“To Convey and Spread Some Positivity”: Joe McGillveray of The Snuts Speaks on the Lessons, Light, & Life of ‘Millennials’

The Snuts 'Millennials' © Gary Williamson
The Snuts 'Millennials' © Gary Williamson
Sitting down with Atwood Magazine in celebration of The Snuts’ third album ‘Millennials’, guitarist Joe McGillveray explores untraditional music-making processes, his first experiences with true creative freedom, and staying hopeful in spite of all odds.
Stream: ‘Millennials’ – The Snuts




Millennials don’t typically have a reputation as the most carefree or optimistic generation.

So, naturally, it came as a pleasant surprise to hear that The Snuts’ latest album, titled Millennials, channeled the euphoria and spirit of the here and now. Striking a balance between personal, social, past, and present, Jack Cochrane (vocals), Joe McGillveray (guitar), Callum Wilson (bass), and Jordan Mackay (drums) ramp up the energy and hold no punches on their third full-length effort.

Released February 23, 2023 via The Orchard, Millennials finds The Snuts reflecting on their youth and evaluating their adulthood. Driven by charged indie rock anthems, landing just under thirty minutes, the band isn’t looking to waste energy or time. Their message and intentions are clear: have fun, feel good, and savour the moment. But beyond their bumping riffs, indie spirit, and unrelenting optimism, the Scottish four-piece have not dislodged their roots in candid realism. Exploring technology and isolation, love and joy, The Snuts’ third effort is confident yet undoubtedly human, proving there’s no title more apt than Millennials.

Millennials - The Snuts
Millennials – The Snuts

“The whole purpose of the album was we were trying to convey and spread some positivity, because I think that we were actually in a very positive place in our lives,” guitarist Joe McGillveray explains. “We had a new invigoration from making music that had waned in the past couple of years, with it becoming such a corporate experience. We had this new newfound love and joy for what we were doing, and we just wanted to share that by making music that felt like that.”

Millennials arrives as the first full project released under The Snuts’ newly formed label, Happy Artists Records. McGillveray shares his thoughts on the artistic constraint under music executives and the personal liberation felt through exercising creative freedom. Creativity, like happiness, is not externally guided – it comes from within.

“The conversations that we were having about what the song needed to be or where it was going to go were super direct,” says McGillveray. “There was no waiting for someone to get back to you about what they think about how loud this snare sound is, or some kind of unimportant nonsense. We were just basing things on how we felt at the moment. You’re able to have much more direct conversations with each other it’s if it’s only yourself you’re trying to impress.”

“If you’re making art but you already have defined boundaries of what you’re allowed to do or what you’re going to do, then it’s not really art.”

The Snuts 'Millennials' © Gary Williamson
The Snuts ‘Millennials’ © Gary Williamson

After learning about Joe McGillveray’s past and hearing his advice for the future, I left our interview with valuable insights and much to ponder, which arguably contradicts the album’s carpe diem ethos. At the end of the day, though, there’s not much I can say about the Millennial experience as someone born smack in the middle of Gen Z – but what speaking is there to be done when MILLENNIALS does all the talking and more?

Phoning in from Scotland on the record’s release day, Joe McGillveray tells Atwood Magazine about what reignited The Snuts’ love for music, the importance of living in the moment, and his key to keeping positive.

As the band reaches the tail end of their North American tour in support of Millennials, you can catch them on their remaining dates here before they hit the road in the UK!

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:: stream/purchase Millennials here ::
:: connect with The Snuts here ::
Watch: “Deep Diving” – The Snuts



A CONVERSATION WITH THE SNUTS

Millennials - The Snuts

Atwood Magazine: HAPPY RELEASE DAY! HOW ARE YOU FEELING?

Joe McGillveray: Thanks very much. Yeah, I’m feeling great! It’s been by far the most enjoyable release we’ve had. The response from the fans has been just phenomenal. We’ve been using Discord for the first time to get in touch with them a little bit more. We had our listening party last night at midnight, and it was it was just great getting direct feedback from everyone as they got to experience it for the first time.

HOW HAS PLAYING SHOWS BEEN?
 

Joe McGillveray: I’m actually at home just now. We were doing some small intimate shows that were just over the course of a weekend, so it was like four gigs crammed into a day, over the course of three days. We’ve got a shorter day today, but it’s two shows in Glasgow. That’s kind of local to us, about 20 minutes off the road.

THAT’S GREAT! TO SPEAK ABOUT THE ALBUM A LITTLE, AS SOMEONE BORN IN GEN Z, WHICH PROBABLY ISN’T REALLY THE TARGET AUDIENCE, I STILL FOUND THE RECORD’S SENSE OF DREAD AND HOPELESSNESS ABOUT WHERE OUR WORLD IS HEADED SO RESONANT AND RELATABLE. WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES MILLENNIALS SO DISTINCTLY MILLENNIAL?

Joe McGillveray: Well, I think that the title of the album just kind of came naturally. It was a sudden. One of the phrases Jack used to describe himself was “a depressive deadbeat millennial.” I think it just kind of tied everything together, all the stories that he was trying to write about – it immediately felt like a unified theme. Maybe these were all things that resonate with Gen Z and stuff like that as well, but it felt like it was telling the story of the youth that we had, even if it was a little back, and the weeks leading up to now.

THE SNUTS GUITARIST JOE MCGILLVERAY MUSES ON HIS MUSICAL PAST, PRESENT, & FUTURE

:: INTERVIEW ::

WAS THERE A PARTICULAR EVENT OR MOMENT (IN THE WORLD OR YOUR PERSONAL LIVES) THAT SPARKED THE INSPIRATION FOR THE RECORD’S THEME?

Joe McGillveray: I actually think it’s maybe it was the opposite of that – maybe a little less going on. At the end of the last two records that we’ve been doing, we were in the middle of a global pandemic, so things were constantly shifting and changing. Then, when we were doing the second record, we were still playing shows, which we had to push back and cancel. Everything was all over the place. Everything was constantly hectic. Before we started doing demos for the last record, it felt like everything had kind of finally started settling down, and we were able to get a bit of breathing room and reflect on what’s been happening over the last 10 years. I think sometimes it’s kind of difficult to understand what’s going on when you’re actually in the moment. It’s not until you get out of it and you’ve got a bit of time to reflect that you see what’s been happening, and you really appreciate what’s been going on.

SO WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN APPRECIATING?

Joe McGillveray: I think it’s just the little things. When we first started writing that record, Jack said he was looking at it as the songs that he forgot to write. I’ve got to admit, I didn’t really understand what that meant to start with. But I think now, it’s about the things and moments that you have growing up, that you’re maybe not mature enough to talk about at the time or feel confident enough to just put your heart on your sleeve. You have all these big feelings when you’re younger, but I think sometimes you’re not really in a place to fully communicate them or understand them yourself, even. It was a lot about going back through our lives and thinking, “What were the important moments? What are the things that we want to talk about?”

The Snuts © Dutch Doscher, Bowery Ballroom 2024
The Snuts © Dutch Doscher, Bowery Ballroom 2024

THIS ISN’T THE FIRST TIME YOU’VE SPOKEN WITH US - WHEN ATWOOD SPOKE WITH YOU LAST, YOU MENTIONED THAT W.L. DREW ON “A LIFETIME’S WORTH OF IDEAS” SO IT TOOK THREE YEARS, AND BURN THE EMPIRE “WAS LIKE A CLEAN SLATE, A FRESH PALATE,” WHICH LENT TO IT TAKING EIGHT WEEKS. HOW DID THE CREATION PROCESS OF MILLENNIALS COMPARE?

Joe McGillveray: It was quite odd. It went a little bit backward. To be honest, I didn’t realize it until I was talking to someone else about it. Essentially what we had done was we went into our studio in the north of Scotland. So we’re up in the highlands of the mountains, it was beautiful scenery every day, and we’re up there for maybe four weeks, but we’ve only really done about 4% of every track. We demoed the album in a really nice studio and then spent the rest of the year touring the world and doing other kinds of live things. Trying to put the album together in hotel rooms, on tour buses, and finding studio space, we recorded half a song in Portland, then finished it in Osaka. It really has been absolutely everywhere. Usually, you would demo songs in places less and then finish them in a studio, but we did it backward. We used the studio time to put the pieces together and then polished them up when we were on the road and out and about.

DO YOU THINK YOU DREW DIFFERENT INSPIRATIONS FROM ALL THOSE PLACES?

Joe McGillveray: Yeah, absolutely. People always tell you that you shouldn’t write an album about being on the road, or you shouldn’t write an album when you’re on the road because it just ends up being unreliable and things. But for us, we’ve always tried to be a little bit eclectic or unafraid of tapping into other genres. Obviously, we try and keep everything under the same kind of rock ‘n’ roll sort of vibe, but we’re always happy to draw a lot of inspiration from whoever we’re listening to at the time, or wherever else that we are at the time. The songs that Jack was writing in America kind of had this obvious Americana feel. American place names are just so lyrically great, you know what I mean? They have got a very nice sound to them that’s much better than British place names – Oklahoma sounds so much better than Birmingham.

The Snuts © Dutch Doscher, Bowery Ballroom 2024
The Snuts © Dutch Doscher, Bowery Ballroom 2024

WHAT MEMORY STOOD OUT TO YOU WHEN YOU WERE MAKING IT?

Joe McGillveray: I think one of the bits that same that was really enjoyable for me, as the guitar player, was Osaka. We have a song called “Novastar,” which was the very first recording session and an early early demo from last record. We had a great chorus that was fully energy, and we tried lots of different things but nothing really seemed to fit with that. In Osaka, I managed to come up with a little rough thing that happened to work. I was excited about and proud of it, but everyone else was out of the room at that time. When they came in, Jack was like, “I’m thinking about scrapping that song. I’m really not sure about it.” Scotty, the producer, was like, “Listen to this!” Then Jack was like, “Oh, save the song!” That was like a little moment for me – it was like, “Yes, guitar prevailed!”

SO CLEARLY, YOU GUYS ARE BECOMING QUITE SEASONED ARTISTS WITH THREE ALBUMS UNDER YOUR BELT NOW. WHAT SIDE OF THE SNUTS DO YOU THINK THIS RECORD SHOWS?

Joe McGillveray: I think this record has felt a lot more mature for me. Watching Jack grow as a songwriter has been pretty incredible. I’ve always thought that the songs he wrote have been fantastic. He’s one of my favourite songwriters in the world. That’s not just because I’m biased. I think that the way he’s progressed on that last album has just been phenomenal. I think all the other tracks have got a cohesive message or a story that flows through them all. The lyrics are really good at conjuring up an image in your head, and he’s grown so skilled at conveying a feeling to the listener. It used to be quite hard even for me, obviously being part of the creation process. Later on, it was still hard for me to appreciate a song as just a song, because I had obviously been there at the time. I don’t know, they just feel so instantly relatable and impactful. I want to say that we were trying to trim the fat, but I think we were trying to have it so that there was not any fat to begin with. We want to be hotter, not cutting corners, or going around the edges – just strictly making music. I think that’s kind of why the album’s ended up being under half an hour long. It’s very direct.

WAS IT AN INTENTIONAL THING TO HAVE THE ALBUM BE UNDER HALF AN HOUR? I FEEL LIKE THE LENGTH KIND OF PLAYS INTO THE WHOLE FREE-SPIRITED, FUN VIBE.

Joe McGillveray: I don’t think it was intentional. I think we were just playing music much faster than we ever have before. Before, one of the fastest songs that we’d done was 140 beats per minute or something. On this record, “Gloria” is 208. Everything is so much faster; even if you have two verses, two choruses, and a guitar solo, it still just gets condensed down so much. It wasn’t necessarily intentional. I think the idea that we wanted to be straight to the point was something that we had in mind when we were recording it. Maybe in the past when we had finished a song, or finished what we thought was a song, we were like, “Oh, it’s only coming in at two-and-a-half minutes. Do we do a double chorus and add a third verse or something else? Nope! Move on. Good. That’s that. Song’s done.” I think that really helps with their the flow of actually producing the record.

DID MILLENNIALS COME OUT MORE NATURALLY THAN THE PREVIOUS TWO RECORDS?

 

Joe McGillveray: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think there has just been so much fun creating this record. The producer that we worked with is a guy that we’ve been working with for years. He is one of our live engineers, so we’ve got a really great relationship with him, but he’s a producer in his own right. There was already a level of comfort and familiarity that made it so that there was no second-guessing yourself. You could just be comfortable and trust the opinions of the people around you. Trust everyone had the best interests. Everyone was just trying to make the best music possible. When it’s that kind of environment, it obviously just comes easily.

I KNOW JUST LAST YEAR, YOU GUYS SET UP HAPPY ARTIST RECORDS, WHICH IS SOMETHING YOU MUST BE EXTREMELY EXCITED ABOUT AND PROUD OF AS WELL! HOW WAS MAKING THIS RECORD WITHOUT THE PRESENCE OF THAT MAJOR RECORD LABEL?

Joe McGillveray:  I think that’s exactly it. It’s just been complete creative freedom. To be honest, we are quite emotional, self-conscious guys anyway. We’ve got a lot of demons going on in our heads anyway when we’re not trying to record the record. Usually, when there’s someone from the label going, “Oh, I’m not really sure about that,” it really knocks you off your stride. It’s been absolutely fantastic not having anything to do that. We’re quite self-critical as well, so it means that the only people that we’ve been trying to please, or trying to impress, when making the record is each other.

Because it was just the four of us plus Scotty, the conversations that we were having about what the song needed to be or where it was going to go were super direct. There was no waiting for someone to get back to you about what they think about how loud this snare sound is, or some kind of unimportant nonsense. We were just basing things on how we felt at the moment. You’re able to have much more direct conversations with each other it’s if it’s only yourself you’re trying to impress. I feel like that’s always been the goal for us. It’s great that the fans appreciate the music that we make, but I feel like the best way to make music for your fans is to be true to yourself, and to try and make music that you care about. We’ve always just cared about impressing each other. The fact that we’ve not had a few extra cooks in the kitchen trying to have their say as well makes it a very enjoyable process.

The Snuts © Dutch Doscher, Bowery Ballroom 2024
The Snuts © Dutch Doscher, Bowery Ballroom 2024

DO YOU THINK FREEDOM IS IMPORTANT FOR ART TO REALLY CONNECT WITH YOU?

Joe McGillveray: Absolutely. If you’re making art but you already have defined boundaries of what you’re allowed to do or what you’re going to do, then it’s not really art. It’s kind of just painting by numbers or plugging something in.

WOULD YOU SAY ANYTHING UNEXPECTED CAME OUT OF THE ALBUM CREATION PROCESS?

Joe McGillveray: I think I’d be pretty surprised by Joko, the drummer. He’s been singing some fantastic harmonies. Never realized it was going to be that guy, but yeah he’s like an angel!

I FOUND THE SONG TITLE “NPC” TO BE PRETTY FUNNY, GIVEN THE ACRONYM’S ORIGINS AND WHATNOT, BUT IT TURNED OUT TO BE THE SONG I LIKED THE MOST! TELL ME ABOUT THE CONCEPTION AND CREATION OF THAT TRACK.

Joe McGillveray: So “NPC” was one of the tracks where Callum was one of the buffers of the idea. It was almost the phrase “NPC” that grew up drastically into something else. It was following that concept that we’re all living this kind of life, and we’re not the protagonist in our own existence. We’re just getting through life, getting up, and doing the same things on repeat over and over again. I think it can feel like we’re all sometimes trapped a little bit in that cycle. That idea really resonated with all of us. Callum had bassline for it. I came up with a lot of weird chorus riffs and some bits like that. That was actually a really fast tune to put together once the idea was there. Jack was quite fast on the lyrics. That one was quite hot off the presses.

WHAT TRACK DO YOU THINK BEST CAPTURES THE OVERALL ENERGY OF THE RECORD?

Joe McGillveray: Again, for me, I think “Novastar.” I think that’s kind of one of the unsung heroes. I’m surprised it’s not been a single! If it was entirely up to me, it would probably would have been a single. I just think it’s such a frantic, energetic song. The whole purpose of the album was we were trying to convey and spread some positivity, because I think that we were actually in a very positive place in our lives. We had just left the label, which is obviously a very scary thing to be doing professionally, but I think we all felt super positive. We had a new invigoration from making music that had waned in the past couple of years, with it becoming such a corporate experience. We had this new newfound love and joy for what we were doing, and we just wanted to share that by making music that felt like that. So, I think “Novastar,” maybe more than any other song on the album for me, just has that kind of frantic feeling that we had at the start of creating the record. It was just like, “Let’s go and do it. Let’s get on, put some rubber on the roads, and make this track!” It feels like that.

WERE THERE ANY CHALLENGES THAT CAME OUT OF NOT HAVING THAT CORPORATE BACKUP?

Joe McGillveray: Absolutely. I’m lucky enough that I can just play the guitar. We’ve got a fantastic management team that deals with all of that stuff. Honestly, the relationships that we’ve developed with the people in the industry over the last few years have just been really solidified. Leaving the label and the experience has actually been very enjoyable and pleasant. The people that we’ve known in the industry for a long time have supported us. The album’s released, and we still feel the love from DJs and journalists and things like that – that helps keep us going along.

“BUTTERSIDE DOWN” IS ALSO A PRETTY INTERESTING SONG! TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT ONE.

Joe McGillveray: There’s a story that goes with that. It was in the early days that we were at this little tiny recording studio in Scotland. Jack woke up and said the heating in this place didn’t work. It’s freezing outside, he wakes up, and the first thing he does looks at his phone; it drops on his face. He’s downstairs about to make some coffee with one of those little Italian coffee things you put on your stove. Didn’t put enough water in it or stopped paying attention, burnt the coffee. That’s great, okay. Move on, okay, he’ll make some toast, surely he can’t mess the toast up! Makes the toast, butters the toast, puts the toast on the plate, drops the toast butter side down. *sigh* Okay, let’s just make some music. So we went to do that, and it was kind of the first thing that came out. There are always some days when it just kind of feels like everything’s against you, but it’s important to remember that these are just bad days; sometimes it’s just luck.

I LOVE HOW YOU’VE MENTIONED ALL THESE MUNDANE MOMENTS AS INSPIRATION THROUGHOUT THE INTERVIEW. IT’S SAFE TO SAY THAT THIS ALBUM IS BEST CHARACTERIZED BY CATCHY TRACKS WITH DARKER THEMES, WHICH I THINK IS SUCH A COOL JUXTAPOSITION. YOU DON’T REALLY INTERNALIZE WHAT THE LYRICS ARE SAYING BECAUSE THE SONGS ARE SO FUN-SOUNDING! WHAT INSPIRED THIS?

Joe McGillveray: I don’t think there was necessarily a desire to do that kind of “positive thing with a negative thing.” I think that’s just the reality of things. Sometimes it’s hard to have the positivity with those explaining why you need to be positive. If it’s resolved and breezy all the time, you won’t need to have a positive attitude about anything – it’ll all just be fine. Those little more mundane moments, for us, have always been the important things in life. “Gloria” was one of the first tracks that we’ve done on that record. It was the first thing completed and released, and Jack mentioned, “it’s like a boxset romance.” I love that phrase. When he said that, I was like, “Well, it does! That’s great.” That, for me, has always felt like the nice bits of being in a relationship – just being cuddled up on the couch and watching endless amounts of episodes of some terrible boxset that you’re getting through. That was really important for the record; to be highlighting the little things in life that are maybe not seem super important on the outside, but really are the things that keeps things ticking over.

The Snuts © Dutch Doscher, Bowery Ballroom 2024
The Snuts © Dutch Doscher, Bowery Ballroom 2024

I THINK HAPPINESS IS SOMETHING OUR GENERATIONS DESPERATELY NEED AT A TIME LIKE THIS, AND YOU GUYS DID A GREAT JOB IN CREATING A BODY OF WORK THAT BRINGS JUST THAT. WHAT’S SOME ADVICE YOU’D GIVE TO JADED MILLENNIALS OR YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY?

Joe McGillveray: Oh, wow! I don’t know anything that’s gonna save them, but I think it’s best to just try and be positive. I think that’s one of the beautiful things about being a little bit older at this point. I’m now an old man who’s got actual advice for people! When I left school, it was 2008, so the world had just ended. The financial crash happened, there was absolutely no hope that anything was going to get better, and everyone was pretty miserable. Then, it did. At one point, I was in not just one terrible dead-end job, but I think I would go through them every couple of weeks. I was working in horrible factories, warehouses, and stuff. I think out of all the guys in the band, I probably had the worst time with really sucky jobs. But, then that all turn around, you know what I mean? We started believing in ourselves a little bit, and believing in the things that we could do, and I find myself now releasing our third album. That is as happy as I ever wanted to be in my life. Just have some hope and positivity for the future. Things can turn around.

WAS THERE ANYTHING NEW YOU LEARNED OR TOOK AWAY?

Joe McGillveray: I think this record taught self-sufficiency. We had always been pushing for creative freedom from the label, but then I think there is a little bit of a difference when it actually happens, and you’re like, “Oh, okay, this is us now. It’s just us.”I think we learned some real discipline and a feeling of responsibility, not just for ourselves, but for being in a band or in our relationships. It’s like, “I’ve got another three guys that are that I’m responsible for.” The same goes for all the people who are our crew and our management team. All these people are relying on us. We learned discipline, responsibility, all these kinds of things, but then the actual context and the core of the album is such a positive message that it’s hard to stand and play these songs every night and not take on a little bit of that positive ethos. It’s been good for all our mental health as well.

— —

:: stream/purchase Millennials here ::
:: connect with The Snuts here ::
Watch: “Circles” – The Snuts



— — — —

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? © Gary Williamson

Millennials

an album by The Snuts



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