Snug Harbor: Right here, right now

by Lindsay Hilton

photo by Tommy Calderon

Improvisation is a classic imprint of funk music and in this, Snug Harbor does not disappoint. The band’s bold horn section works in harmony with the subtler sounds of the guitar and drums, each instrument cutting in to build on the consonance of the last. Snug’s music lures listeners in with punchy, funky riffs from the clavinet and the full-throated lyrics of lead singer Sinclair Hucke, whose voice seems poured from warm honey.

The seven-piece band may have originated in Bellingham, but the soul of Snug’s music is authentically New Orleans funk and soul. No surprise there, since the band’s name originates from New Orleans, a place near and dear to one of Snug’s founding members.

Years ago, the band’s trumpeter and manager Will Glazier saw jazz drummer Mike Clark of The Headhunters and Ellis Marsalis, Jr., patriarch of the musically brilliant Marsalis family, play back-to-back gigs at the Snug Harbor, a New Orleans jazz institution that’s been around since the 80s. A teenager at the time, Glazier had been in New Orleans as part of a cross-country road trip with his father, who was instrumental in schooling him on the early history of blues and jazz music.

“My dad always inspired me to chase my dreams,” Glazier said.

The music Glazier heard on those two evenings dug deep into his soul and took hold, putting him into a trancelike state. And from that day forward he knew he wanted to be a musician. So when it came time to name his band in 2008, there was no debate as to what the name should be.

The band Snug Harbor has been around for a decade (recently celebrating their 10th anniversary with a show at the Wild Buffalo), and while a few of the band members have come and gone over the years, the chemistry that comes from playing together that long is palpable. These days the roster includes Justin Smith on keys, Daniel De Lisle on trombone, Nick Robinson on drums, Ryan Nutter on guitar, and Christopher Thomas on bass, in addition to Glazier and Hucke, whom Glazier said “has a fire in her lungs,” and whom he credits with keeping the group together during the tougher times.

Each member has their own projects and gigs on the side, as well as families and day jobs. Glazier juggles his Snug Harbor obligations with WillDaBeast, an electronic and bass project he started with De Lisle in 2014 that has developed its own steady following.

Snug Harbor channels powerhouse soul and funk in its albums and likes to play old school throwbacks for fun, counting Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings among its musical influences.

While the band members like to goof around— “it’s hard to take yourself too seriously,” Glazier said— they are still able to come together in a synergistic way that works well and would seem challenging to any other group of that size. But they don’t exactly follow protocols when creating new work, and Glazier said inspiration can spark anywhere.

“It’s a one- or two-man show, but no one’s show in particular,” Glazier said, complimenting his bandmates on their ability to each contribute individual ideas and lyrics, collectively assuming accountability for Snug Harbor’s creative direction. One or two of the band members might have an idea and then bring it to the rest of the group to be fleshed out.

“When it clicks, we all get on board,” Glazier said.

The song “Dirty Stranger” from the band’s new album Right Here Right Now (released last month) gives credence to the band’s ability to spark creativity from anywhere. The song seemingly came out of nowhere during an extended set at a wedding. One band member drew the melody out on a whim, and everyone else joined in to keep it going as it evolved into a full-fledged song.

“Feel the Burn” (also from Right Here Right Now) was written in collaboration with Bernie Worrell of P-Funk, who came up with the basic rhythm for the song before he passed away in 2016.

Snug Harbor also has two other studio length albums out, including an eponymous album released in 2011–which contains mostly original songs and was recorded using vintage mics, instruments and outboard equipment–and This is Snug, released in 2013. The group’s debut EP Sounds from the York was released in 2009.

Right Here Right Now came out in conjunction with the group’s 10-year anniversary and includes songs with Hucke’s trademark timbre, marking the latest iteration in the band’s identity.

The new album took longer than usual to complete, as the band switched studios midway through recording and took some time to do punches and overdubs.

“I think it’s something we can stand on,” Glazier said, noting it’s their best recording yet. “Something I will hold close to my heart for a long time.”

For more information, check out Snug Harbor performs at the Guemes Island General Store in Anacortes on Feb. 17, and the Old Edison Inn in Bow on March 3.