A rollercoaster of emotions encapsulated in song, the new album from Smut, How the Light Felt, is released today. A far from generic take on the delights of shoegaze, the Chicago via Cincinnati five-piece have created something that feels both melancholic and hopeful at the same time. We caught up with them to chat about their journey so far, favourite places and musical memories…
Hey there, introduce us to Smut – who’s involved and what brought you all together?
Tay: Hello, we are Smut! I am Tay, the singer, Andrew plays guitar, Sam plays guitar and synth, Bell is our bassist and also plays synth, and Aidan is our drummer. Andrew and I started the band a million years ago and Sam was the first to join soon after. Bell joined about 5-6 years ago when we poached her from another band, and Aidan joined the gang last year by sliding into our DMs.
Tell us about the Chicago music scene, venues worldwide seem to be struggling to stay open – how are things there?
Tay: We actually moved to Chicago during the height of the pandemic so we don’t have much perspective on how it was compared to before. As far as we’ve experienced we love playing here and the shows have a high energy and enthusiasm that we definitely missed during lockdown. Sleeping Village is probably up there for me as far as good sound, stage, and space.
And where else would you recommend in the city, where are those places that you wouldn’t find anywhere else?
Andrew: The Music Box Theater is amazing. We all just went and saw Nosferatu with a live band playing an original score. I also want to shout out Taqueria Chingon and Graveface Records/Museum.
You’ve been working with Bayonet Records for a while now, how did that come about?
Bell: A few years ago, we were shopping labels for quite some time and having a really rough go of it. Feeling kind of defeated, I talked (ranted) to one of my old bandmates while at a show we were playing at Elsewhere in Brooklyn. He recommended we reach out to his pal Katie, who co-owns Bayonet. I name dropped him in our submission email to her and the rest is history! I think Bayonet was the perfect fit for us all along, we get along with everybody there so well and really love working with them. I know we’re also all so grateful that they all really believe in us and love our music. It’s a very cool feeling to know you have people in your corner.
The new album How the Light Felt is out today – has it been a long time in the making?
Andrew: Yeah, some of these tracks date back to 2017, and some are as recent as last year! It’s been a hugely eventful couple of years, the worst and best of what life can give; this record really spans that entire period of time.
You deal with some tough subject matter in your songs, is song-writing a cathartic process for you?
Tay: Yeah, I’ve always used writing as a coping mechanism, to be honest. When we started the band it was Andrew who asked me to make music with him because I had so much to say and was constantly writing or ranting about some injustice in the world. I have a lot of passion and no other outlet, so music is my catch all. It gives me control over my emotions.
Tell us about one of the tracks on the album.
Tay: I guess the title track How the Light Felt hasn’t been talked about much. The final version on the record is actually the first demo we recorded of the song and that’s really special to me because it felt like we really captured a bittersweet honest feeling in it that we didn’t even want to try to replicate. And once it was written it made a lot of sense that the album should take the same name because the album as a whole can be summed up in the content of this song. It’s about grieving and loss.
There’s lots of different influences coming through on your songs, what are your early memories of listening to music – at home, in the car, wherever?
Andrew: I grew up in a really musical family, my grandma was a Suzuki instructor and my dad played bass in a ton of great bands in the 80s. My first memory with music is playing Lightly Row on violin with my grandma. I had probably played it a dozen times before, but this time my eyes were closed and I could see these huge, dark blue curtains with homemade silver and gold stars. I didn’t know music could do that, it had been a chore until that moment, When I was in middle school my dad took me to see RHCP, The Police and English Beat and that really solidified it for me.
If you could have any artist cover one of your tracks, who would you opt for?
Andrew: Kids! Like, a not famous kid. I would freak out if I saw a video of someone who took the time to learn one of our songs and post it wherever. I bet Jeff Tweedy would shred a version of How the Light Felt.
And what’s next for Smut – what will 2023 bring?
Andrew: Hopefully a show in every city and more music!
Interview by Siobhan
Photos by Jaycee Rockhold
11th November 2022