A Snail's Pace

Azalia Snail

When she was 15 years old, Snail had to find subversive means to acquire an electric guitar because her parents wouldn't consent to one, preferring that she adhere to acoustic instruments only. So she withdrew money from her mother's savings account and took a bus to a nearby music store. When mom arrived home, she was greeted by the power chords and distortion emanating from her daughter's room. "I remember locking my bedroom door, putting this big bureau in front of the door, and just wailing on [my guitar]," she says. "My father was yelling, 'Take that back! You can't have it!' He actually had to take the door off the hinges and forcefully take the guitar away from me. I was crying. It was a very desperate moment for me. I remember telling my mother, 'That's all I want in my life -- this guitar.'"

Unsurprisingly Snail was out on her own shortly after graduating high school, living in New York City, surviving by temping at various offices, and nourishing her talents through the support of local musicians. By the late '80s, Snail was receiving airplay on Low-Fi, a specialty show aired by New York's WFMU-FM and hosted by DJ William Berger. Granted, it wasn't very difficult to get a recording on the program. "You could make recorded music at home on a Tuesday, send it to Bill that day, and he'd play it on his show on a Friday," she explains. Berger quickly became a fan, and after Snail found the courage to perform, her skills were soon noticed by others. Following her second-ever live performance, the small, independent Albertine Records offered to release her debut recording, a single entitled "Another Slave Labor Day." Albertine subsequently issued her first album, Snailbait, in 1989, and since then she's bounced back and forth -- no major label has shown interest, she admits, but indie imprints have been eager to affiliate with her, and so the remainder of Snail's '90s output is scattered among different companies around the globe.

Azalia Snail's trail winds through a back catalog of musical obscurities
Azalia Snail's trail winds through a back catalog of musical obscurities

Details

performs with Illyah Kuryahkin, A Kite Is a Victim, and Ed Matus' Struggle 8 p.m. Thursday, May 18. There is a $5 cover charge. Call 305-273-0870. She also performs at 10 p.m. Saturday, May 20, with Illyah Kuryahkin, Arlan, and Rat Bastard at Churchill's Hideaway, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. Cover is $5. Call 305-757-1807
Warehouse Café, 7181 SW 117th Ave., Miami

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The result has been the creation of an obscure artist, well beneath the public radar but respected by other musicians, an arrangement that seems to suit Snail. As enigmatic as she appears in person, she still apologizes for her pretensions. "I've always not liked the mainstream," she says. "I tried to discuss that with friends of mine: Why do some people accept the mainstream and others want to delve into the most obscure things they can find? I don't know. I just love what I love."

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