Michael Snyder-Barker leads the ultimate live music pack.
The Tecumseh singer-songwriter and drummer joins forces with an all-star local lineup – John Lowe (guitar, vocals), Mike Hintz (bass, vocals), Chris Broski (guitar, vocals), Michael Rozich (guitar, bass, vocals) and David Roof (guitar, keys, vocals) – for a bluesy, rock-infused live album, Bark & the Pack, now available on all streaming platforms.
Recorded live at Adrian’s Cotton Brewing Company in January, Bark & the Pack features 12 timeless classic rock, jam-fueled tracks spanning nearly three decades of Snyder-Barker’s prolific, multi-genre career. He’s assembled a fiery sextet of collaborators from The Mighty Rhythm Bandits, Barker & Broski and other solo projects.
“The lineup was based on my current band, The Mighty Rhythm Bandits, as the core, and David Roof, who played all of the instruments on the studio recordings. Chris Broski and I did a set as the opener in which we performed Barker & Broski’s The Ballad of Billy Bob and Other Generic American Folklore in its entirety. I thought it would be fun to have him play on a majority of the other tracks as well,” Snyder-Barker said.
“‘Godsparrow’ was a song we had written and recorded with the group Soylent Green/Edgar Allen’s Toe in the ‘90s, and I wanted this to be somewhat of a retrospective. I had written and recorded some music with Michael Rozich and wanted to highlight those originals as well.”
Throughout Bark & the Pack, Snyder-Barker spotlights life-changing musical stories about internal growth, personal loss, rowdy adventures, stolen moments, long-lasting friendships, renewal and the fleeting passage of time. For his second live album, Snyder-Barker decided to drop Bark & the Pack after recording a prior CD release party for Bark’s Wagon Tales at Cotton in 2017.
As the live album’s ‘70s hard rock-inspired opening track, “Sea of Sand (He’s a Lost Boy)” features crunchy metal guitars, pounding drums, crashing cymbals and calm bass as Snyder-Barker chronicles a man’s eternal soul-searching journey for self-acceptance.
He reflects, “You see a young boy screamin’/Across the desert plains/Runnin’ for his life/He never found his peace/Jealous men never revealin’/What they hide away/For diamonds and silver.”
“The album has four new tracks with The Mighty Rhythm Bandits – ‘Sea of Sand (He’s a Lost Boy),’ ‘I Lost My Money,’ ‘Bats Riot in the Hen House’ and ‘The Mighty Rhythm Bandit’ – and two other songs written with Michael Rozich, ‘Weak Eyed Willie’ and ‘Soul Sacrifice,” he said.
Another new standout heavy metal-esque track, “Soul Sacrifice,” seamlessly blends steady drums, wailing electric guitars, tingling cymbals and thoughtful bass as Snyder-Barker unfolds another mystical Dio-like tale about embarking on a personal quest for enlightenment.
He calmly sings, “Take me on a trip to a distant shore/To lands filled with riches for one and all/Speak the words spoken in a sacred space/Heal the land triumphantly (forevermore).”
“I wanted to write songs with my regular band, and I thought it would be fun to perform this during this event. Same with the Rozich tunes. He’s a good friend of mine, and he makes me stretch myself musically to a style I’m not accustomed to. He’s more of a heavy metal musician, and I have little experience with that. It’s been fun working with him,” he said.
Snyder-Barker also pulls the guitar-driven, rock-tastic “Godsparrow” from his musical archives for Bark & the Pack. Originally written nearly 30 years ago, spirited a cappella harmonies, roaring electric guitars, thumping drums, banging cymbals and groovy bass resurrect this track about finding true love. Together, Snyder-Barker and his bandmates sing, “For the first time in my life/I felt the sunshine touch my face/She will shelter me from tomorrow/As the thoughts of love await.”
Outside of his new tracks, Snyder-Barker celebrates past fan favorites from his extensive solo catalog, including 2017’s Bark’s Wagon Tales. The band breathes new life into the vigorous Bark & the Pack’s live versions of “Deaf in One Eye,” “I Could Fly to Phoenix,” “Universal Sunshine,” and “I Ain’t Got No Time.”
“I wanted to highlight the vocals performed by the other guys and hear them sing on the songs I have written. Those songs seem to fit. They have become higher energy and more rocking. In live performances, the other guys sing those tunes rather than me,” Snyder-Barker said.
Pack Leader to Whoa Storyteller
While leading a close-knit live music six-pack, Snyder-Barker doubles as a reflective, multi-genre storyteller on Bark’s Tales of Whoa. Released earlier this year, the eclectic eight-track album weaves introspective anecdotes about road trip adventures, affluent struggles, carefree lifestyles, nostalgic family vacations and dogged perseverance.
“I started out by having a couple of leftover songs that I didn’t include on Bark’s Wagon Tales, which had 15 songs. I had a couple of songs that I didn’t record, and that’s what started this project. I have about 40 or 50 sets of lyrics ready for music,” he said.
Snyder-Barker collaborated with Roof at Grand Blanc’s Rooftop Recording to record and produce Bark’s Tales of Whoa in 2019. As his second solo album, the project beautifully segues from rockabilly toe-tappers to ‘70s-inspired soft rock gems to twangy country ditties to blazing blues anthems to soaring proggy closers.
One of his most fetching tales includes “Old U.S. 12,” a Laurel Canyon-like track that peacefully glides along familiar roads of opportunity. Gleaming electric guitars, delicate acoustic strums, light drums, jubilant piano and mellow bass steer listeners along a vintage two-lane highway.
Snyder-Barker recalls, “Driving down on U.S. 12/It was a rainy night/A million miles from yesterday/A million miles from now/Who remembers all the stops/The road is sometimes hard/Wanting to get home, to get home.”
“I was actually driving to an open mic in Saline at Brewed Awakenings, and the song just kind of came to me. It was raining out, and it inspired the creation of the song. I do spend a lot of time on U.S. 12 driving from Tecumseh to anywhere really. It is probably the road I spend the most time on,” he said.
Snyder-Barker’s musical jaunts also head south on “Lost in Virginia,” a hypnotic folk-rock ode to enchanting wanderlust along life’s winding road. Throaty bass, bouncy electric guitars, steady drums and whistling synths celebrate a carefree, fate-driven lifestyle as Snyder-Barker sings, “I was lost in the mountains/Lost in harmony/Tell me now/How can I go on?/I might get lost in Virginia/Lost comin’ home at night/Lost under the moonlight/Lost under the stars tonight.”
“My family and I have had several vacations in Virginia, both on the beach and in the mountains. It seemed that the mountain trips were the most laid back and relaxing. It was just nice to be out in nature camping and hanging out. The words seem to flow from those experiences. Sometimes I would like to just be lost in the mountains and forget all the hustle and bustle of daily life,” he said.
After Virginia road trips, Bark’s Tales of Whoa magically reaches its final destination on the eight-minute prog rock masterpiece, “Until the End.” Intermittent drum taps, lingering glistening synths, crashing cymbals, captivating classical guitar, vivid electric strums and mesmeric flute surround Snyder-Barker.
He calmly sings, “Chasing my tail/But find I just can’t reach it/Running a race that’s designed to lose/Patience is a virtue/Hard to employ/Demand for peace is lost in the war/Honesty is rarely rewarded/While the virtueless is inconsequence.”
“I have been a huge fan of prog rock bands from when I first was introduced to Pink Floyd, Kansas, some Alice Cooper and Frank Zappa music all way to King Crimson, Genesis and Yes. I can sometimes play in odd time signatures on the drums; however, I cannot sing and play the odd time signatures. It’s too much to concentrate on, so I thought I would construct a song that fit the genre. I like the idea of playing an eight-minute-plus song that just built to the end,” he said.
From the Beginning
A Detroit native, Snyder-Barker found his musical groove while attending Adrian College. At the time, he took $100 from his student loans to purchase his first drum set and became a DJ at the college radio station, WVAC-FM (107.9).
“While I was growing up, I was banned from playing any instruments because the gentleman I refer to as my donor was a musician. My mother didn’t want me to follow in those footsteps, and of course I was drawn to the drums because I was told I couldn’t,” Snyder-Barker said.
As an aspiring drummer and DJ, Snyder-Barker studied the eclectic drumming styles of Bill Bruford, John Bonham, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and Charlie Watts. He also met Broski, his longtime musical collaborator and partner in Barker & Broski, while working at the college radio station.
“Chris was in a band, and then the drummer left Adrian College. I was available, and I had never been in a band before. I gave it a shot, and that first band we were in together was called The Albino Zoo,” he said.
After playing in The Albino Zoo, Snyder-Barker and Broski formed Soylent Green with three friends and recorded several tracks in the ‘90s. They later changed the band’s name to the memorable moniker of Edgar Allen’s Toe, but eventually parted ways until 2016.
“I reconnected with Chris because I organize three acoustic stages at the Appleumpkin Festival. I knew Chris liked to play nylon string guitar, so I gave him a call and asked if he wanted to play that. He did, and I joined him on stage just playing cajon. From there, we played covers and started writing originals together,” Snyder-Barker said.
In 2019, the duo released their folk-rock concept album, The Ballad of Billy Bob and Other Generic American Folklore, to share the crazy adventures of Billy Bob. Today, they’re recording the next installment in the Billy Bob album saga while Snyder-Barker works simultaneously on other projects.
“This one is likely to be called The Legacy of Billy Bob Senior and Other Tunes, or something like that. I also have sent scratch tracks to Dave Roof where I used my Zendrum to work out percussion parts and arrangements and added scratch vocals,” Snyder-Barker said.
“We have 10 songs prepared for that, and I expect that it would likely be released in late 2021 or early 2022. I’m looking at calling it Bark & Roof Tales, while Rozich and I are working on new tunes as are The Mighty Rhythm Bandits.”