Americana Band The Black Lillies Capture the Magic of a Live Session on 'Snakes and Telephones': Premiere

Saul Young
The Black Lillies

Every Wednesday for six months, folk-rock group The Black Lillies performed brand new, never-before-heard original songs live on the Internet. The weekly series, titled The Sprinter Sessions, came to a close at the top of 2018, with the last installment featuring a song called "Snakes and Telephones" -- and below, The Black Lillies are unveiling the recorded version.

But the final Sprinter Session was such a remarkable one that the studio version of "Snakes and Telephones" hardly sounds any different than the one The Black Lillies' bassist Sam Quinn and guitarist Dustin Schaefer performed live on camera in January. Though it was their first time playing the song, something just worked.

"The song sounded beautiful right off the bat," the group's drummer Bowman Townsend, who recorded the Sprinter Session on an iPad, recalls. "In my mind seemed it could fill a place that none of the previous songs occupied."

Upon bringing it up in preproduction several days later, that same magic was captured. "Sammie sat behind the mic with an acoustic, Cruz [Contreras, the band's lead singer] was on the keys, Dusty on electric, I was on drums, and Jamie [Candiloro, their producer who has worked with Ryan Adams and R.E.M.] grabbed the bass. We recorded it twice, three of us having never played the tune previously. Not knowing the music, we were forced to pay particular attention to Sam, his lyrics and phrasing, and by the second take, once some chords were ironed out, the band started naturally to add pauses, hits and dynamic variation to the music to complement Sam’s vocals."

The organic recording process was as pleasing to Candiloro as it was to The Black Lillies guys, as he declared that the recording of their second time ever playing "Snakes and Telephones" together would be the official arrangement. And now, the song is featured on The Black Lillies' next album, Stranger To Me.


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Though The Black Lillies' unique take on Americana and folk-rock isn't as apparent on the more acoustic "Snakes and Telephones" as it is on some of their other tracks, the downtempo tune certainly holds a special place in the band's hearts. "It's neat to have everyone’s instrumental parts based off of their first, gut instincts to the lyrics and melody instead of distracting from what was already such a beautiful song by itself," Townsend adds.

"Snakes and Telephones" is one of 13 tracks on Stranger To Me, The Black Lillies' fifth LP, which will be released Sept. 28 via Thirty Tigers and can be preordered here. The group is currently on a massive national tour in support of the new music, kicking off in Nashville on Aug. 29 and hitting a total of 43 cities before ending in Phoenix on Dec. 16.

Take a listen to "Snakes and Telephones" and check out all of The Black Lillies' tour dates below.

8/29 – Nashville TN @ City Winery
8/30 - Middlesboro KY @ Levitt Amphitheatre
8/31 - Winston-Salem NC @ The Ramkat
9/1 - Raleigh NC @ Lincoln Theatre
9/2 - Thomas WV @ Purple Fiddle
9/12 – Nashville TN @ AmericanaFest
9/13 - Birmingham AL @ Moonlight on the Mountain
9/14 - Atlanta (Decatur) GA @ Eddie's Attic
9/15 - Charlotte NC @ Live on the Green
9/22 - Virginia IL @ Dr. Ug's
9/23 - Cleveland OH @ Beachland Ballroom
9/28 - Knoxville TN (hometown release show) @ Central Filling Station
9/29 – Knoxville, TN (3rdBlack Lillies Hangover Ball Bowling Party)
10/4 - Jonesborough TN @ National Storytelling Festival
10/5 - Columbia MD @ The Soundry
10/6 - Washington DC @ The Hamilton
10/7 - Wellsville NY @ Wellsville Creative Arts
10/11 - New York City @ City Winery
10/12 - New Haven CT @ Cafe Nine
10/13 - Burlington VT @ Nectar's
10/14 - Boston MA @ City Winery
10/17 – Buffalo NY @ Sportsmen’s
10/18 – Pittsburgh PA @ Club CafĂ©
10/19 – Columbus OH @ Rumba
10/20 - Chicago (Berwyn) IL @ Fitzgerald's
10/23 - Tupelo MS @ Blue Canoe
10/24 - Little Rock AR @ Stickyz
10/25 - Fayetteville AR @ George's Majestic
10/26 – Coupland TX @ Coupland Dance Hall
10/27 - Dallas @ The Kessler Theater
10/28 - Houston @ The Heights Theater
10/30 - San Marcos @ Cheatham Street
11/1 - Austin TX @ Stubb's
11/2 - Port Aransas, TX @ Billy Joe's Craft House
11/8 – Oklahoma City OK @ The Blue Door
11/9 – Tulsa OK @ Mercury Lounge
11/10 – Kansas City MO @ Knucklehead’s
11/16 – Roanoke/Rocky Mount VA @ Harvester Performing Arts Center
11/17 – Charlottesville VA @ The Southern
11/30 – Asheville NC @ Grey Eagle
12/6 – Denver CO @ Globe Hall
12/13 - Los Angeles @ The Echo
12/16 – Phoenix AZ @ Rebel Lounge