Snail Mail’s sound may draw from a decades-old tradition of low-fi rock, but don’t assume the band’s name expresses yearning for a simpler time — it has nothing to do with the United States Postal Service.
“I think I just really like snails, and then that just rhymes,” says Lindsey Jordan, the band’s singer, guitarist and guiding force. “We were originally called ‘Snail Male,’ like m-a-l-e, but we realized that was kinda dumb and didn’t really make any sense, so we just changed it to the regular spelling.”
Snail Mail didn’t have much of a public profile until October 2015, when it played Baltimore’s U+N Fest, but it already has a debut EP, Habit (listen below), released this month on Sister Polygon Records. Jordan is just 17, and she still has one more year left at her high school in Ellicott City, Maryland. Being so young and yet being a regular at local shows has required some flexibility at home.
“It’s kinda weird because I have a really cool mom — I drive my car to D.C. to go to shows and stuff and she’s not really too overbearing or anything,” Jordan says.
Jordan says the songs on Habit are largely about love — and one person in particular, although she won’t specify who — as well as trying to figure herself out. They’re also kind of literal at times — the EP’s penultimate track, “Snail,” is actually about the terrestrial mollusk. Don’t read too far into it, though. There’s probably no biology career in store for Jordan.
“I really wanna say no because this, like, creepy dude came into my forensics class the other day — he was like a forensic anthropologist — and he made me so uncomfortable,” Jordan says. “He had all these bugs in boxes and stuff that he keeps in his basement and was talking about his creepy life as an entomologist and I just don’t want that for myself.”
The band is mostly a solo thing — Jordan writes all the songs. For Habit, she was joined on drums by Shawn Durham, whom she met at a Beach House show in 8th grade, and Ryan Vieria on bass. Ray Brown and Alex Bass, respectively, have succeeded Durham and Vieria.
Jordan says there are advantages to being so young while trying to develop as an artist.
“In a way I almost feel like it’s easier just because I don’t have to actually have real responsibility while trying to balance it,” she says. Then she adds: “It’s gonna get harder.”
Jordan anticipates a full-length album coming pretty soon. Each step forward gets her closer to joining a rich history of D.C. musicians who started young in the punk and indie-rock scenes and stuck with it. Snail Mail already has influential supporters: Habit was was recorded and produced by Jason Sauvage of Coup Sauvage & The Snips and G.J. Jaguar of Priests.
Jordan’s stage persona is still developing, too. She had some chances to work on her craft earlier this month, when Snail Mail did a short East Coast tour.
“We’re just kinda dumb on stage. And usually I lose my wallet and my phone at every show,” she says. “So it’s usually me freaking out and running around and Ray and Alex setting stuff up.”
She’s already learned one thing about having the microphone: Shut up and play.
“I don’t really like to say that much on stage because I really hate long song introductions,” she says. “Like I don’t want to hear it, so I don’t do it myself.”