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The best kept secret in music


"Five go live at King Tut’s"

It’s their first live gig for five years, and it’s testament to their standing in the Scottish music scene that it’s at the legendary King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut.

After all, it’s Spare Snare we’re talking about, the 46th best band in Scotland’s history, as they proudly point out.

In fact, they pointedly insist (but with tongues firmly in cheek), if the same internet poll was held now, they would be even higher in the pecking order, as some ‘flavour of the month’ bands have dropped out of consciousness since it was published a couple of years ago.

As cultish as you can get among the UK underground, Spare Snare played four Peel Sessions, one of them live from Reading Festival and they appeared at major festivals across the UK, including T in the Park.

The latest album, Garden Leave, is in the shops now and continues the ultra lo-hi approach they’re known and loved for, in underground music circles across the UK and beyond.

Garden Leave is arguably their best effort yet, full of wonderfully simple songs, beautiful noises and deeply-personal lyrics.

There are 12 tracks in all, all composed and performed by the band, except the Lori-Anderson-esque Volume For Poetry, where the band provided the musical background for American poet Anne Stevenson’s readings.

Let it be said, Spare Snare are back, even if they’ve never really been away, although try telling that to any fans wanting to see them play live over the past five years.

Their last gig was at Go North in Aberdeen, and despite not having played live for so long, or maybe because of that, they’re as in demand as ever.

One look at their newly-set-up MySpace website shows the strength of feeling for them, and they’ve also just missed out on a tour with one of lead singer Jan Burnett’s all-time heroes, Mark Linkous, aka Sparklehorse.

“We got offered the tour last month but it was at too short notice, because we’re all working.” Jan said.

“It was two days before the tour started so there was no chance for us to do it.

“I first got in touch with Mark on their very first tour, I gave him our album and kept in touch with him. It obviously worked because he asked if we wanted to do the tour,” Jan smiled wryly.

In a career stacked with missed opportunities it neatly sums up Spare Snare, who for more than a decade have flirted with success but never really pushed on through their admittedly self-imposed barriers.

While their contemporaries in the local and national music scene (Snow Patrol, Idlewild, Belle & Sebastian) have gone on to staggering world-wide success, Jan, bass player Alan Cormack and drummer Barry Gibson, along with various ever-changing members, have ploughed a lone furrow, stubbornly resisting approaches from majors and releasing material on their own terms.

It’s an approach that has produced seven albums, all of which gained critical acclaim if not commercial success, which they readily admit has held back their progress, but crucially has kept them together both musically and as friends.

Spare Snare know they had bigger things at their fingertips’ but equally admit they probably wouldn’t be around now to release their seventh album if they hadn’t shied away from the yellow brick road.

“I look at Snow Patrol and think that could be us musically, the difference is that we’ve got no managers, no agents, we just do it all ourselves,” Alan admits.

Jan adds though, “On the other hand we would probably have split up a long time ago if we had been that successful.

“The way we work there’s no pressure on us and I think that’s why we’re still together. We’ll still be releasing albums every two or three years.”

Always seen as a seminal band for musicians across the country, Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol is a long-time fan, name-dropping Spare Snare as a huge influence on Snow Patrol at the Radio 1 Big Weekend in Dundee, Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble wrote Alan a long fan letter asking for autographs, and musicians across the UK hold them up as a guiding light.

“I was walking up the road in Dundee with Gary one night and he told me our new single was fantastic,” Jan said.

Although several years in the pipeline, Garden Leave was recorded reasonably quickly at Jan’s home studio in Glasgow.

Never ones to follow fashion, Spare Snare are less a garage band than a dining-room and kitchen combo.

“The studio is in what should be the dining-room, most of the instruments were recorded in there, although the drums were set up in the hall,” Jan laughed. “In fact the drums were in the kitchen for the first album."

“We do it blindly,” Alan explained. “We don’t write the songs in the normal way, we get an idea down on tape, think it’s alright then start to frame it into a song.

“It’s a good way to record but when it comes to rehearsing for a live show we’ve got to think what we did with it.

“We all swap around instruments as well so you’ve got to remember who was playing what.

“It’s always been difficult - The Courier / D C Thomson & Co Ltd. 2008

"Garden Leave - Review"

Snow Patrol lead guy Gary Lightbody loves them. The List readers had them down as the 46th best Scottish band of all time. So, why are they still recording albums from home? Well, maybe they just like it that way. And there is indeed a lot to like on this, the outfit’s seventh album. You can readily forgive them the odd moment of creative over-reach, such as the letter-reading extracts of ‘Volume for Poetry’ when they can conjure up a plaintive gem such as ‘Just Let Go’. Though the wheezy ‘Trees and Horses’ almost plunders the goodwill engendered by the rootsy simplicity of closer ‘Grow’. - The List - Brian Donaldson


7 albums, 20+ singles.
All can be found in the biography section of


Feeling a bit camera shy


Originally formed out of necessity to tour the US in 1995, The band 'formed' by Jan Burnett as his solo Spare Snare started to get college radio and sales. Spare Snare have evolved to a gang mentality, co writing the latest album. Licks and hooks and ideas from as diverse fields as The Pet Shop Boys, The Slits, Brian Eno and The Byrds have all made there way onto the new record.