Almost a Threat: Snow Strippers
Everything the electronic music duo Snow Strippers puts out effuses the atmosphere of vape smoke and blinding strobes, punctuated with gold chains, flamboyant sunnies, prop guns, zip-up hoodies, leggings, and 2000s to early 2010s stylistic pastiche. First forming when the duo Graham Perez and Tatiana Schwaninger moved to Detroit three years ago, Snow Strippers has quickly become the force majeure of an electroclash and EDM renaissance currently sweeping across North America and Europe.
Since releasing their first two singles in 2021, Snow Strippers has been on a productive bender, already releasing the three-part April Mixtapes series, a full-length self-titled project, and, just a month ago, the first installment of their newest series, Night Killaz Vol. 1. Having worked with fellow darlings of the Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan scene, Club Eat and Eera, and signed with Surf Gang Records, Snow Strippers caught the attention of Lil Uzi Vert last year when the rapper first heard “It’s a Dream” from April Mixtape 2. With Uzi later appearing on a remix version of the song on April Mixtape 3, and their appearance on Uzi’s “Fire Alarm” on Pink Tape, the now New York-based pair have secured a status far beyond the if-you-know-you-know clout of American scenes.
Last month, the club organizers BELOW0 brought Snow Strippers to Europe to perform their high-BPM, unrelenting EDM at Berlin’s Trauma Bar und Kino. Performing tracks across their discography without a single pause between songs or lapse in intensity, Snow Strippers stood above the crowd on a boxing ring specially designed for the event. Dancing in and out of visibility amidst a litany of flashing lights, bass, and high-pitched vocals, Snow Strippers looked like heavy weight champs on stage, arresting the audience’s attention while sipping from a bottle of Crémant.
I talked to Perez and Schwaninger—first at a Berlin billiards bar, then at a Bavarian restaurant—ahead of their performance at Trauma Bar about spontaneity, shopping malls, and their DIY approach to making music videos.
PHILLIP PYLE: You two met in Florida, right? What were the circumstances?
GRAHAM PEREZ: We met on Tinder four or five years ago.
PP: Did you start making music soon after?
GP: Definitely not. We didn’t start making music together until we moved to Detroit.
PP: Do you start with the idea or the music?
GP: It’s always the music first.
TATIANA SCHWANINGER: Yeah, we don’t really plan an idea ahead of time. And Graham always works on beats, like all the time, so we pick from what he makes and record on the ones that we both really like. And we’ve been going to the studio more recently, which has been a game changer.
GP: Even if we’re not in the studio, we’ll make music anyway.
TS: We made all our past music from home.
PP: Many of your videos seem to reference the mid–2000s to early 2010s. The one shot in a mansion, “Almost a Threat,” gives The Bling Ring vibes. “Passionate Highs” is similar to those 2000s iPod Nano commercials with colorful silhouettes. Some of your early videos have this incredibly thin aspect ratio with a white border that’s reminiscent of the edits that people were doing on VSCO when I was in middle school. Is there anything particular about this era that makes you gravitate toward it visually?
GP: I don’t think it’s a conscious thing when we do it. I think it’s just what we grew up with.
TS: We grew up during that time, and, also, we just really like simple things. Simple music videos and things that are classic and timeless. And that’s exactly why people say that about our videos.
GP: We always get different years, too. People will be like, “yes, this video is that year,” or “it reminds me of this year.”
PP: Most of the spaces your videos take place in are suburban or rural, which I’m guessing had to do with living in Detroit. What environment do you feel most at home in?
GP: Well, with making music videos, it’s wherever we don’t get kicked out of right away or what looks nice. We’re pretty comfortable in every environment.
TS: I could do a music video in a crowded or an empty place, it doesn’t really matter. We just always try to make sure it has a clean look to it that doesn’t distract too much from the music. Also, with the rural thing, that was mostly because we lived in Detroit and that’s what we had to work with.
PP: And probably places that you don’t need a permit to shoot at?
TS: Yeah, exactly. That is actually the main thing. [Laughs]
GP: Wherever we don’t get kicked out of and wherever there’s not hella extra other people that we can’t get in the video.
TS: We’ve never called a place beforehand and asked, “Can we use this to do a music video in”? We usually just pull up somewhere and immediately start shooting.
PP: Crystal Castles and SALEM are often used to describe your music. Are there any unexpected influences or inspirations that you have?
GP: A lot, honestly. We take stuff from everywhere. But, I mean, we do love Crystal Castles…
PP: Who doesn’t? What were some common influences you had when you met?
TS: SoundCloud music.
GP: When we met, we had really similar tastes in electronic music, and a lot of music in general. We’ve been putting each other on to stuff too.
PP: What have you been listening to recently?
TS: Sped-up TikTok songs. [Laughs]
PP: Do you come across your own music on TikTok?
GP: I mean sometimes, because the algorithm can tell I’ve looked at it before, but that’s about it. I’ve never come across it randomly. We don’t have any songs that have blown up on TikTok.
PP: What was it like working with Lil Uzi? I want to hear specifically about the use of that Justice sample on “Fire Alarm.”
GP: We didn’t even make that beat! Don Cannon did. I didn’t even know it was a Justice sample when we made the song. And then everybody hit me up like, “Justice, ‘Stress,’ that’s hard,” and I was like, “What?”
PP: And what was it like working with Uzi on April Mixtape 3?
GP: With the song on April Mixtape 3, they just found the beat on YouTube, ripped the beat off YouTube, and got on it just like that. And then they hit us up. Then we linked and started making music in person.
PP: Are you doing any more collaborations?
GP: Definitely. We just want to make sure it always sounds like Snow Strippers and we don’t want to do anything super… I don’t know, we don’t care about collaborations that much. We don’t have dream collabs. I don’t think things like, “this artist is going to make our song better,”or “that producer is going to make our song better,” but we’re definitely open to it in the future. I don’t really like it when artists have a lot of different producers or sounds. It gets really random really fast.
TS: I agree with that. The music that I listen to the most—if it’s a solo artist—they stick to one producer and work really hard with that person. And I feel like that’s what our work is about too.
GP: It’s super specific. The music that we put out is what comes straight out of our hearts. So, I don’t know, bringing other people into that can get weird.
PP: Did you know the specific sound that you wanted when you first started makingmusic together? Or did it develop over time?
GP: It developed over time, but we did know that we wanted to do EDM.
TS: The sound has changed a bit but… it’s still retained its core since we first started making music.
PP: How would you describe the core of Snow Strippers?
TS: Intense. Hard hitting.
GP: I’d rather let people who listen to us give adjectives for it, honestly.
PP: You guys also have your own label Nice Bass Bro now. What are your plans with that?
GP: We just want to keep growing ourselves and to put on for artists that we think are dope. We’re just taking our time with it and finding who we want to work with and what we want to do with that. But we want to help people and get good, true artists.
PP: Is it a certain genre that you’re looking for?
TS: Just cool shit. Just good ass music.
PP: Tati, I want to ask about your style because it’s so specific yet hard to describe. What’s your approach to styling?
TS: I don’t know, I just kind of dress in what I like. It’s not intended to be a specific vibe, but I have been into fashion since I was a really little girl. Recently, I’ve been working really hard on doing things for the band, so I feel like my style is kind of an afterthought right now.
GP: It’s not an afterthought. [Laughs]
TS: [Laughs] Yeah, no, I have dope style.
PP: Was the thrifting good in Detroit? I feel like the Midwest has great thrifts.
TS: To be honest, I didn’t thrift a ton when we lived there. I’ve been shopping at the mall lately. [Laughs] I just accumulate stuff. I went to Macy’s the other day.
PP: And then with your style, Graham, is there anything specific to your approach?
GP: Not really, I just wear whatever I feel comfortable with. Tati’s got the style. [Laughs]
PP: I want to know more about the use of guns in your videos. Being from the Midwest, I’m used to guns being a normal sight. And I know you two grew up in Florida and St. Louis, respectively. What do you feel guns add to the Snow Strippers image?
GP: Honestly, I feel like it’s just an aesthetic thing. We’ve only done a couple of music videos with guns and we also have the Nice Bass Bro Snow Strippers hats with the gun on them. But neither of us are super passionate about it.
TS: We don’t really have any way of relating to them. [Laughs]
GP: We don’t go hunting—I’d be down to but, like…
TS: I would try it.
GP: But that stuff is also boring.
TS: They’re more props.
GP: I mean, guns are cool, but it’s not a big part of our life or anything. Some people are crazy about guns, you know what I mean?
TS: It’s just a vibe. [Laughs]
PP: Do you shoot all your own music videos?
GP: “Just a Dream” is the one video we didn’t do. Ayodeji did that. All shot on an iPhone, too.
PP: Do you have any music video influences?
GP: My favorite director is Hype Williams.
TS: He’s the greatest.
PP: Snow Strippers typically has this super intense, yet uplifting vibe. But, also, some of the videos have this blatantly grotesque underside to them. Is that something you want to explore more?
GP: I mean, yeah, we just like making things that evoke some type of feeling. It’s just not reallya conscious thing. I guess that’s just how we...
TS: It’s just reality. Sometimes we don’t intend for them to be that dark. Sometimes I don’t thinka video is particularly sad or dark until everyone tells us that after the fact.
PP: The “Just Your Doll” video seemed plucked straight from a horror storyline.
GP: We set out to do horror with that one.
PP: With videos like that, do you have an idea or do you just go somewhere and then the idea emerges?
GP: A lot of times, it’s just us freestyling. But we had an idea with that one. And, even then, once you start doing the idea, it just turns into something else.
PP: How quickly do you churn out videos?
GP: We do videos like days before the songs drop. We were editing “Just A Hint” the day that it was supposed to drop. That’s usually how it goes. But sometimes we’ll sit on a video for a month or two.
TS: We don’t really like to sit on shit.
GP: Often, I wouldn’t put something out that like I made a month or two ago. I would just rather go and do some new shit.
TS: Because then you don’t even want to look at it anymore, even if it’s good. You know what I mean?
PP: Yeah, you lose all interest in it if you’ve been looking at it so much. Do you feel that way with music too?
GP: Also, we’re procrastinators.
TS: Yeah. We work well under pressure.
GP: We kind of need that. [Laughs]
PP: Are you constantly recording?
GP: Yeah. It just comes out. I don’t see it as a motivational thing or anything. It’s just what we do.
TS: It’s our job now, so—
GP: It’s not even our job, it’s what we like to do. It’s who we are—
TS: I just mean it’s our job in the sense that we have deadlines, and it consumes everything. Everything we do is for Snow Strippers.