Four members have just finished high school while another prepares for the HSC. But Snakadaktal create a mature soundscape that belies their relatively young age. Following the success of singles Air, Chimera and their self-titled EP, the group have released a beautiful and immersive debut album called Sleep In The Water.
While the name of the band came from a very specific idea – a mythical hybrid of snake and pterodactyl devised by singer and guitarist Sean Heathcliff in a maths class – the group’s sound took longer to design.
Bassist Jarrah McCarty-Smith, drummer Barna Nemeth, guitarist Joseph Clough and Heathcliff simply aimed to be like some of their favourite acts.
“I don’t think we had a clear idea [of our sound] – we just made up ideas of what we would like to copy, in a way,” McCarty-Smith, pictured far left, laughs. “Artists like MGMT – that’s what we wanted to sound like. We had a bit of a Kooks vibe, as well.”
But as the band’s personal tastes diversified, the sound evolved. “After that we all went different ways, some people were into rap and stuff,” McCarty-Smith says. “Others like techno, folk and pop. We listen to everything as a group, but we all have different musical tastes and I think that’s why it works when it comes together.”
The inclusion of singer Phoebe Cockburn, who was in the year below the four boys at high school, added another dimension to the sound. Her sweet voice provides serene counterpoints for Heathcliff’s gentle vocals.
“Having a female vocalist is wonderful in any band,” McCarty-Smith says. “We were probably going to be more rocky if [Phoebe] wasn’t there.”
Phoebe was a friend of Clough, who invited her along to a band rehearsal. “He found out she was quite talented and dragged her along to a band practice after school,” McCarty-Smith recalls. “We recorded a song straight away – you could feel it. That might have been the early stages of Air. [Phoebe] came to that rehearsal and she has been to every one since.”
Prior to stepping into a professional studio to make their stunningly atmospheric debut record, Snakadaktal had self-recorded their music. Working with producer and former Evermore drummer Dann Hume, whose credits include Alpine and Lisa Mitchell, the band noticed the jump in sound quality compared to their home recordings.
“[Dann] enjoyed our music and why it worked out so well – he put in a lot of effort to get to where we wanted to get to,” McCarty-Smith says. “It was an awesome experience.”
To give Sleep In The Water an echoed atmosphere Hume put delay effects on the instruments, giving the songs a dream-like quality. It gives the synth-pop tunes, like single Hung On Tight, a cohesion from track to track. Their relatively young ages aside, the five members of Snakadaktal are proud of their efforts.
“Anyone that records their first album is not going to be 100 per cent happy,” McCarty-Smith says. “You make decisions at a point and then you second guess it afterwards. But that’s the whole journey of recording an album. You have to write a couple of albums before you know what makes you happy and you can make the best album you can make. Hopefully we’ve made an album that people want to listen to and possibly get more overseas attention than what we’ve had so far.”