Sneaks EPs

Studio Stories

It's time to get "deep" into the backstory of the newly released Sneak Review demo recordings and how the CD came to be…

Sneak Review was a labor of love.

The idea came to mind during dinner reminiscence between Greg and Rob back in December of 1999. The two were discussing the upcoming twenty-year anniversary of the band’s inception and agreed how great it would be to put the first two Sneaks EPs onto compact disc, now that technology permitted.

However, there is more to the Sneaks’ story than just the band’s 1981 Sneak Preview or 1984’s Success...The Hard Way—much that has never been told. After rummaging through boxes of mislabeled cassettes, Rob discovered a treasure trove of pristine studio tracks from long forgotten sessions—tracks that often reveal the extent of the Sneaks’ musical journey.

While some of the “found” songs were not quite ready for prime time and had to be excluded from this collection, most of the tunes still sound surprisingly fresh and vibrant, capturing the band's unbridled energy in a way that even the officially released EPs failed to do.

Several of the newly uncovered cuts were recorded in May of 1982, at the band’s one-time rehearsal studio—a shuttered, “mom and pop” pharmacy—in Temple City, California. With multi-track mobile studio in tow, a friend pulled his delivery van up early one Saturday morning, working with the group until well after midnight to produce six harmony-soaked gems.

Notable among this session is the intense, bittersweet rendition of Brett’s The Way She Wore Her Sweater, a song about an enticing garment that ultimately led to a painful romance. Also of particular interest is Rob’s quintessential, new wave ode to unrequited love, the odd-metered Love By Fire (later retitled Love Bonfire).

Several other tracks that appear on this compilation were recorded live at the “Friedman Warehouse,” the band’s later-day practice hall (and an actual manufacturing warehouse) located in the industrial district of El Monte, California. The evening of June 18, 1983, found The Sneaks gathered together to demo these songs for consideration of inclusion on their upcoming EP (which was to become Success...The Hard Way). The boys were tired that night, and since the tracks were put down and mixed live, there was no opportunity for the perfection of previous sessions.

Versions of several of the songs recorded that evening—Billboard Girl, I’ll Be Around, Why Do You Run, Modern Love, and Down N’ Out— do not appear on Sneak Review, but were later re-recorded in essentially the same form, for Success...The Hard Way. One notable exception is Modern Love which had a “heavy metal” bridge edited from the Success session because the band wasn’t quite satisfied with the sound of the recording (listen for the slight tempo change after the “B” Section on the original recording).

Conformist Life (featuring Pat’s snaking bass line), This Love is Dead and a band favorite, Lay it on the Line (which best represents the group’s post-haircut, musical evolution), are the June, 1983 tracks included on Sneak Review. One other tune was taped that night, but reluctantly omitted from this collection. Brett’s ambitious The Message, was the final song captured; its beautiful but flawed sound reflected the band’s overall level of exhaustion at evening's end.

The whimsically named Why Bye Boogie, one of the Sneaks’ most requested live tunes, was recorded during a separate session in February of 1981, just prior to pre-production meetings for Sneak Preview. The band had seriously considered including “Why Bye” on that album but were so excited to get as many songs as possible onto tape, they instead opted to track six new numbers for the EP. Its inclusion here marks the first time a recorded version of this popular song has met the public ear.

Rounding out Sneak Review, are several humorous voice “commentary” tracks from radio announcer Cal Stoner, and the band’s biggest booster, Greg’s “Uncle Freddy” Tortell (a talented drummer in his own right, and the composer of UFC from Success...The Hard Way).

New listeners and long-time fans alike, will surely appreciate the youthful exuberance and heartfelt sentiment combined here. In retrospect, after all these many years, can it be said that The Sneaks produced music defined by their time? Or rather, to some, were those golden years defined by the sound of The Sneaks?