Say you wake up to find yourself in an early-1970s Pontiac GTO convertible, driving down an empty, boundless highway toward wherever your favorite band is playing: you have now entered the world of Nick Snyder & the Real Deal.
The band's self-titled debut EP, is painted with shades of late '70s rock-and-rollers like Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, mixed with Electric Blues journeymen like Freddie King or Dallas’ own Stevie Ray Vaughan, all of which bounce off the album, resulting in proximate euphoria, ecstatic freedom and, more simply, a damn good time for the listener.
Snyder has been playing music seriously since he saw the Dallas-based jazz fusion band The Funky Knuckles play in Deep Ellum six years ago.
“I was totally freaked out by how amazing they sounded," Snyder says of the Knuckles. "So after that I kinda made it a point to be around as much as possible.”
And around he is. “I’m definitely a blues-inspired rock guitarist and I think the band and music follow suit with that," Snyder says of the band's sound. "It’s tough to describe, mainly because we’re just finding ‘our sound.’ It’s 100 percent us though, and that’s the most important thing to me. I think if people hear something genuine then that usually translates and is easy for a listener to digest.”
That authenticity and truthfulness is present in their first project. The album runs the gamut of tones from the thoughtful to the aggressive, all tied together with two things. The first is Snyder’s transcendent guitar playing, which is nothing short of Vaughan-like in its virtuosity (no matter how much he protests the comparison), and remains up front throughout the album, and the second being one of the tightest rhythm sections (Patrick Smith and Luke Callaway on bass guitar and drums, respectively) you’ll likely ever hear in a band.
"I’d describe this record as our best attempt to put what we do live on a recording," Snyder says. "Patrick, Luke and I really feed off of each other live so it was all about doing our best to capture that energy and give it that ‘live’ feeling.
The Real Deal recorded the album with Casey Di Lorio at Valve Studios, who has previously worked with Bowling for Soup.
"He produced the record and really pushed us in some different directions,” Snyder says of Di Lorio.
These directions fit snugly into the album's general authentic cohesion.
“The beautiful thing about music, and blues in particular, is that two people could play the exact same song and it will sound completely different, so I take comfort in knowing that it’s gonna sound like me when I play it,” Snyder says.
The idea of two musicians playing the same song, after all, is commonplace in the blues where many greats have recorded the same song, independently, many times over. After Jimi Hendrix wrote “Little Wing,” Stevie Ray Vaughan covered it, and it became both of theirs. Same song, still an individual offering, 20 years apart.
“He’s still copping some Hendrix licks but it sounds like Stevie playing... It has that unmistakable tone
and feel of his that everyone chases,” Snyder says of the song's warping and morphing through the avenue of
time before embarking on a history lesson on the blues.
“Anyways, it’s ever changing, from Son House and Robert Johnson’s delta blues, to T-Bone Walker basically inventing the modern guitar solo, to Hendrix wailing guitar landscapes and SRV’s pure emotion, and now with people like Bonamassa and Philip Sayce modernizing everything that came before them," he says of the genre. "It’s a living organism that changes with the times and with the people who play it... ‘the blues’ will most likely look and sound very different in another 20 years.”
This spirit of live performance taking the spotlight carries on into Snyder’s world, too. Until recently, he stayed busy with live shows night in and night out. In addition to his band hosting a weekly blues symposium at High & Tight Barbershop called Nick @ Nite, Snyder also plays with other well-known acts around town, like Holy Roller Baby (a heavy rock act with a lyrical focus a la Queens of the Stone Age), ‘The Battle of Evermore’ (a Zeppelin-tribute where you can catch Snyder’s best Jimmy Page impersonation, violin bow and all), and local rock-and-roll staple The Roomsounds.
“I’ve been given so many amazing opportunities to play with all kinds of musicians here in Dallas, and some outside of town," the guitarist says. "I’ve also been in a lot of situations where I had to play some stuff I wasn’t 100 percent comfortable with stylistically, but it’s taught me a lot of things I probably wouldn’t have learned at home myself. Whether I’m playing with nine other people or two, I just want to serve the music.”
The result of having this stable of bands has left Snyder with an ability to be a generous, spotlight-yielding sideman, and an entrancing frontman, just like Stevie Ray. He's clear however, that he's not looking to emulate the late guitar hero, or any other.
" I also want to find my own sound and have people think of me as an individual and not a disciple or something like that," Snyder says of Vaughan. "He's my hero! No one could ever compare, no one could ever sound like him — there is no comparison."
Snyder's potential sound, however, is all his own in the vast landscape of Dallas music — he’s between vintage and modern, like a Led Zeppelin vinyl played through Beats by Dre headphones.
Listen to the EP below: