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Enjoy the Silence 

Snailhouse’s Mike Feuerstack is happy to stay busy. Johnston Farrow catches up with him and his latest, The Silence Show.

Mike Feuerstack, singer-songwriter of Snailhouse, can’t wait to play before a Halifax audience—that is, if a heart attack doesn’t slow him down first. The 33-year-old is a busy guy, playing in numerous bands, recording several albums worth of material with those bands and under his Snailhouse moniker, all the while holding down a full-time office job. Thankfully, that job is flexible enough to allow him time to play at The Attic this weekend to support his latest disc, The Silence Show.

“Snailhouse is my constant project and my burning love, you could say,” Feuerstack says on a late-night call from Montreal. “But at the same time, it’s very flexible because it’s a solo project. The band changes and the goals change. But yeah, it’s my first love.”

It’s his passion for music that has him performing, writing and recording with the melodic, post-punk critical darlings Wooden Stars and the mellow, noise-rock group Kepler. Now based in Montreal, Feuerstack recently filled in with the former Unicorns project Islands, a band that opened for Beck at the massive Bell Centre during the Pop Montreal festival.

“That was crazy,” Feuerstack says. “It was fun. It was surreal, really. The two main guys in the Islands know . He was pretty cool.”

Feuerstack got his start playing in punk bands as a teen growing up in Moncton. He fell in with the right crowd from the start, forming the Underdogs with a pre-Eric’s Trip Rick White. His parents eventually moved the family to Ottawa, where Feuerstack began to write slower, more introspective material.

“I started writing songs on my own because I didn’t have a band anymore,” he says. “So I spent a few years learning to play guitar and writing songs that were sparser. They weren’t quite folky, but they were quieter. Mostly it was because when you write on your own, there’s a specific way of performing.”

The Snailhouse name came from his solo work and it stuck from the name Feuerstack would use on his cassettes he recorded at home.

“It was an inside joke from a time before I ever imagined I would release records and perform live,” he says. “But a friend pointed it out and the name just stuck.”

After immersing himself in the Ottawa scene, Feuerstack eventually became friends with the musicians who would make up the Wooden Stars, formed in 1993. He later joined Kepler after the Stars took a hiatus in 2000.

Meanwhile, Feuerstack continued to work on his solo recordings as Snailhouse with his Ottawa friends, including Kepler mates Jeremy Gara and Samir Khan. Gara can’t make the Halifax show because of his touring schedule with his other band, The Arcade Fire, so The Acorn will back Feuerstack.

“They are all old friends and they were my live band for years,” he says about Gara and Khan. “We haven’t seen each other for a while because of the geography. But I invited them to play on my records because I knew they could make the record that I wanted to make.”

He recorded most of his albums—the latest, The Silence Show, was released last June—with Ottawa uber-producer Dave Draves, responsible for Kathleen Edwards’ classic Failer as well as work with Jim Bryson and Julie Doiron.

The Silence Show is a sparse-sounding document of well-thought out songs that Feuerstack builds with soaring vocal overdubs, pretty choruses, sorrowful arrangements. He writes about love, death, excitement, disappointment and “all those absurd things that one should never touch.” Although he lists Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and even Sadé as influences, his music is more guitar-driven and sounds like a textured Hayden and Hawksley Workman (without the drama and over-the-top orchestration).

Feuerstack’s tough schedule doesn’t appear to have a break any time soon. After an east coast tour, he plans on recording another Snailhouse record and perhaps a new Wooden Stars disc.

“I might work too much at this point,” he says. “Stay busy, stay happy, that’s my motto. But when I’m playing music, I feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Snailhouse w/the acorn, October 22 at the Attic, 1741 Grafton, 10pm.


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