes. “I feel like there’s a little sprinkle of all of the sad traumas of being 20 that there’s something for everyone in there.”
After finishing recording last spring, the group was conflicted about how to release it. They were inspired, by bands like Orlando’s SALES, to maybe put the album out independently. There was a mocking silence after Martinez reached out to dozens of labels. White was eager to let it out into the world and not waste time. Martinez held off for just one more batch of emails. Just when they were itching to drop it, Joe Urban from Take This To Heart Records expressed his support. That push and pull between risk and reward is the cornerstone of Snarls. Whether illustrated in their patience and eagerness of finding a label or in the sparkling angst of their songs, their mindfulness of time is heartening.
“This is so deeply personal so please don’t be thrown off by the oversharing,” White says, as if I might be deterred by her honesty. “I just have this — literally it eats me alive — this fear of death constantly. There’s beauty in all this learning, right now all these people around me are in such a rush to get their lives together. And of course, I want that comfort, but I’m just having a really good time learning and being young. I don’t wanna be sitting there dying and like, ‘Fuck, I didn’t do anything I wanted to do.’”
Why does death scare them? “The unknown of life after death is not really what bothers me,” Martinez shares. “It’s no longer being around the people that I love. That’s the thing that scares me the most. My circle is very small, but I love people very, very deeply. Not having that scares me.”
“I am so scared that I don’t have enough time to do what I want to do,” White continues. “I will feel so terrible If I don’t take risks. I don’t want to die with any regrets.”
They both pause and chuckle for a minute: “Sorry, Mick and I are emo children.” They’re both aware that the conversation has taken an intense new direction. That’s usually how life goes anyway.
Burst is out 3/6 via Take This To Heart Records. Pre-order it here.