It starts like this. A crashing gong breaks silence like the angry crack of knuckles. A rhythm track creeps and snakes threatening to lunge forward out of the speakers at any second. A voice – a howl even – cuts through the midnight murk. “She’s more beautiful than any woman I’ve ever met… and she fucking knows it!” All about the place, guitars skid wildly right across the track before locking tight to spartan bass and drums. It’s an exhilarating sound; a musical perp walk. It’s the sound of the Amazing Snakeheads - your new favourite band.
Hailing from Glasgow, The Amazing Snakeheads - Dale Barclay, William Coombe & Jordan Hutchison - look like they sound. The poise is part bike gang, part all-seasons barfly; all pomade, shades, denim, leather and signet rings. On stage, they are uncompromised, truly a force of nature. Dale appears possessed by music, rock’n’roll channelled through every sinew in his body.
“I genuinely don’t know where the music comes from,” says Dale. “How I play music - live or in the studio - it is what it is and I struggle to know where it comes from. There's been a lot of things written about the band, people say we're angry and things like that - but to me it's just us. There's a hell of a lot of joy in the music. It might not be apparent but on a good night, I’m experiencing absolute joy when I play music.”
The Amazing Snakeheads never really formed as such – their conception seemingly more preordained than planned. Dale and William had been mates since childhood; Jordan was Dale’s neighbour who became a close friend. While they each played music, they never really harboured ambitions to play in bands – the prospect of aiming high and missing was almost enough to put the trio off even trying. Dale explains.
“To me, music is a hallowed ground. If you're going to do it, you had better get it right. I could only ever make music with people I have a bond with. I'm not a jammer. I cannae just turn up and start jamming. The three of us would go to gigs together, listen to records… our whole lives revolved around music. We'd always say, "man it would be fucking great to do this". We talked about it, then one week decided to go to a practise room. Any other week and we might have had other ideas and just not bothered…
Announcing themselves in the summer of 2013 with a one-off 7” on Domino - a ferocious 84-second long strut called Testifying Time - the band’s reputation was quickly sealed with a series of lightning strike gigs in the autumn. In fact, the band’s live shows were such jaw dropping displays of the redemptive powers of rock’n’roll, one may well have walked away wondering how they’d ever get that energy across in the studio.
Incredibly, they somehow have. Amphetamine Ballads - the Amazing Snakeheads debut album - is the soundtrack to the dark corners of nightclubs and those dimly lit alleyways off the main drag. The smell of smoke and liquor pervades everything, from opener I’m A Vampire - a narcotic kickstart from that nocturnal world – through first proper single Flatlining, all cyclonic guitar solo and skronking saxophone; past the nape of the neck intimacy of Where Is My Knife (“Forget the rest now I’m your daddy”) and Here It Comes Again’s howling motorik punk rock; and onto Heading for Heartbreak’s 3am soulsearch and the lock in blues of Tiger By The Tail. This is a subterranean record, a record that can show you round the parts of a city that come alive after dark. In fact, the only sun this album has seen is the unforgiving light of the dawn walk home.
“We recorded mostly at night,” says Dale. “We made the record at a friend’s studio called the Green Door; we’d demoed there before and loved the environment. We had complete creative freedom when we recorded so we’d start late and work through the night. That affected the whole outcome of the record.”
Dale sees both record and band as a product of their environment. They are collectively the sound of Glasgow at night.
“What I’m after is truth and honesty in our music. Glasgow is a huge thing for us. I was born and raised here, William too. Jordan was from New Zealand originally but he's been here for years, his parents are from Glasgow. When I sing, I sound like where I’m from. I cannae sing any other way and that’s the truth. It comes out like that and that's the way it should be. If I was taking the edge of the accent it just wouldn't be true. If I was to try to act up, use some kind of mid-Atlantic accent, I wouldn't last for long round here.”