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Look OUT! – The Smoke

April 8, 2009

thesmoke

I haven’t done one of these in a while, basically because I haven’t been able to trick any bands into wanting to do this, or because they have really crappy ‘people’. I was sent the Smoke’s debut single, ‘Defeat Retreat’ a little while ago, dug it. I bought their album last week, dug it. So I wondered if they would be interested in answering a few questions about themselves. Guitarist Luke Cartwright was kind enough to ease my curiosity!

1.      Who are the Smoke, and how did it all begin?

The members of The Smoke are best friends or, in the case of our two
multi-instrumentalists, brothers. We’ve always played music together,
but we didn’t think we had a singer amongst us to form a band. Then
Dane started writing songs, and he really wailed on them. So we
started writing songs, lots of them, and recording demos. We thought
we were good enough to make an album, without having ever played a
gig. And that’s what we did. We made our live debut at Ding Dong in
January, after we’d already released a single and had nearly finished
the album. It was risky, but we have an album and we’re very happy
about it.

2.       Have any of you been in bands before? What was it that
brought you five together?

Dane and Daniel played together on synths and guitar in a new wave
outfit, and I played in an alt-country band with Ryan (drummer).
Leigh has been in about 45 fictitious bands. One of those bands
recorded a live album called Live At Sheetland. They recorded features
crowd noises but in reality, Sheetland was his living room, draped
with bedsheets, and only his mum was there.

These bands we were in previously were like apprenticeships for us.
The Smoke is our statement.

3.       ‘Blood Orange’ has this happy, light hearted appeal
initially, but throughout it I definitely notice some snide
undertones, what were some of the inspirations for the album?

Hardship. Ever noticed no one wants to hear a happy tale? Tragic
stories are much more entertaining. There’s tragedy all over this
record and that’s why. Some of these tales are purely fictional, but
some of them really happened.

4.       What, in general, inspires the music you make?

There are things happening to every one of us all the time, that would
make great songs. When you’re a musician you wait for those moments
and when they come, you write. I have just written a new song about
these huge goldfish I saw in a pond in the middle of the city in
Sydney. Someone told me that goldfish grow as big as their
surroundings will let them. I thought that fact was fairly amazing. So
the song is about a wild night in Sydney, and giant goldfish. That one
is gonna go platinum.

5.      How long did you spend in the studio, and was it an experience you
enjoyed? How does it compare to playing live?

We recorded everything but drums in my bedroom, and the whole process
of writing, recording and mixing took 6 months. We all work full time
jobs, so we’d come home and record until we could no longer keep our
eyes open. We enjoyed the process of slowly banging the tracks into
shape.

Daniel had this theory that the big-shot producers and engineers
record these beautifully clean individual tracks, but they combine to
make very clinical songs.
We decided that ugly sounds could be combined to make interesting,
organic music more reflective of our lives. We recorded with the worst
microphones we could find, and recorded instruments the wrong way,
deliberately.

6.       Your debut single, ‘Defeat Retreat’ has received a lot of
praise from various press and radio stations; did you ever think
people would take to the song as quickly as they have?

We thought it was good, but honestly we had no idea anyone would like
any of these songs. Our friends we quite excited about it, so that was
encouraging.

7.       What can people expect (or unexpect) from the Smoke’s live
performance?

Dane dances like a go-go dancer on crack. The rest of us just bash the
fuck out of whatever piece of wood or metal we’re holding.

8.       What can you tell me about the instruments you play, any brand
loyalty?

Dane bought a $75 Chinese stratocaster copy from Ebay. It’s called a
Feeling. It’s extremely light and apparently one of its ingredients is
corn starch.  It’s all over the record and it sounds suitably bad. The
rhythm guitar on Good Morning Jack is one good example. We’re hooked
on that Feeling.

Daniel and Leigh play their late father’s bass from the 60s. I play a
Gibson.

9.       How has your music evolved from when the Smoke started to
what we here on ‘Blood Orange’ today?

We went down a few different avenues as far as our sound went. In the
beginning, I was gangbusters for rockabilly. Dane and Daniel were
getting crazy with their collection of analogue synths, which we
barely even used in the end. The album has a few different styles on
it, and I guess that’s us experimenting. And even though it varies, we
think there’s a certain attitude common in all the album’s songs.

10.   You guys are unsigned, did that make it difficult to get your
album out there, or was it easier, having no strings?

It’s not difficult being an indie band if you’re in it to make music.
I guess if we hoped to make money, we’d be fairly frustrated right
now. Having "no strings" has been amazing for us on a musical level
because our sound isn’t diluted by producers, or A&R guys or whoever
else.

11.   Other than The Smoke, what are some bands we should be looking out
for?

There’s a band called Marblearchie. They’re from Melbourne, and we are
very big fans, they’ve got a very cool, lazy style. The Alcorettes
too. They write pop songs about driving on acid. Lastly, I work with
Alex from Aleks & The Ramps (yes, he spells his name differently when
he fronts the band), and I can’t wait for their new album.

12.   Last of all, what is next for you guys?

We plan on playing live as much as possible, travelling and meeting
other bands. We have started thinking about a second album, which is
exciting.

The Smoke on MySpace
The Smoke on Triple J Unearthed

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