The Snuts talk new album Millennials ditching the majors for independence

On February 23, UK indie outfit The Snuts release their third album Millennials. Having released their first two albums on major label Parlophone, the band decided to launch their own label Happy Artist Records through which to unleash their latest offering. Frontman Jack Cochrane joins Headliner to explain why…

It’s a month to the day until the release of The Snuts’ third record Millennials when we join the band’s frontman Jack Cohrane from his Glasgow home, and he’s very much in album release mode. “It’s busy, man,” he says with a smile. “We have a lot of shows coming up, promo shows at record stores, which are a lot of fun as you get that one-on-one feel with the fans, and you get some good feedback on how the record will be received. We’re about to set off to the States as soon as the record is released, so a lot of rehearsals. The songs get harder to play with every album it seems [laughs] but we can’t wait.”

He's in a buoyant mood, and it’s easy to see why. Last year, the band took the dramatic decision to part ways with major label Parlophone – their home for chart-topping debut W.L. and its Top 3 follow-up Burn The Empire – and launch their own independent label Happy Artist Records in conjunction with music distributor The Orchard to release album number three. As such, it’s an album that was simultaneously liberating and laden with self-imposed pressure.

“It was around this time last year that we realised we’d been noticing a fundamental breakdown in communication with our previous label,” Cochrane says, explaining how the band arrived at their decision to break out on their own. “There were a lot of blurred lines when it came to the direction and the vision of the band and the direction and the vision of the label. We could feel that breakdown right through the making of that record.

“I think it becomes every band’s dream on a major label to take back some of that freedom,” he continues. “So we decided to take it on ourselves and put the ball in our court. It was January 2023 that we started making music together again. We camped up in the highlands in Scotland and it felt like a while since we’d just made music as friends with no pressure to go out and make something.”

For Cochrane, the biggest point of difference between band and label arose from the latter’s insistence on pushing the band’s personality over the music.

“The pressure of what it means to be an artist today is something different to what we signed up to,” says Cochrane. “When we first signed to a label it was very music-driven and now it’s very personality-driven, which is something we felt very uncomfortable with. There was an intensity about how we were supposed to come across as people and that was affecting us as humans. There has always been that friction between band and label.

“I’m not of the mindset that major labels are terrible and can’t work for anyone,” he notes. “We were very lucky and grateful to have the experiences we had and to work with some incredible producers and learn the landscape of what it means to be a recording artist. And to squash a myth, in our case at least, there was never any pressure for us to be anything we didn’t want to be. The guy we worked with there always wanted the best for us musically, so we were happy on that front. But the landscape changed a lot, so there is now a lot of pressure on being a front-facing celebrity, which is something we’ve never been comfortable with. I wanted to be able to keep my privacy and I don’t think that’s an option at major labels now.

“There is such a focus on personality first, then they’ll find your music. That wasn’t something we would accept.”

Despite the upheaval that came with departing a major for a new independent approach, creatively The Snuts had developed considerable momentum in amassing ideas that would come to form Millennials.

I wanted to keep my privacy and I don’t think that’s an option at major labels now. Jack Cochrane, The Snuts

“As soon as the last record finished, we were working on ideas,” he recalls. “We had about 20 and then went up to Fort William up in the north of Scotland in a really basic studio but a beautiful location that just gave us what we needed to make music. There was no excess or glamour, just basic rooms, bunk beds, making music as friends. In the back of your mind, you’re hoping it’ll materialise into something, but ultimately, we went up there just to make music. We went with a long-time collaborator of ours, Scott Anderson, who is our musical director for live shows and is a producer. We know each other really well so there was no ice to break.”

Did the decision to sequester themselves away in a remote, back-to-basics setting inspire a siege mentality of sorts when producing the record?

“We just had a point to prove to ourselves first,” says Cochrane of their initial sessions. “Can we make something that is exciting and fresh for us? The first song we wrote was Gloria, which is the first single and it’s one of the best we’ve ever written. that really spurred on the momentum. We tried to write 10 of those which didn’t work [laughs]. But there was great momentum that came from that, and it showed us we didn’t need all those excess things and opinions. It was a nice sun-coming-up point for us.”

As for how life has changed for The Snuts outside of the comfort of the studio, Cochrane insists that being on their own label has helped them forge a purer vision of what it is to be a band today.

“Being independent has allowed us to be more focused on the music,” he states. “A lot of it comes down to the way that things are set up at majors, the type of money that is thrown around and wasted on un-useful sessions and things like that. Whereas when you’re in control of the numbers and you’re more comfortable with the numbers there is less pressure and you can prioritise the music, which is cool when you’re making a record [laughs]. Overall, the workload is similar, but when you’re independent you’re even more willing to do that work. Any promo you do comes from you; it’s a purer source than the type of promo or video or clip that’s pushed by a label. It’s all coming from you. And I think people can connect with things that are a bit more truthful. That is the most important thing for us.”

For The Snuts, Millennials is undeniably a defining moment. The decision to depart a label that has helped deliver a No.1 debut and a Top 3 follow-up is certainly a courageous one, and one imbued with its own set of pressures. But regardless of how the record performs commercially, all that matters today is how it meets with the band’s own standards and expectations.

“This one really feels like a culmination of all the steps it’s taken to get here, " says Cochrane thoughtfully. “We’ve taken sonic influence from the first two albums and we’re proud that we’ve been able to stay who we are as people but change how we sound as a band. It’s a summation of how we got to this point, and we’re really proud of it.”