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Snailhouse trail 

Indie pop collaborator Mike Feuerstack brings his own Snailhouse to Halifax.

There isn’t a spiral-coiled shell trailing behind Mike Feuerstack, the Montreal-based brainchild behind Snailhouse, as he slugs into the Maritimes for a few gigs to give a sneak peak of his forthcoming release, lies on the prize. He’ll speed up the pace with Share as his backing band for a show at Gus’ Pub on Thursday, April 3.

“The name, it’s just sort of an image,” says Feuerstack, calling from Fredericton. “A snail’s shell is insular, solitary. It’s also kind of funny. It was a joke, initially. I just sort of muttered it under my breath to someone who wasn’t really listening to me when they asked me what my band was called.”

Over the past decade, Feuerstack has slowly come out of his proverbial shell. Originally the band began as a home-recording project and their music was distributed to friends on cassette tapes in the early ’90s. Snailhouse’s body of work has evolved into an ongoing collection of songs; previous releases include: Fine (1994), The Radio Dances (1998), A New Tradition (2001), The Opposite is Also True (2001) and The Silence Show (2005). Lies on the prize will be released in June on Unfamiliar Records.

“I’ve been in a lot of bands, too, and sometimes you know all these great people and you wish you had more opportunity to make music with them,” he says. “Snailhouse is just kind of an opportunity to do that. I steer the ship, per se. I write the songs and for all intents and purposes, I’m the executive producer. I control what’s going to happen in the end. But it’s a lot more fun to get other people’s ideas in there. It’s also a way of holding up a mirror to your own ideas, too.”

With a little help from his friends, Feuerstack continues to build Snailhouse’s discography, while also writing and performing with Angela Desveaux, Bell Orchestre and The Harbour Coats. He joined the instrumental outfit Bell Orchestre after touring with the band for their Recording a Tape the Colour of the Light tour. 

Desveaux is an indie-popper with a flair for honeyed heartbreak songs and Harbour Coats is a collaborative project with 
Cherie Pyne and Constantines’ Bryan Webb. Feuerstack is also a founding member of the Wooden Stars, an act that collaborated with the prolific Julie Doiron on Doiron and the Wooden Stars’ Juno award-winning self-titled album.

“They sort of juggle themselves. Sometimes there is a conflict, but not often,” Feuerstack says. “Officially all of these things are an ongoing project. People have this expectation that when you’re in a band you are going to be really ambitious and go really hard at it all the time. I don’t know where that really comes from. A band is just a musical project that has a pulse.”

In Snailhouse, Feuerstack’s most recent collaborative partner is drummer Jeremy Gara (of Arcade Fire); the duo conjured up images of great wild beasts lying on a treasure chest for their 13-track lies on the prize.

“I think more than anything it’s more of a rumination of truth and ambition, life goals and life needs,” Feuerstack says of the album. “Somehow meeting in the middle somewhere, but not to put too fine a point on it, I like to keep things kind of vague. There is more to be said for leaving things open than when I try to explain things. Who knows what things mean?”

More than a few folks seem to understand Feuerstack’s artistic ambiguity. Sappy Records recently placed a feather in his cap, releasing a Snailhouse tribute album coyly titled Do You Want To Talk All Night?, featuring The Just Barelys, Ron Bates, Shotgun Jimmie, Rick White and more.

“It’s really surreal to listen to. It’s pretty weird to hear your own songs filtered through other people---unless you’re Leonard Cohen or Neil Young, it’s not something you hear very often. It’s pretty amazing; I think it’s a really cool record. It’s an honour for sure. I thought that would happen after I was dead.”

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