Smokey Bastard are currently gearing up to release their new album and will also be heading out on a UK tour next week! We caught up with them to ask them about both.
Can you introduce yourself and tell me a bit about the band?
Thanks for interviewing us! There are 6 of us in the band at the moment – three original members, Chris on mandolin, guitar and vocals, Mike on bass and vocals and Matt on guitar. Then there are the newcomers, Aled on Banjo, guitar and vocals, Tyron on drums and JP on Accordion. The band has been going since 2007 and there have been numerous line up changes, but the current line-up has been stable for nearly 2 years now.
You’re currently getting ready to release your new album Back To The Drawing Room. You reached the goal on your pledge campaign for it in a mere 15 hours – how did that feel?
We were quietly confident that we would reach our target, but we weren’t expecting to hit it that quickly. A lot of people have been very generous and several have been incredibly generous. It’s a strange feeling because we know what the album is like and we are very proud of it, but the people who have given us money for our Pledge Music campaign are going in blind and it’s comforting to think that people have that much faith in us.
Can you describe your writing and recording process for it?
Our writing process is quite sporadic and varies quite a lot. Some songs have one main writer and the rest of us have just helped shape the arrangements, whereas other songs are much more collaborative, with different people writing different sections and bits get added on and moved around. We get bored easily, so we try to make everything difficult for ourselves – any time something is repeated in a song, we try to find a way of making it slightly different from the last time. As there’s so many instruments, it takes quite precise orchestration to make sure everyone has something to do and it all works together.
Recording wise, it was pretty DIY. Aled recorded and editing everything. We paid for 2 days in a studio a few months apart to record the drums and pretty much everything else was recorded in Aled’s flat. We recorded the guitars and bass straight into the computer, then when it was all done, we went to a practice room in an industrial estate in the middle of nowhere and played all the parts back through real amps. When everything was recorded and edited, we had it mixed by Mat Leppanen at The Animal Farm in Bermondsey. It’s not the most glamorous way to record, but we’ve very happy with the results.
Were there any songs that were more of a struggle to get right?
The songs all came together in their own way. Some took a while and went through a lot of changes, others only took a few weeks of honing. The biggest struggle was getting all the songs to work together on the album. In total, I think we wrote about 19 songs and only 10 made the final cut. We had a version of the album finished in the summer of 2014, but on reflection, it was a bit too disparate and wasn’t cohesive as an album, so we carried on writing to try to fill the gaps and define our sound. The last two songs we wrote were Archipelago and Screens, and they ended up being some of our favourites,
Which track are you most proud of?
We all have different favourite songs on the album. I think Rats carries the biggest sense of achievement though. We started writing what would become Rats in the van on the tour for the second album way back in 2011. Over the next year or so, we added some more sections (one of which Matt wrote in a dream), changed some bits around, completely scrapped and re-wrote the chorus and eventually arrived at where it is now.
Any interesting stories from the studio?
Our recording process was spread over quite a long period of time, and for a lot of it, the only people present were the person recording and Aled. Aled seemed to be enjoying himself most of the time, but everyone else found the whole process mind-numbingly tedious. Reamping the guitars was a particularly tedious day – 14 hours of playing back stuff we’d already recorded so we could record it again through a real amp rather than a digital amp modeler. Hopefully it was all worth it.
Additionally, you’re also getting ready to head out on tour. What can fans expect from a Smokey Bastard show?
You’ll hear some of the new album and you’ll hear some old favourites. We’ve been fairly reclusive over the past couple of years while we worked on writing and recording, so we’re raring to get out and play some shows again.
What are you most looking forward to about the tour?
By the time we hit the road, the download version of the album from Pledge Music will be available, so hopefully a few people will have had a chance to listen to it. We’ve been playing some songs from the new album for a couple of years, but there are some songs which no one outside the band has heard. It will be exciting to see which songs people are looking forward to hearing.
Is there anything you’re not looking forward to?
It’s been a long while since we last toured, so most of the bad memories have been wiped clean. I’m sure they’ll come flooding back after a few days of service station pasties.
What would you say the best show you’ve ever played has been?
We’ll played some fantastic shows, but it’s hard to beat a festival crowd. A couple of our favourites have been the Devil Kicks Dancehall stage at Boomtown Fair and Mighty Sounds in the Czech Republic, but there are a lot of other contenders too.
What about the strangest or weirdest?
We once played a gig in an empty warehouse – someone was dressed in lederhosen picking apples which had been nailed to the walls. The whole place looked like we’d stumbled into a David Lynch film. That was pretty weird.
And finally what’s in store for the band in 2016?
More touring, more festivals, more music videos. 2016 is our oyster.
Buy the new album from here.
Thu 12 Nov – Sub89, Reading, UK
Sat 14 Nov – The Stag and Hounds, Bristol, UK
Sun 15 Nov – Exile, Plymouth, UK
Mon 16 Nov – Boileroom, Guildford, UK
Tue 17 Nov – Lady Luck, Canterbury, UK
Wed 18 Nov – The Islington, London, UK
Thu 19 Nov – Mk11, Milton Keynes, UK
Sat 21 Nov – The Phoenix Bar, High Wycombe, UK
Sun 22 Nov – The Owl Sanctuary, Norwich, UK
Thu 26 Nov – Leopard, Doncaster, UK
Sat 12 Dec – The Cornerhouse, Cambridge, UK