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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Teen Band, The Snaz, Gains Attention

What can you do if you’re just starting high school and you’re bursting with creative energy and you want to make an impact and be heard?

You could start a rock band. A couple of years ago some Brattleboro teens started a band. They call themselves the Snaz. And they’re beginning to get a lot of attention.

The group was the opening act at an outdoor concert in Amherst, Massachusetts last week. The concert was part of a street fair sponsored by a local radio station.

Fifteen year old Dharma Ramirez, the lead vocalist and guitar player, stepped up to the mic.  “Check check check….All right everybody,” Ramirez called to the crowd. “We’re the Snaz! “Come on over here. We’re going to rock!”

As the music starts, the audience consists mostly of the band members’ parents, who are always at their gigs, since no one in the Snaz is old enough to drive.

Drummer Zack James, the youngest of the group, is in eighth grade. The rest are high school sophomores: Ramirez, on vocals and guitar, Mavis Eaton, the keyboard player and Sally Fletcher, who plays bass.

As they play, the crowd keeps growing. After the last song, amidst whistles and applause, a local DJ takes the stage.

“Let’s hear it for the Snaz,” he says. “Aren’t they awesome?!”

The Snaz began in Ramirez’ living room in 2011. Ramirez and Eaton were looking for something to do. The two have been best friends since second grade.

“We both wanted to learn to play guitar,” Eaton says. “So we said, okay let’s start a band!”

The Snaz first played in public at a Friday night Gallery Walk in Brattleboro.

Ramirez says it went well.  “Everyone liked us, so we got more gigs from there, I guess.”

Last fall the group won a battle of the bands in Brattleboro. The prize was ten hours at a studio in Guilford, where they made a five-song CD.

The CD has helped the band land more gigs and one of the songs, “Anna,” has been getting airtime on a local radio station.

The lyrics -- “Anna’s got the nose, she’s got the clothes.  It seems like she’s got it all”  --  are clearly about a popular girl in school.

But Ramirez, who writes much of the group’s material, says she didn’t plan it that way. She was just fooling around with a beat.

“And I was going, ‘A-one and a two and a three,’” Ramirez says. “And I thought, ‘Oh! That sounds like a girl’s name and that would be catchy.’ And I was like, ‘Anna!’”

But people heard the song as a commentary on stereotypes and social pressures. In retrospect Ramirez agrees.

“Now that I look back on it,” she says, “I definitely think that was where I was coming from. Because being a teenage girl, I think, is a hard time. And that just kind of came out of me.”

The Snaz has also caught the attention of a mentor with a lot of experience in the music business. Peter Solley is a British musician who played for a time in the band Procul Harum, and produced such artists as Ted Nugent, Motorhead, and the Romantics.

Solley, who lives in Newfane, heard the Snaz at the Guilford Fair. He decided he’d like to help them tighten up their music and polish their act.

“I thought they were so fresh, so quirky, so original,” Solley says. “And the songs were really good.  There’s a teenaged approach to the lyrics, but not in a sort of goofy, teen way. They work on any level.”

The Snaz  recently got some national exposure on public radio when they made the finals in ‘Studio 360’s’ High School Battle of the Bands.

Eaton says the show played “Anna” in its promotion for the contest.

“And they said, ‘If you think you can rock any harder than that, send your music to Studio 360’s Battle of the Bands,’” Eaton says. With a smirk, she adds, “I was like, ‘Oh, but no one can!’”

Whether or not that’s true, the band members in the Snaz are looking at a number of opportunities on the horizon. They’re still in school, but they have a lot of energy. And they say they’re ready to go wherever the music takes them.

Susan Keese was VPR's southern Vermont reporter, based at the VPR studio in Manchester at Burr & Burton Academy. After many years as a print journalist and magazine writer, Susan started producing stories for VPR in 2002. From 2007-2009, she worked as a producer, helping to launch the noontime show Vermont Edition. Susan has won numerous journalism awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for her reporting on VPR. She wrote a column for the Sunday Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Her work has appeared in Vermont Life, the Boston Globe Magazine, The New York Times and other publications, as well as on NPR.
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