04 May 2011

[interview] Smith Westerns

Within the first couple weeks of this year, Chicago youngsters Smith Westerns put out what is sure to be considered one of the best albums of 2011. Dye It Blonde perfectly exemplifies that bridge between the late teenage years and the early twenties with its jangly guitar glam rock.

Tomorrow, Thursday the 5th, the band will be playing a JazzFest after show at One Eyed Jacks with Bass Drum of Death and Brass Bed. Doors are at 8. Art/Official spoke with Smith Westerns’ co-founding member and guitarist Max Kakacek about the band’s recording process, being on tour with Wilco, and what they think of New Orleans.

art/official: How did you guys first get together?
Max Kakacek: We were just childhood friends. I met Cameron (bassist) and Cullen (guitarist) in high school, and we started playing music together.

a/o: For someone who has never heard your music before, can you give a firsthand description of it?
MK: What we try to do is make really catchy guitar pop that’s a little more complex than just straight up pop music, but at the same time keep the listener reeled in. We take ideas from all kinds of guitar bands that have existed over the past 30 years or so like any classic rock from the 70’s like David Bowie, southern rock bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd even, 90’s bands like Oasis, Smashing Pumpkins, Teenage Fanclub, and combining them into our own thing.

a/o: What was the inspiration for the title of your most recent album, Dye It Blonde?
MK: It comes from the last song off the album. Cullen had a lyric for it, and we all thought it sounded really good. It was short, sweet, and classic.

a/o: It seems like everyone received that album extremely well. Do you guys feel more successful after having released it?
MK: I think we all feel pretty good, but I don’t think there’s any kind of complacency. We’re just motivated to do more.

a/o: How was its recording and writing process different from that of your self-titled debut that came out in 2009?
MK: The writing process was similar. Cullen and I pretty much write all the songs half and half, and record them on to our computers to make demos of parts of songs and then combine them later on. The recording process for the second one was different. We had a much bigger budget to work with so we got to go into the studio with a producer. We really lucked out with Chris Coady (TV On The Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grizzly Bear, Beach House, Massive Attack) who helped with lots of sounds on the record. This is compared to the first record where we just did it in my basement with a tape recorder and a 4-track.

a/o: Do you think any kind of collaboration could come out of your tour with Wilco?
MK: We’re just about to meet up with them. It’d be pretty cool — two Chicago bands working together. I have no idea, though. I’m really looking forward to just sharing a bill with them, and am really flattered they liked us enough to take us on tour with them. I hope we can develop some sort of mutual respect where we can talk to each other and hang out a little bit.

a/o: What’s been your experience with playing shows in New Orleans in the past?
MK: We played one other show there a while ago with Magic Kids and Girls. It was really cool. We had a couple days to stay in New Orleans. We drank lots of hurricanes [laughs].

a/o: What are your next steps and future plans?
MK: After this tour, we’re going on another tour with Yeasayer for about three weeks. We’re playing some festivals, and then we have time off in the summer.

Watch the video for "Weekend," Dye It Blonde's awesome lead single:

Watch a mini-documentary on the band:

Article and Interview Composed and Conducted by: Connor Crawford

No comments: