“Split Lip” cover art by Manny Jean
Along with, well, everything else, 2020 was the year UK artist Cazzie Winterton–aka Lohrd Snohw–took a plunge into the unknown and started learning how to produce her own music and dabbling in alternative-electro. The 22-year-old singer/songwriter says she’s always been inspired by electronic and ambient music, but she got her own start with acoustic songwriting and cover band singing from a young age.
“Maybe it’s the ego in me, or maybe it’s a response to world events, or maybe it’s an inevitable progression, having spent the last ten years writing verses and choruses, or even maybe it’s a subconscious response to the total saturation of the music industry and content creators,” she says. “But it feels so important to me to chase the unfamiliar.”
That spirit has led her to an increasingly gitchy, deconstructed sound; compare her dreamy single “I Don’t Know” from last year and her most recent release, the more caustic “Bleach.” One inflection point was her cross-pond collaboration with NYC artist and producer Kate Brunotts; in August of last year, Snohw happened upon her music online and something clicked for the first time.
“I remember seeing her instagram profile, stalking her and her music, and thinking, ‘f* this girl is so much cooler than me. I want to be able to make music like that.’ It was around the time of her song ‘Two Minutes,’ and it felt like finding the sound that I had been looking for.”
On Brunotts’ YouTube channel, where she vlogs as well as sharing her songs, you can see how she made “Two Minutes”–layering vocal chops and pentatonic plucks over an uber-filtered drum machine beat in Ableton. (Brunotts spent 2020 stretching herself as a producer as well, releasing a song like clockwork for every month of the year). If, like Snohw, you find yourself inspired, she even has a tutorial video breaking down the basics of bedroom pop production.
“I never quite had the language or enough of a catalogue of reference tracks to be able to say ‘this is it, this is where I am going,’” says Snohw. “The excitement and lightning bolt moments always came very tangentially, and it feels like it’s been a long road (and still is very long) to recognizing what it is that makes music stand out to me and feel life-changing, rather than just a cleverly/prettily written piece. Kate really has a handle on getting those details and textures with her writing and production. She’s a master at it, to be honest.”
She messaged Brunotts, who says she was equally impressed with Snohw’s work. “I was immediately taken with the distinct quality of her creations,” said Brunotts. Even if Snohw was less experienced, her strong vision quickly became apparent. “She’s an innovator,” says Brunotts. “I love working with artists that step outside of the usual bounds in order to create something more original. Finding someone with such a distinct voice can be difficult, but Cazzie has definitely got this part down.”
Early on in her journey as a producer, Snohw says she was eager for two things: another woman who made every element of her own music, who she could look to as a role model, and a collaborator with whom she had reference points in common. Brunotts fit the bill on both counts, and became a major inspiration to Snohw in the second half of 2020. She also cites Brunotts’ fellow New Yorker and collaborator River Hooks.
“Getting to know her and River Hooks too has been one of (if not the) highlight of my last year in music,” she says. “Making music is a very lonely thing. I love it with every fiber of my being, don’t get me wrong, but it is isolating doing it all as a DIY artist, in practice of the day to day and in all the different things you need to think about. So it’s invaluable having friends who not only get what it feels like but who can also be a part of the creative process and you can build things with.”
After they’d resolved to work together, Brunotts sent Snohw the beat and the first verse of what would become their first collaborative single, “Call Me Deadly.” Snohw says she related to the main idea behind the lyrics, tapping into the frustration of feeling constrained by the ways other people perceive you. “I was also–and still am–obsessed with the line in her verse ‘making up my own metrics,’” she says. “As someone who has always been a bit weird, done stuff a bit outside the box or just not what I was supposed to do, it really resonates.”
She added some of her own layers to the production, including the intro sample, taken from the sound of a sports crowd on TV. For her verse, she built off of Brunotts’ narrative, writing about freeing herself from the box and regaining her strength. That grew into the chorus hook: “Call me deadly / choking envy / You’re deadbeat / past mistakes.”
“It felt right to have something so affirming–something that reveled in the feeling of when you’re top of your game and untouchable, undeniable,” says Snohw. “Especially as young women, I think a lot of the time we think we need to be diplomatic and not revel in our own power because it’ll hurt other people’s feelings. But man, sometimes you gotta let yourself enjoy it!”
That also inspired the single’s cover art, which features cutouts of Snohw and Brunotts armed with iridescent swords–partly a reference to Joe McNally’s iconic 1997 photo of Fiona Apple in full medieval armor on the New York City subway.
For Snohw, reveling in her own power meant rethinking the kind of music she wanted to make and the position she wanted to occupy in the landscape–embracing a specific vision of what she can accomplish with her art in spite of her eclectic tastes, her past work, or what patterns other artists have followed in the past.
“I’ve come to understand and accept that the stuff that gets me really excited about making music isn’t writing my own version of ‘this type of song.’ It’s the potential to build something new, something so affecting that structure doesn’t matter, and I believe that’s what’s going on with the electronic, glitch/hyper-pop scene,” she says. “Particular sounds used in the songs define the impact or the impression, rather than the journey a to b, and that feels both really exciting and liberating.”
Lohrd Snohw and Kate Brunotts teamed up again for the co-produced single “Split Lip,” a prime example of a song more concerned with textures and singular sounds than getting from one section to another–stripping back the lacquered sheen of even something like “Call Me Deadly,” you can feel the rough edge of every idea jutting out in fits of unconventional percussion and clashing, off-kilter vocal parts.
“The song changes key, and I had to figure out how to bridge the two parts together while still making things cohesive,” says Brunotts. “It gave me an important opportunity to really experiment with different effects, production methods, and in general, different structures. It was super rewarding once it all came into place.”
Both artists are keeping up the pace as the year goes on; Brunotts recently released an EDM track with Venezuelan duo Sirdiamnd, and Snohw has a series of singles on the way as she continues to define the new and adventurous identity of Lohrd Snohw. She’s leaning into her quest for the unfamiliar while also showing listeners what makes her core artistic personality something worth tuning into.
“I think I have something to offer people in the way that I process and write about the world, I really do. And I want to bring it to people in thrilling, visceral sounds or sounds of extreme beauty and emotion–the sort of songs that rewrite the atmosphere around you as soon as you start listening to them.”