By Cole Parker
CALGARY – Many electronic music acts from deadmau5 to marshmello have made masks their calling card. After failing to find fans that were willing to do their face paint on Twitter, U.K. producer duo Snakehips decided to join the ranks. It was October 31, 2014 at the Hifi Club and it was Oliver “Ollie” Lee and James Carter’s first, and to date only, performance in Alberta.
“We went in these horrible masks that we bought from this weird costume shop,” Lee recalls. Carter wore a vaguely unsettling Geisha mask; Lee opted to wear the face of a smiling grandpa.
Masks aren’t Snakehips gimmick though. It’d be hard to argue that Snakehips have anything closely resembling a gimmick at all. Their brand of boom-bap, soul, and new-era wonky influenced electropop is varied, and most importantly, fun. Lee even has a tough time nailing down what makes Snakehips so ‘Snakehips-y.’
“Everything’s always like in a different style. We never really do the same thing twice. It’s difficult for us to even say what (our sound) is.”
Whatever that sound is, it’s working. Despite their scene being oversaturated with producers, and despite the fact that they’ve never released an album, the duo is causing a rumble. Their breakout, “All My Friends” is a slightly depressive anthemic ode to wasted nights featuring the sultry singing of Tinashe alongside a nuanced, drug-themed Chance the Rapper verse.
Up until “All My Friends,” the duo’s biggest claim to fame was an official remix of a deep-cut by sultry R&B singer Banks.
“It was a pretty wild idea,” says Lee, describing the initial attempt to contact the rising star. To their surprise, that’s all it took.
“It’s still kind of crazy for us.”
From there, James and Ollie have been releasing hit single after hit single via collaborations with Tory Lanez, Anderson .Paak, and Zayn. Even their BBC Live Lounge session, a popular cover segment on the radio station, was a collaboration with Norwegian star MØ. They’ve also released a single with her dubbed “Don’t Leave” that’s currently climbing the Spotify charts.
This rapid-fire single output is par for the course with electronic artists, as hype is fleeting in our digital world. Building up enough material for an album while attaching your name to big name collaborators has kept Snakehips in the spotlight. They haven’t totally ruled out more traditional music release strategies though.
“We’re just kind of working out whether we want to do an album or whether it’s cool to just keep the music going. We’re sitting on a whole bunch of material.”
However they choose to release their music, they’re returning to Calgary soon to play it. This time, however, they’re not opening; the venue will be bigger and they won’t be wearing grandpa masks. Their goal remains the same.
“It’s just fun, good-ass vibes,” Lee boasts.
“We try and play as much cool shit as possible. It’s what we want to hear in the club.”
If you’re a fan of upbeat, punchy and diverse electronic pop, it’s probably what you’ll want to hear in the club too.
Catch Snakehips at the Palace Theatre in Calgary on April 6th.Calgary, HIFI Club, Palace Theatre, Snakehips