Casual-mod-classic rock-babe + normal hipster from Pittsburgh with a dog = music that will make you cry while you’re dancing.
We had the pleasure of meeting with the hilarious and talented Kristen Wagner (singer) and Josh Shapiro (bass) of Bullet & Snowfox to talk about their EP, Operator, coming out on November 4th.
After meeting on Craigslist, they have been making dance rock music that is not only catchy, but also relatable. “We want people to want to dance and have fun, but we’re also a rock band,” explained Wagner. Now, they’re getting ready to make the audience cry and dance the night away during their upcoming album release party on November 4th at Harvard & Stone in Hollywood.
Labeling Men: So, how long have you guys been playing together?
Josh Shapiro: Five years? It’s been about five years, right? Maybe a little bit more?
Kristen Wagner: Yeah. I think Josh and I started the band in 2009, like early 2009, and we played our first show early 2010. So, I guess we’ve been playing for about a little over four years and have been in the band for a little over five.
L.M: That’s awesome. How did you guys meet?
K.W: Yeah! So, I took out an ad and was like, “I’m a singer. I want to start a band. I’m looking for a guitar player. You need to know how to do this, this, this, and this. This is the kind of music I want to make. This is what I do. This is what you should be able to do. Send me some samples of what tracks that you’ve made and we’ll see if it makes sense.” I spent about three months fielding a million emails from weirdos. It’s funny, actually, because there were two other guys that I met with that were sort of false starts. Like, it seemed like it could’ve worked out but it just didn’t for whatever reason. So Josh was just the third person, so it’s like, third time's the charm! He just sent me an email with seven tracks that he had been working on and I liked all of them.
J.S: They were all pretty awesome.
K.W: I was like, “I think this could work!” We just met up at his apartment and were like, “Let’s try to write something.” So, were just sat down and started working together.
L.M: Is the type of music you’re currently playing together the type of music you envisioned playing when you started the band?
K.W: Yeah, I mean to a degree. I think the thing is, it’s always difficult when you have a really strong vision in mind, where I’m like, “I love all these bands, I want to make songs just like these kinds of bands.” But then, when you’re in a partnership with somebody, it takes on a new life and a new tone and it’s never going to sound like that. Which is a good thing, actually, because that’s the difference between being influenced by someone and copying someone. It’s cool because I sort of have my influences and my vision, but at the same time, I try really hard not to think too much about it. Whatever it is that comes out of me is just organic to who I am and what’s natural to me, so, even though there’s other things that I might like and think are awesome, that might not be what is inherently within me.
L.M: And that’s what makes you guys unique.
K.W: Yeah, well thank you! We’d like to think so.
J.S: I, like, listen to metal all day and then I sit for six hours and write and a Bullet & Snowfox song.
K.W: By the way, we don’t like any of the same bands. That should also be noted.
L.M: Haha, wow!
K.W: Which, I don’t even know how we function and it’s crazy, because it’s actually really easy.
K.W: There’s very few times that either one of us is not liking what the other person is doing. And so, certainly, Josh will send me stuff that he does and if I’m like, “Eh, I’m not really feeling it.” Or, “Maybe change it to that, but the rest of it is awesome.” And vise versa. I’ll send him top line melodies and lyrics that I’m working on, but he’ll be like, “I think you can do better.”
L.M: Hahaha, oh no. That’s hilarious.
K.W: We [have] a really split division of labor, which is kind of cool in a way, because it gives us both the freedom to just do what we do. We just give each other the space to do what we need to do, but we obviously also have opinions about what the other person does. It’s interesting that it’s so easy for us to write songs together that we like, because we don’t like any of the same music.
L.M: So, this might be a good time to ask what are some of your musical influences? What bands do you like?
J.S: I have so many. I like bands like: Gang of Four, old Franz Ferdinand and old Arctic Monkeys where it’s just driven, funky, and sloppy guitar, but done on purpose. That’s pretty much it, but I also listen to a ton of metal and I think Tool is a genius band. They rehearse every single day, right next to me. Did you guys know that?
L.M: Around here?
J.S: (Pointing outside his balcony) Right there.
L.M: Whoa, that’s crazy.
J.S: So, writing that last album was so amazing [because] if I’m taking a break, I’m listening to Tool write their new album and then I just walk upstairs and record [our] new album. That was one of the most inspiring moments of my life.
L.M: Yeah, that sounds amazing.
J.S: Yeah. I’ve been in metal bands. I’ve been in funk bands. I’ve been in indie bands and in electronic bands. I love all music. It just has to make you feel something.
K.W: I would totally agree, but it’s just different things that inspire us to feel differently. As far as my musical taste in general, it just sort of runs the gamut. I love rock music. I listen to 100.3 The Sound, KLOS, and classic rock is a big thing for me. I’m a big fan of classic rock bands. I also love the Pat Benetars and Joan Jetts. I’m really influenced by really strong, powerful female front women that have something to say and that exert a lot of power. I think that’s a lot of what’s lacking in current popular music. There’s no balls. It’s almost like everybody is afraid to seem like they give a shit about what they’re doing. I just feel like I get that from a lot of bands, obviously not all of them. I don’t know, I just feel like it’s important to convey that we really care about what we’re doing. We really want people to feel it the way that we do and be fearless about it. That’s always the goal for me.
L.M: That’s amazing and I love it. What genre would you consider your music to be, then?
K.W: You know, we just call it dance rock. Honestly, that’s like the easiest way to describe it.
L.M: Haha, that’s great!
K.W: We’re an indie, dance rock band. That’s what we are.
J.S: I was going to say that.
K.W: That is the easiest way to describe it because we’re an independent band and it really just incorporates elements of dance and rock music.
L.M: Very cool. How did you guys come up with such a unique name for the band, Bullet & Snowfox?
J.S: It’s your friend who came up with the name, right?
K.W: It’s actually not an interesting story.
J.S: Should we make something up on the fly?
L.M: I’d love to hear the story, regardless. I think it’s a truly unique name.
K.W: Thank you! So, basically, here’s the best version of the story: It was one of the first names that got thrown out there when we were [just starting to think of names]. We spent MONTHS mulling it over.
J.S: I think we were two or three songs deeps, weren’t we? It was two. We got “Greenlight” done and we were in the middle of working on [another one] when we lived in WeHo and we were talking about it.
K.W: Oh yeah! Because we were calling it, “We Both Like Our Parents”!
L.M: That was the first name?
J.S: Yup, “We Both Love Our Parents.” That was the name.
K.W: We were working with this producer and he was recording these songs and was like, “What do you want me to save the band name as?” I was like, “I don’t know… We both like our parents?” I was thinking, “Well, what makes us different from a lot of people?”
L.M: That’s really funny.
K.W: So, finally, Bullet & Snowfox got thrown out there and a girl that I was working with at the time actually helped me come up with it. But we were like, “Let’s not settle with it too soon. This is a really important decision.” We kicked around a bunch of names around forever, but we just came back to it.
L.M: It’s a great name choice. So, can you guys tell us a little bit about your upcoming album, such as when it’s the expected release date and how long have you guys been working on it?
J.S: Comes out November 4th, 2014.
J.S: How long have we been working on it? It feels like forever.
K.W: Forever. Well, two of the songs we actually wrote a couple of years ago, One More Shot and Ragdoll. What was cool was that everything that was happening from the start of this EP until we play our first show and beyond, we’re basically not doing the routine that we did last time. The last EP, the way we did it, we basically wrote, produced, and mixed every song from start to finish before we moved on to the next song. It sort of like we were writing a full single that was ready to put out in the world, before we even started writing the next.
J.S: And we released them as we went.
K.W: Yeah. Finally after we had written like 11 songs or something, we were like, “We should really just put out an EP.” We just released an EP, but most of our songs were already out in the world and people had already heard them. With this one, we’re like, “Let’s try doing it the way most bands do it,” which is, let’s demo up a bunch of songs, let’s write a bunch of songs, pick our favorites, and then go actually record those and mix and master and do the whole ordeal and THEN put them out in the world.
L.M: That’s awesome! Do you guys have a name for the EP album?
K.W: Yes, it’s called Operator.
L.M: Nice! How’d you guys come up with that?
K.W: Well, it’s kind of a key lyric in one of the songs.
L.M: Ah, gotcha.
K.W: And it sort of makes sense in the context of the songs as a whole and the whole process.
J.S: We made a list. We had a whole list of all possible phrases.
K.W: I know! I’m just saying that on a deeper level, it actually does represent songs collectively really well. They sort of run the gamut in terms of subject matters.
L.M: I have to ask, though, because “One More Shot” is one of my favorite songs. What was the inspiration behind it?
K.W: Feeling really fucking tired and not knowing if we’re ever going to get anywhere with what we’re trying to accomplish. I think what anyone who’s doing something that is scary and terrifying and difficult and odds are not in their favor to succeed. I think I was just feeling really drained and I was at my breaking point, but in that moment of feeling like “Can I even keep doing this?” I also wanted to write something that would inspire me to stay in it. In a way, I felt like it was a message to myself, like, “HEY KID! You’ve come this far, fucking keep going because you’ve got another shot. Just do it!”
L.M: And it’s relatable. Does the album as a whole have a similar backstory?
K.W: I would definitely say that the topics are a little bit deeper for me, than maybe a lot of the songs on the last EP. For example, “We’re Not Alright” — I wrote that when I had heard about the second mass-shooting that we had in the last couple of years. [I was just] kind of feeling angry and frustrated and sad. I was just like, “Our world is so fucked up! What is going on?” [That song isn’t a] dance-y or feel good song, but it’s what was important to me at that moment and still is important to me. There’s “Static Habit” [which] is about communication breakdowns and how that can destroy relationships.
L.M: Oh, yeah.
K.W: There’s also “Ragdoll” and we’re really proud of that song because that’s a really different for us.
J.S: That’s my favorite song.
K.W: That one, to me, feels very ‘90s inspired in a sense of a Portishead/Massive Attack kind of vibe. That’s nothing like we’ve ever done before since we’ve never done a ballad or a song that slow. So, purely on a BPM level, that’s like way out of our element… That was another song where I was feeling stressed out and frustrated and pulled in a hundred of different directions, like nothing you ever do is good enough. The themes are a little bit heavier, maybe, in this one compared to the last one.
J.S: You’ll cry while you’re dancing.
L.M: Haha, nice!
J.S: Yeah, it’s crazy.
K.W: It is crazy. It’s also fun because we also have a bunch of new songs to throw in our live set, too. It’s just all new, exciting stuff!
L.M: Well, that’s all great. Now, steering a little bit towards fashion -- Does your music influence your fashion style or vise versa? That can apply to both of you guys.
J.S: I usually just wear all black. That’s my favorite thing in the world.
L.M: There’s nothing wrong with that.
K.W: I definitely think they’re interconnected. No question. They’re both an expression of who you are, your own creativity, you own view of yourself or of the world. Personally, I like all the classics. You can’t go wrong with a good white t-shirt and a good color of red lipstick. But it’s always fun, especially as women, since we can play around a lot. [My husband is a big fashionista] and he’s inspired me a little bit, fashion-wise…Look at my Van Halen T-shirt!
L.M: Yeah, I like that a lot!
K.W: I’m wearing music right now!
J.S: I, honestly, like wearing all black. I don’t want anybody to pay attention to what I’m wearing because I take pride in…
K.W: You want them to stare at your eyes?
J.S: No. Well, they are blue. But on stage, I like to wear all black because I want you to be paying attention to what I’m wearing and not if I have a bandana hanging out of my pocket or stupid stuff like that. I don’t want it to be a distraction.
L.M: That's great!
J.S: I also sweat a lot when I’m on stage, so if I wear a white T-shirt it’s garbage the next day.
K.W: That’s mostly why I don’t wear T-shirts. I mostly wear [sleeveless] shirts.
L.M: As you guys know, our website is called Labeling Men, but we have a female here, so what would you say your female label would be? As in how would you describe your fashion label style?
K.W: I would say… Casual, mod, classic, rock.
L.M: Haha, I like that a lot. It’s perfect for you.
J.S: I don’t even know. Casual is a good word. Edgy? I don’t know — just big clunky boots, skinny pants and t-shirt.
K.W: Josh’s personal style is hipster.
J.S: I guess you could say that. I’ve heard that for the last four years.
L.M: That would be our Edgar Allan Faux.
K.W: Uh-uh! Haha.
J.S: Let’s just say hipster by default.
L.M: So, going into the dating aspect of the website, do you guys have any funny dating stories? Maybe you’ve witnessed some funny stuff as a bouncer at Harvard and Stone, Josh?
J.S: I mean, it’s been non-stop Tinder since Tinder came about around a year ago. When I was briefly on Tinder it was either “Hey, you’re the guy from Harvard and Stone” or “Hey, you’re in Bullet & Snowfox.”
K.W: You’re SO famous!
J.S: But that was a very quick determinant to stray away from that.
K.W: You mean because people already knew who you were?
J.S: Yeah and it just drove me insane and I would normally not involve myself with anybody from the bar.
K.W: (Whispering) Until now.
J.S: Well, until now.
L.M: Do you have any personal funny dating stories?
K.W: Well, my first date with my husband… I talk with my hands a lot, so I’m very animated. I was just chatting away about whatever and in all this commotion, I went, “BOOP” and spilled wine and spilled it all over my dress. Like, literally, my whole glass of wine went “SHWOO.”
J.S: Red or white [wine]?
K.W: White. I was wearing a black dress.
L.M: Oh, I was totally imagining red and a huge disaster.
K.W: Oh my god, no. I was so lucky. I was like, “Oh my god!” and he was like, “Are you okay? Do you want to go to a store, I’ll buy you a hair dryer?” So, yeah, that was that. I’m sure weirder things have happened. But I would say that because I didn’t make a big deal out of it, that was a good sign for him.
L.M: Do you have any dating advice for our generation?
K.W: UGH. So much advice. We’ll be here for days!
J.S: Oh, I have to go to the bathroom…
K.W: Ha. I would say… Make an effort and act like you give a shit. I think a lot of men in our age group and in this city — I don’t know if they actually don’t care or they pretend like they don’t care — but there seems to be this attitude about dating and it is really juvenile, because if you like someone when you’re an adult, you show them that you like them and you make an effort for them to see that. I don’t know if it’s because people are lazy or don’t care or they’re afraid. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to show somebody you give a shit.
L.M: AMEN. Love that.
J.S: I agree to that fully. What I have been noticing over the last few years is that people don’t hold the door, they don’t hold purses. Even at work [at Harvard & Stone], there’ll be a girl looking for an I.D. and a guy will just bump into her and be like, “Here you go.” Just be a gentleman. That’s it, it’s not hard.
L.M: No, I totally agree.
K.W: Grow the fuck up, people.
L.M: Great advice! Is there anything else you guys would like to add about the band? Anything we missed touching on?
K.W: EP RELEASE PARTY ON NOVEMBER 4th!
J.S: At Harvard & Stone.
K.W: It’s going to be super fun!
L.M: Love it! We did it!
Bullet & Snowfox present: Operator Album Release Party | Tuesday, November 4 | 8 p.m. | Harvard & Stone | 5221 Hollywood Blvd. 90027 | 21+
Listen to Bullet & Snowfox on Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/bulletandsnowfox
Or follow them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/bulletandsnowfox
Interview by Karen M. Guzelian