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The Snake Behaviour - Interview: The Snake Behaviour

23 Jul 2019 // An interview by Lexa.Dixon

One of Christchurch's finest rock bands, The Snake Behaviour, have recently released their incredible first album Serpent Psychology. With a history in excess of 14 years, they have become a long-time staple of the Christchurch music landscape and they are now considered to be a legitimate force in the local scene. The band took the time to answer some questions with Axl Scott from Muzic.net.nz.

How long have you played for, and how did TSB start?

Chris Bull: The Snake Behaviour started way, way back in 2003, in Nelson. My friend AJ Murtagh and I were stuck in small town Nelson going nowhere fast. A few years earlier we had briefly played in a high-school cover band together called Twisted Vision, but AJ left shortly after joining due to personal issues. We had been playing music in various youth groups etc as well and in 2003, bored and full of angst I purchased a crappy $99 acoustic guitar and him and I went about writing songs, heavily influenced by Nirvana, and equally full of angst.

After a couple of years going nowhere I moved in to a flat with a high-school friend, Jonathan Deans, and he picked up guitar, playing every day until at a point he could be a guitarist in a band. Our first performances were acoustic and a few quiet electric songs, usually to our friends and associates who had come to drink at the flat. We also played a few shows to limited people at the local youth group hall etc. Our first real show came at my then girlfriend's 21st birthday in November 2006. It was followed by another friend’s birthday in December 2006 in Wellington. In March 2007 we performed at yet another friend’s birthday. Sometime around then, Jono and AJ both moved to Christchurch, and in late 2007 after breaking up with my girlfriend, I joined them. We gained a place as the old boys on the YCP youth circuit in Christchurch.

Basically, from there we met other bands and got opportunities (The highlight at this time was probably playing with well-known pop-punk band Streetwise Scarlet). Eventually, AJ and Jono both moved on, and after several line-up changes, we come to our most recent line up. I met our now recently former guitarist Michael in 09 and we found drummer Simon Gemmill shortly after and started practicing. We desperately needed a drummer for a show back in 2012 after our drummer couldn’t make it, so called up our buddy Samuel from Corrupted Omen and asked if he wanted to play drums that night (Samuel was a guitarist, but just played drums himself to write his own songs – he had never heard our songs), but given all this he still said yes, and the rest with him is history. In 2014 our bassist Iain left after becoming a father, and our current bassist Sam was recommended to us from an associate of another local band, and again, the rest is history.

What are your favourite NZ bands?

Chris: Of course, our good friends are our favourites, bands such as our bros in Fall of Them, the lads in Empire, Temperamental and Unite the Silence among others, there are so many epic acts in Christchurch. Pieces of Molly and Stonehurst too. Then of course there’s local acts from round the country, Fire for Glory, Intergracia and Bad Sport to name a few.

But of the really well known ones, across the band would be a mix of Devilskin, Split Enz, Crowded House and of course Shihad. Villainy would be there somewhere and Decades too.

Who has been the biggest band you have played with?

Chris: In 2018 we played with two international bands, Stiff Little Fingers, and then San Francisco punk legends Dead Kennedys. They’re the only 2 so far that we have played with that are at an international level, and the latter, was the best night of our lives.

Who would you most like to support live?

Chris: Foo Fighters, Pennywise, Alterbridge, Ozzy (Osbourne), Rise Against, Halestorm, Slash or any legends, especially from the punk and metal movements.

How would you describe your sound?

Chris: Innovative! We don’t blur the lines of genre definition; we completely destroy them. In essence we are Nirvana on steroids, but with a large metal and heavy rock influence, and an undeniable punk aspect.

Was music something you always wanted to do, or did you dream of other things?

Samuel Keen: I had initially wanted to work in the computer industry. But when I got into music (a whole story in itself) when I was 15 I never looked back

Chris: No definitely not, in fact, I wasn’t particularly interested outside of being a casual listener for a long time, until really late at high school, even then it wasn’t until 03 that I started thinking, I wanna play music. Until then, professional sports was where I wanted to be, pity I was a bit crap ?

Sam Grueber: Music was something I always loved, but it didn't really click that I should pursue it as a career until about four years ago. Up until then I'd studied as a chef, worked as a software tester, and wasted a lot of time working in admin roles. I figured 'music could only be a hobby because it seems like only the very lucky/fortunate ones actually make it'. But then I realized that if I'm not even playing the (music) game, then there's no chance I can win/succeed. So, I figured I'd give it a crack anyway and see what happens l

What has been your most embarrassing on tour moment?

Chris: Not really too many I can think of to be honest; we are all a little lame on that front. I'd say for me, it’d be in the days of the early line-up, where when I tried to crack a joke on stage at our expense, but said it wrong and it came out as, "I know what you’re thinking, and you’re the worst crowd we have played to as well".

Being pulled over by police on that same tour and having to dig Jono out of the back from a pile of drums and other pieces of kit.
Other stuff includes introducing the wrong song, so the band played that while I played something else.

Sam: Wasn't embarrassing at the time but it is embarrassing in hindsight. Salty Sam! I was just so crabby at the time but looking back at my crappy attitude on that tour, it sometimes makes me cringe. Also crying on the streets of Wellington like 5 mins before our set was pretty embarrassing too.

Samuel: Having to hear you three sing Baby Shark continuously to Timaru when none of you have to live with it at home

What do you always take to your gigs?

Chris: Instruments! But seriously, I'm a fan of my phone for the down time of the gig, always have that, and ya need a decent pair of ear plugs to watch the other bands as well. Oh, and always, always a jersey, cause its freezing packing down at 2am, and good old Nurofen

What does The Snake Behaviour mean?

Chris: To be honest, who knows? It came from putting random words together that shouldn’t fit, we wanted to rage against the so called man back then, and coming up with the stupidest name possible, difficult to put on posters etc was all part of it and having a laugh at ourselves. But I think its evolved, or at least, I've seen the meaning that I may have subconsciously wanted to portray back then. The Snake Behaviour – The actions of the serpent, or evil intentions I guess, a sort of glimpse, both at my mind at the time, but maybe a statement that we are becoming a poisonous society

What do you think could be done to make the NZ music industry better?

Chris: I think funding, and major radio airplay could be encouraged – I feel like so many epic acts never get heard, or get to the heights they should due to financial constraints – there’s still a bit of that ‘Don King’ promoter type attitude of bands being given their 5 mins of fame, but then being discarded once the next thing comes along. I feel like, here in Christchurch anyway, some promoters, radio stations etc, are more interested in their reputations than promoting local acts. I would like to see more grants and stuff, and looser criteria, obviously you can't give handouts to every Tom, Dick and Harry, but once you’ve proven you’re taking it seriously, there should be equal opportunities.

I also am uncomfortable with the idea of judging bands as not good enough for airplay, TV or this show or that. Art isn’t there to be judged, it's to be interpreted.

I'd also like to see the government/councils stand in and subsidise local venues as part of the funding they give towards the arts. And, of course, there should be more scope for women to play key roles in the performance of heavy rock and metal. Thank goodness for organisations like Muzic.net.nz, it's time to get rid of the egos, kids!

Tell us about the layout of Serpent Psychology

Chris: Ah, the source of some discussion. There’s kinda a twisted message going on, a story if you will, one minute looking outward, playing on my anxieties and observations of the society we live in and the next delving deep into where/how those anxieties manifest, inward, telling a story of mental health issues, loss, triumph, and impending doom.

My favourite track is Ragnarok, can you explain the meaning of the song?

Chris: To be fair, it seems to be everyone’s favourite. It's basically about the way we treat the planet, how society is dying and how its only that way cause of humans, and only we can fix it. The doomsday clock ticks closer each day, each emission, each super storm and record temperature. It warns that maybe the Mayan’s were in fact correct, that we have entered a new age, a mass extinction, but of course, then would come a rebirth, hence the title Ragnarok coming from the great Nordic mythology.

I see that The Dead Kennedys gave you your album name, how so?

Chris: As I mentioned, we had the honour of playing with them in Christchurch in 2018. As a joke, during his speech to thank us for playing, Skip called us Serpent Psychology, backstage afterwards we joked with them. While we won't change the name, we will name our album that – so that’s it!

What was the original name of the album going to be called?

Chris: It was recorded under the working title Youthanise – we still love that name, so look out for it soon – wink wink.

What’s next in the TSB world?

Chris: Getting a drummer, know anyone? After that, gigging, a new EP, and Yes, touring Serpent Psychology.

What made you want to do a cover of Pennywise’s Bro Hymn?

Chris: It's our oldest cover, easy to play and easily sing-able for the crowd, and we have so many people both here and lost that we are thankful for so can always dedicate it to someone.

What can you tell us about your cover art?

Samuel: It's an interpretation of our logo done to represent a Rausch splatter. Like the many ways to interpret the music, so too does the artwork reflect the ability to multiple interpretations.

Chris: We like the artistic idea of the girl in red from Schindler's List, hence the colouring that you see, we like the interpretive aspect in it. I see John Wayne Gacy, Pennywise the clown, and The Joker, as faces in the image, what do you see?

Any plans for another music video soon? If so, which track are you hoping to do?

Chris: Secret squirrel, there’s bound to be more videos!

When can we expect a Serpent Psychology tour?

Chris: Once we find a drummer and get some time haha – late 2019 early 2020 I’d say

How do you feel now that Serpent Psychology has been released?

Chris: I think we, for the most part, we feel relief, probably pride too. To look back and see how far we have come. It was a real labour of love, recorded over two extended periods in 2017 and 2018. During the recording, we had our highest moments, and lowest, so it's nice to have all the blood sweat and tears out there, and a full stop put on that era of TSB. With the impending new drummer, it’s a great time to start the next era. A new refreshed sound, a bigger, better TSB

What rumour would you like to start about yourselves?

Sam: Haha, I'd like to start a rumour that I'm extremely punctual and never late anywhere, but then I'd have to uphold that expectation.. so.. maybe not haha

Chris: I think I speak for Sam too that we would like to start the rumour that Samuel is in fact, The Bachelor NZ 2020. But also, that I'm the love child of Lergartha and Ozzy Osbourne. I feel like that’d be a dangerous combination


About The Snake Behaviour

Coming out of the abyss, Christchurch rockers The Snake Behaviour have gone from strength to strength over the last few years and quickly become a must see live act. With a history in excess of 14 years they have been a long time staple of the Christchurch music landscape, and the release of their 2015 single Ragnarok, announced the band as a legitimate force in the local scene.

Built on a bed of thunder from their head splitting engine room in the form of bassist Sam Grueber and drummer Samuel Keen, and the classic heavy rock riffs of tallismanic guitarist Michael Gibbs, the band has evolved to pioneer their own brand of music, part heavy rock, part metal, and, with the influence of long time front man Chris Bull, part punk as well. The Snake Behaviour are that band that have their backs against the wall, but plenty of F#$k you ready to fly.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for The Snake Behaviour


Year: 2023
Type: Album
Serpent Psychology
Year: 2019
Type: Album

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