In the blink of an eye

Snowblink talks to the Journal about life in Toronto, California and their upcoming show in Kingston

Daniela Gesundheit is the mind and heart behind Snowblink’s folksy tales and eerie melodies.
Daniela Gesundheit is the mind and heart behind Snowblink’s folksy tales and eerie melodies.
Credit: 
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Mysterious in name, Snowblink seems to allude to intricate meanings as some sort of reflection of the band’s penchant for complex and eerie melodies.

For me, the first thing that came to mind was the quiet peacefulness of a first snowfall. No, not the slushy, ice-and-mud-puddle crap we deal with in Kingston; the kind of snow that falls in soft clumps, spiralling down into a blanket of white. The kind that stays on your lashes for moments after coming indoors, melting in the blink of an eye.

In the end, my attempts to over-analyze the name were swiftly brought to a halt after discussing it with the woman behind the band, Daniela Gesundheit.

“‘Snowblink’ is a plain old dictionary word, meaning: a white reflection in the sky of snow or ice on the ground. At first it was a lyric in a song, then a song title, then the band name,” she said. “I liked that it was not an object in itself, but a reflection of something.”

This idea of a reflection now clearly goes hand-in-hand with the band’s sound in my mind. Their earthily whimsical melodies seem to reflect something bigger about our surroundings, while encouraging audience members to feel the same way.

Even the band’s website is a reflection of something, another aspect of Snowblink that provided me with a puzzle to solve.

With the tagline “A room with items scattered about,” the Snowblink website is, at first skim, a simple photograph of a space cluttered with objects that seem as though they have the potential to reveal hidden delights.

To discover more about Snowblink, all you have to do is click on the collage of objects, ranging from stethoscopes to picture frames, binoculars to china plates.

One of the first incarnations of Snowblink came in 2004 by way of the Los Angeles-native Gesundheit.

“I wrote a slew of quiet songs and recorded them on a 4-track machine,” she said.

“Then I went back to University in Connecticut and wrangled four guy backup singers to help me play the songs at shows as I finished up my final year of studies. They would sing and ring bells and use little toys and accoutrements as percussion.”

Over the years, when circumstances permitted, she invited more than a dozen folks across the U.S. and Canada to join her in the ever-reflecting and illuminating Snowblink.

“As I moved from city to city, I added to the list of players that could join me,” she said.

Some may be interested to know that some of these performers included the current dominators of iPods and dance floors everywhere, electro boy wonders MGMT.

Gesundheit included the guys as back up singers/percussionists/whisperers.

“They were friends from earlier on in my time at university, and when I returned I had the notion to have them in my band as part of a male choir. They are deeply creative and talented. We made each other laugh a lot.”

Even though Gesundheit has had the pleasure of working and performing with various other musicians, don’t be deceived, as she is the founding member and Snowblink is still her baby.

“Snowblink was the first musical project of mine that did not start as a collaboration. For years before that, I was songwriting with a very talented drummer in L.A., Barbara Gruska, who is now in Jenny Lewis’ band,” she said.

“So far with Snowblink, I go and isolate myself, write a bunch of songs, and come back to the people I play with and make it work. Sometimes I have specific ideas for what I want them to play, but often I enjoy it more if each person brings their own part to the table.”

Gesundheit prefers this combination of solitary writing and group collaboration with rotating members—she said it seems easier and more drama free this way.

“Real collaboration, where two or more people get together and try to write songs or make a record, is rarely funny to tell the truth. It’s often traumatic. At least in the moment. It gets funny later, but much later. The power struggles are enormous.”

Gesundheit said her environment as well as her company influence the music she creates.

“In Montreal I was renting a room from a mediator and Tarot reader, so the songs I wrote there lean towards the supernatural. In San Francisco I was spending a lot of time outdoors, by oceans and mountains, so there is a lot of flora and fauna in the songs I wrote there.”

Judging by her song titles, such as “The Tired Bees” and “Sing me an Oak Tree,” it’s hard to imagine Gesundheit producing music without a trusty forest or meadow nearby.

There’s a definite connection with the physical world around us as important to her production of music, she confirmed.

“It’s funny saying that as I now live in Toronto, which is the most urban-feeling place I have lived so far.”

Although some may see her as a fish out of water in Toronto, Gesundheit explained her venturing into Toronto as a quest for new experiences.

“Generally it helps me to be able to swim in the ocean, but this is an experiment in not having that.”

Her latest album, following up to 2004’s Interim at Afton Villa, and 2006’s My Oh My Avalanche, is entitled Long Live. A soothing and charmingly folksy narrative record, the listener can’t help but feel enchanted and curious for more.

Staying true to her group-oriented performances and production is what led to the successful creation of Long Live.

“I enlisted a lot of outside input, so it is a bit more of a group effort.”

Snowblink played Kingston in 2006, and audience members at the upcoming Snowblink show will once again sense the art in the performance. Gesundheit mostly performs as a duo these days with Dan Goldman, with occasional appearances by Isla Craig and Ryan Driver.

In earlier times, Gesundheit said her shows with her back up singers were memorable.

“[It was] something bordering on performance art—they would cast fishing poles into the audience, or all use pom-poms as percussion instruments.”

Whatever the Apple Crisp Music Series concert brings us on Tuesday my bets are set on Snowblink filling your surroundings with dream-like grooves and playing directly to your heartstrings.

Snowblink play on Tuesday at Queen Street United Church tickets are $5 at the door.

CFRC Top 20!

1. Mogwai—The Hawk Is Howling
2. Chad VanGaalen—Soft Airplanes
3. Laura Barrett—Victory Garden
4. Lykke Li—Youth Novels
5. Hexes & Ohs—Bedroom Madness
6. D.O.A.—Northern Avenger
7. Snailhouse—Lies On the Prize
8. FemBots—Calling Out
9. Insideamind—Scatterpopia
10. Eric Hove—Soundclash
11. The Herbaliser—Same As It Never Was
12. Final Fantasy—Plays to Please
13. Beck—Modern Guilt
14. TV On the Radio—Dear Science
15. Bob Brough Quartet—Time Away
16. Rae Spoon—Superioryou Areinferior
17. The Creepshow—Run for Your Life
18. Kellarissa—Flamingo
19. Novillero—A Little Tradition
20. Human Highway—Moody Motorcycle

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