James Ammirato knew the Boston music scene is its own little microcosm of the city, and because of that, it’s really hard to be heard.
According to student punk rock band Snoozer, Boston’s up-and-coming music scene is caught in a flurry of new-wave scruffy bedroom pop and grainy low-fi jazz, in contrast to their distinct sound featured on their debut album, Tortoise, Hare.
The band is composed of junior singer-songwriter and guitarist James Ammirato, junior bassist Ian Downie, and Boston University junior and drummer Brendan Dunphy.
Dunphy said releasing Tortoise, Hare helped the band make a name for itself by introducing their own style of “running-with-scissors” punk music.
The three students formed Snoozer when Downie and Ammirato started to look into living off campus after their freshman year. They met Dunphy at a mutual friend’s birthday dinner, eventually exchanging numbers and deciding to play music together.
“I’m not really looking to be like, famous or anything,” Ammirato said in an interview. “It would be cool to get recognition, it was super cool that [The Beacon] reached out to me. I had no idea that anyone heard about it.”
After being together for a year and a half, the band members spent time collaborating on song ideas—pouring their hearts and souls into making a full-length, quality album. Ammirato said he spearheaded the production and release of Tortoise, Hare.
“[The album name] really isn’t that deep, it’s kind of an inside joke that I have with my bandmates,” Ammirato said. “We realized halfway through the recording that half of the songs are really fast, and half of them are really slow. Brendan and Ian were like, ‘James you are incapable of writing mid-tempo songs.’ So, tortoise: hare. Slow: fast.”
Downie said the band’s name stems from Ammirato and Downie’s sleeping schedules, or lack thereof.
“James basically didn’t have a sleeping schedule freshman year,” Downie said in an interview. “He would sleep in two-hour increments four or five times a day. He has a remarkable ability to fall asleep anywhere, as long as he’s sitting down, he can just knock out. Both of our lives were characterized by time not being real. So, that’s where Snoozer’s name comes from.”
Ammirato found that after meeting Downie and Dunphy, jam and writing sessions turned out to be more fun.
“[My music] was really Elliot Smith-y, like, singer-songwriter, sad boy shit. I wanted to be making loud, electric guitar music,” Ammirato said. “[Writing solo] was a lot less collaborative and less fun as a result, it was just kind of like, ‘oh let’s get this product’ instead of, ‘oh let’s make music,’ so it’s a lot more fun having a band with your friends.’”
Downie said the album itself is more of a compilation of songs Ammirato had worked on over a period of time, rather than a consistent project that had been planned out. Ammirato said it took three months for the band to nail down the tracks in a studio.
Ammirato reached out to his long-time friend and guitar teacher Jesse Trepiak, who works at the YMCA in Newton, about needing a place to record new songs.
Dunphy recounted his experience recording at the YMCA.
“I took the D Line out to Riverside,” Dunphy said. “[Downie] picked me up from there. We drove to the YMCA, walked amongst a bunch of kindergarteners down to the basement, and then recorded an album.”
The process consisted of three recording sessions total, the initial session focusing on laying down the drum tracks, and the later sessions highlighting bass, guitar and vocals. The format of the studio and recording session allowed the three to communicate with one another while recording the music.
Will Goldsmith, a student at Newton North High School interning with Trepiak, did most of the mixing and mastering in the album’s post-production. Ammirato said he took it upon himself to get Tortoise, Hare on streaming services using the distribution company Distrokid, which streams one’s music on every streaming platform.
Ammirato advised aspiring musicians on entering the music industry to take chances.
“Be really open to any collaboration that people throw out to you,” Ammirato said. “A lot of people are really hesitant to collaborate with people they don’t know, or people that make music that they aren’t open to. But you’d be really surprised at what can come of a seemingly very oppositional relationship between two artists.”
Dunphy said he hopes audiences will give the album a listen.
“People can listen to the album if they want,” Dunphy said. “It’s their own prerogative. Why not listen? It’s a nice album. That’s just me. Who am I to say? I’m just a guy. I think it’s worth listening to.”