Sophomore Ray Brown is one of many students attending Coachella this April, but unlike his classmates, he will be taking the stage at one of the country’s biggest music festivals.
Brown is a drummer in the indie rock band Snail Mail, which will be playing at two large music festivals – South by Southwest and Coachella – this spring. Brown plays alongside his three bandmates, whom he met in the DMV area, including lead singer and guitarist Lindsey Jordan, bassist Alex Bass and guitarist Casey Weissbuch.
“I haven’t been to a festival that big, like playing or just attending,” Brown said. “So I think just being in that environment is going to be really overwhelming first of all, but also really cool.”
Snail Mail is touring the East Coast and the Midwest in January, then making their way across the United States to play at the two festivals – on both Sundays of the two-weekend Coachella festival in mid-April and during South by Southwest in March. At the festivals, the band will play in front of the largest crowds of their career with artists like Beyonce and Brockhampton, as well as personal favorites like the Canadian indie-pop band Alvvays.
“The whole band is taking in the quick success. Just trying to process it and handle it.”
Brown met the lead singer after getting involved in D.C.’s small indie music scene in 2015, playing small shows independently at local venues before joining the band in March 2016.
The band released their first six song EP “Habit” in July of that year and started gaining more popularity in early 2017, according to Brown. The group went on to be featured in a New York Times’ article about women topping the rock music genre and performed on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series in September.
“The whole band is taking in the quick success,” Brown said. “Just trying to process it and handle it.”
The band performs songs about teenage life in the suburbs written by the lead singer. The lead guitarist also learned their guitar riffs from Mary Timony, an indie guitarist famous for playing in bands like Ex Hex and Wild Flag. Their sound is guitar heavy and focuses on the songs’ relatable lyrics. Snail Mail recently recorded a full album that will be coming out later this year on streaming services and CDs.
Snail Mail has played with bands like the punk band Priests in New York and the folk punk band Girlpool in Los Angeles last year, but sharing a stage with world-famous artists this spring will be their biggest gig yet.
Brown, a student in the business school, said he’s been able to find a balance between his studies and the band, but with bigger gigs taking him across the country this spring he had to take the semester off to focus on performing at the two festivals and other shows during the tour.
“It’s been a little weird processing and balancing mentally being a student and wanting to focus on schoolwork and also campus life with being out of town a lot, and all of the music stuff happening parallel,” Brown said.
“Being able to be around that many bands is going to be really exciting.”
After graduation, Brown said he plans to merge his love for music with his degree to get a job on the business side of the music industry.
Even with star-studded gigs lined up for the near future, Brown’s favorite performances have been the ones closest to home in Baltimore. Snail Mail played with Frankie Cosmos in 2016 and 2017 and, with their friends coming out to support, both shows sold out.
Although the small shows have been their favorite so far, Brown said he can’t wait for the larger crowds.
“Being able to be around that many bands is going to be really exciting,” Brown said. “Any kind of bigger festival with lots of bands, it’s really great to be in that environment, surrounded by all those people.”