Snowblind Interview

Melbourne guitar pop/rock band Snowblind feature on the new Sound As Ever 90-99 compilation called Hanging onto the 90s and contribute a rare recording of a song called “No Stalking You”.

The band morphed into the popular Motor Ace, who are set to reunite for shows early 2023, but that is a whole other story.  Scott Thurling at Sound As Ever fired some questions at Patrick from Snowblind to get the scoop on the group.

So tell us the backstory to Snowblind – what year did the band form, and who were the original members? Can you give us some background to the band?

Snowblind formed in 1993. First gig date I remember actually, April 24th 1993 at the Empress of India Hotel in Nicholson St, supporting The Sugargliders. I was 15 at the time. Band members were myself, my sister Rowena Robertson – Bass, Bianca Lew – Drums, Beth Mellick – Keyboards and Angus Husband – Guitar. Angus and I were friends from school, my older sister Rowena got us into English shoegazer bands of the era, particularly Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Swerverdriver, Verve etc., and we were basically kids trying to emulate those sounds. Probably lucky, as I think my natural predilections may have sent me down a metal path. Though we were also listening to a lot of American bands: Pavement, Posies, Sonic Youth, Nirvana etc. Bianca left the band around 1994, I think, and may have played for the Sugargliders, from memory. Mark Picton (formerly of Frente) stepped in on drums for a couple of years, and we released an EP in 95 or 96, I think.

I have seen some cheeky live footage from the 1992 St Kevin’s Battle of the Bands. Was the band called Snowblind then?

I don’t believe we were. For the event, I think we called ourselves ‘Half Man, Half Biscuit’, which was an existing band, but this was pre-internet so no one knew. Matt Sigley (later Earthmen and mate from school) stepped up on stage for our 10-minute RIDE style feedback frenzy, but we were booted off, and they shut down the PA.

I have a cassette tape “A Goodnight Kiss: A Tribute To The Sugargliders, 1989-1994” which features Snowblind covering “Unkind”. How did that recording come about, and were you inspired by the janglier side of Oz indie pop rock, in the early days? What local and overseas acts were an influence on Snowblind?

Wow, I have no recollection of that cover. We thought the Sugargliders were great and wrote excellent pop. Our drummer Bianca was more into that sound, but I was heading in more of a rock direction, which would ultimately evolve into Motor Ace. I think I mentioned some of the overseas bands above, but local bands are ones such as You Am I, Rail, and a few of the bands on the Summershine label. 

You had a number of drummers over the band’s short journey. Marc Picton (ex Frente) had joined by the time the debut EP was released. Anything you like to reveal or add?

Drummers were always coming and going, and I think there were a few more in the mix, I remember Cameron and Rob, but not their surnames 🙂 Mark was great and always offered us old man advice. He was probably only 24 or 25. I think he saw potential in the band / songwriting that few probably did, at that point. 

Speaking of your independent debut EP in 1996 – what are your memories of that release and the launch gigs?  Did community radio support the band? Where was the Melbourne launch held, if you can remember?  Our guess is the much loved and sorely missed Punters Club? 

Mmm. I’m thinking that launch was probably at the Empress. We played there 8 times out of 10, and they were a great support! We’ve had a few gigs at the Evelyn and Punters, but that was always a bit of a difficult proposition, especially as I looked about 10 years old. I don’t remember Snowblind getting played on the radio, but possibly a handful of times on PBS, 3CR and RRR. 

Thinking back to those hazy days, did Snowblind support any prominent local or international acts, or did any support you, that went on to acclaim or fame? Bands like Augie March and Powderfinger started off playing Monday nights at the Punters for a couple of bucks, for example.

We did a residency at a pub in Northcote every Thursday, I think, with Augie March for about 6 months and used to rotate the slot. There was rarely anyone there watching, though. We would do each other’s light show. I think we played with The Earthmen, maybe Autohaze, Blindside and a few others. But we generally found gigs hard to find. 

We are lucky enough to feature a Snowblind song called “Not Stalking You” on the next Sound As Ever compilation. Did the band undertake an extensive demoing process for a planned follow-up EP or debut Snowblind album? 

That recording would have been around late 96, early 97 and by mid-97 we  were just on the cusp of wrapping up Snowblind and morphing into Motor Ace. I’m pretty sure my sister had left the band at this point, with Matt Balfe (Motor Ace) stepping in on bass. We’d picked up a little bit of interest from Diana Torrosian (who was at Mushroom Publishing and then Sony) and I think may (but I’m not sure) have funded those recordings as a demo. We were basically trying to get a recording deal, though the feedback I was getting from her was that she saw the potential in the writing (though she suggested I write better choruses 🙂 ), and she had some reservations about the band. During those sessions, though, I’d met Damian, who was the assistant engineer working at Hothouse Studios. We got on like a house on fire, and he rolled some incredible Camberwell carrots for us to enjoy. We also bonded over a musical direction and vision for the kind of band we wanted to be in. Damo didn’t really dig the drummer and suggested that he’d be more appropriate. 

Our Sound As Ever members will be very interested in the evolution from Snowblind to Motor Ace. By 1999 the band had changed names and released a debut self-titled EP on Sputnik Records (an imprint of Mushroom) before going on to release 3 albums and many singles, and toured extensively before pulling up stumps in 1995. We would love to hear anything and everything about the end of Snowblind and the formation of Motor Ace.

Following on from the session, Damo joined the band, and we started discussing musical direction and a band name change. We played a couple of shows in early 98 under the band name Motor Ace. Beth and Angus left the band around that time, and Dave Ong joined the band in mid, late 98. We’d pretty much decided to hunker down for 6 months in a rehearsal room to learn (and perfect) a bunch of new songs I’d written that would end up forming the first Motor Ace EP and record. We were far more polished at the end of that 6-month period, plus I’d finally focussed on writing choruses (thanks Diana)!!! We recorded a demo with 2 songs: ‘Five Star Laundry’ and ‘Criminal Past’, and after copping a spin on JJJ’s Richard Kinsgmill’s Australian music show for those 2 songs, began to get some immediate attention from Michael Parisi (then at Warner) and Dave Warner (at Sony). After a bit of back and forward, and attempts to play them off each other, we signed in Feb 1999 with Festival Mushroom Records (Parisi had moved to Festival Mushroom (Sputnik)). 

So 6 years of work to get from first gig to signing, which between the ages of 14-20 seems like a lifetime! Stick at it, kids!!!