Sneaks is the project of Eva Moolchan, a Washington DC based musician who writes brilliant "zing zongs" and performs one of the most magical shows I've ever seen. I first heard Sneaks when I read that Sister Polygon had released their tape, and as soon as I finished listening to it, I ran downstairs to tell my mom of the wonders of Sneaks at length. I couldn't keep my excitement inside. Sometimes you find a band that's exactly what you didn't even know you needed. Eva''s lyrics are equally childish and sinister; her spoken word delivery makes every turn of phrase seem like a mantra. She sings over just a bass and drum machine, like a breath of fresh air, something unique and satisfying and transcendent. When Shannon texted me asking if I'd heard of the band, my immediate response was something like "YES YES YES <3_<3 . . . We should try to interview her." Less than a month later, we talked about to Eva about the influences of childhood traditions in her music, her process of creating songs, and finding validation within "DIY" and punk scenes.
Eva Silverman: So the first thing I wanted to ask you about, is, how does your body, and the movement you make when you're performing interact with the words you're putting out?
Woah that's such a good question...did you make that up? When I make a song usually, it comes from a phrase where I'm like "whoa that's catchy". Actually, it's a drumbeat, and the words are matched to the beat of the drum. The beat is just like, the words and the drum machine, so I'm just reacting to the rhythm. What would I want to see when I hear this thing?
ES: I've noticed that you use like, a lot of repetition in your songs. Does that come from their rhythmic basis?
ES: So, you've played in a couple different bands before, but now you play solo. What differences have you found between the experience of playing in a band and playing solo?
SL: Yeah, like solo versus collaborative.
EM: Working alone, things are done quicker, so there's no approval of anyone. You're just doing it, you're doing it for yourself. When I'm writing songs, it's actually pretty selfish, because it's like, this is what I need to hear right now in my life. When you're working with other people there's a lot of compromising. Someone is like, "oh you need more of this" or something like that.
ES: Do you feel like music is a very personal experience? Because, at least with Sneaks, your lyrics aren't obviously personal, they're not overt, but there's an influence of what's going on with you.
EM: Yeeeeah, yeah. (laughs) Yeah, it's like a mantra in a way, everything is done for me.
ES: I think it's really fascinating that you describe it as a mantra, because, like, a lot of art, the process of making it is just like, creating your own mantras and creating these tangible things that really connect with you and that's something that really stands out in your music.
EM: Wow, thank you.
ES: You seem to be pretty involved with the more radical subculture of DC DIY, like the Sister Polygon type thing. What are your experiences within that scene versus in the wider DIY scene?
EM: I feel lucky to have these bands, and we're all just supporting each other, and it's really nice. But I don't want it to feel too cliquey, like I don't want people to come to these shows and feel like only these bands will play. People should be able to participate. That's what I'm worried about, is everything seeming so cliquey in these DIY scenes.
SL: Yeah, I think that's how a lot of people feel when they come to these shows . . . It can be alienating.
EM: Yeah, and then they're like, "oh, I'm never gonna play."
ES: In general, punk preaches inclusivity, but there are a lot of moments where it gets exclusive and it's very alienating to a lot of people, and sometimes that's because of their gender or race or identity, and sometimes it's just because people are dicks.
SL: When you started in the DIY scene, did you feel like more of an observer? How did it sort of, happen?
EM: I was going to these punk shows at St. Stephen's, and I was kind of feeling it, because I was like, "all hell is breaking loose right now, this is where I want to be, throwing my body in the air and stuff" (laughs). But then, I don't know, it started to get really redundant, like, the music, and I'm not saying that to be on that specific space or the bands who play there, I'm just saying it felt like that to me, it felt really redundant. And then, slowly, I was introduced to a lot of people, Katie being one of them. Katie took us to shows. Smaller shows that we didn't know about, and then it just grew from there.
Photo by Klara Ingersoll.
SL: And how did you get to know Katie?
EM: I was in a band with Francy called Shit Stains, and Katie went to our first show, and I was like "okay". There were like, five people there, and four of them were these weird beer dads. And Katie was there glowing in all her glory.
SL: She does kind of glow.
ES: She has a very glowing presence!
EM: She does though, it's a thing!
ES: Sometimes, when you have the right person validating you, it's like. . .
EM: Yeah, anything can go! When you have that feeling behind you, it's like, things don't matter.
SL: She's a very supportive presence. She's all about bringing other people up with her, and using her platform to bring up other people's voices. And I think that's really good, because people in those positions often will be like "oh, I'm too cool". But she's just very accessible and down to earth. She's got a good vibe.
ES: On the subject of DIY, do you have any advice for dealing with DIY bros?
EM: Don't be afraid to like, shove them in a corner. I feel like they just take up so much space! When you go to a show and it's filled with all these punk bros, it's like, you being there in the first place is a start, just showing yourself, having your body there, taking up space. You know, we should be taking up the space, and not these guys.
ES: Do you feel like creating music and creating art is a way of saying "I'm going to take up space in this community"?
EM: Yeah, definitely, yeah.
SL: It's a statement, just being there is a statement.
SL: Are there any recurring themes in your music or ideas that you keep coming back to over and over again?
EM: Childhood things. I go, I often go back to childhood nostalgia. Go fetch. In True Killer, it reminds me of the phrase someone would say as an insult to me when I was like 7, then there's a new song that's like, Baby Bottle Pop. It's just like these things that are fun and weird that I'm attracted to.
ES: Do you think your music kind of takes childhood ideas and warps them into this more adult thing?
EM: Yeah, although there are some new ideas as well.
ES: So you do both music and art, how do your approaches to each differ? Do you feel like there's a big visual influence in your music and vice versa?
EM: MMmmmmmm...I'm not there yet, I'm not there yet with the visual art. Music is just so much more fluid and natural to me, visual art is definitely more like, I'm still figuring it out.
SL: Why do you feel like you have an easier time using music as a vessel for your expression as opposed to visual stuff?
EM: I don't know, I'm more familiar with music, I just feel like my ideas are more refined. With visual art I feel like I haven't been exposed to much to really feel . . . there's something about being exposed to more things that gives you knowledge and you just feel ready to articulate what you're trying to say, you know?
ES: How do you feel like your music interacts with digital formats versus physical records and tapes and stuff like that?
EM: I think it's important to have a physical copy to see the tape, the record, whatever you can do. I think it's important. Something to hold in your hands, so it's not just like a dream. If I just posted my music online, I'd wake up one morning and be like, "that never happened".
SL: There's something about tangibility, it just affirms to ourselves that it exists. Which is why I think people think that things on the internet are less valid.
ES: I think the internet is a place where everyone can say their ideas and put out their stuff, but it fades into this mass of stuff, but when you have a physical copy, it's like saying "I am here".
SL: I think our relationship with that too is really interesting, I think stuff that's purely existing on the internet is getting more respect.
ES: Do you feel like your work is influenced at all by the culture of the internet or is it pretty divorced from that?
EM: I'm sure a little bit, but not really. Because things I'm influenced are like, memory, and things I see while being outside. So, yeah, it doesn't really work into that process.
SL: What are some seminal albums in your life?
EM: Pylon, Gyrate. L7, Smell the Magic. And Sonic Youth, EVOL. Yeah that's all I can think of.
ES: Those are some solid album.
SL: Yeah, those are really great. Okay, if you could bowl with any three people, dead or alive, who would they be?
EM: Oooooh. I would bowl with Fletcher Shears, of The Garden (laughs). I played a show with them at DC9. It was a weird show but they were great, and I was like going crazy. [Also] Kim Gordon. And my grandma.
ES: That's so sweet!
SL: I love that! That's a great answer.
ES:I wonder how your grandma and Kim Gordon would get along.
EM: Well my grandma doesn't speak English, she's Ethiopian, so it would be all hand gestures.
ES: They'd talk through the motion of the bowling.
EM: (laughs) Yeah, the motion of the bowling. I think my grandma would win, honestly. I know she would.