So Smith Westerns are back with a new record – the great Soft Will - it’s all shimmering hooks and heaven-sent guitars swimming in a 70′s Summer sun. We hooked up with frontman Cullen Omori to talk about all things Smith Westerns.
Bowlegs: Have you been feeling the pressure after the success of Dye it Blonde – was the atmosphere in the studio different, more aware that you had a definite audience waiting to hear what comes next?
Cullen: No, there was never any pressure to make a “hit record” or anything. We approached the songwriting much in the same way we always have. There was, however, an awareness that at least some people would be listening to this record which was something that wasn’t the case when we were making Dye It Blonde. But it never really materialized into us trying to cater to these listeners we just wrote organically like usual.
Bowlegs: Your guitars are sounding as great as ever on this record – is their sound a starting point for the recording process?
Cullen: I think it always just occurs organically. Max knows what guitar sounds he likes and tries to challenge himself to extract even better sounds out of himself on each record.
Bowlegs: Would you say there is a lyrical theme to this record – you’ve had a crazy few years since Dye It Blonde – are those experiences/emotions part of this record?
Cullen: Yeah I think the experiences between each album always influences the next one. Dye It Blonde was a really great but exhausting experience. Lyrically I began to move away from love songs and started writing more confessionally. Disillusion was a theme that was discussed a lot in Soft Will. We were finally making a career off of doing what we loved but at times touring can make loving music hard.
Bowlegs: Could you name a few bands that you believe are responsible for the creation of Smith Westerns – artists that pushed you into picking up an instrument and writing music?
Cullen: Roxy Music, XTC, CCR, Led Zeppelin, Syd Barrett, Electric Eels, Guns N Roses, The Replacements, Buzzcocks
Bowlegs: I read that you’ve been able to give up the day job – that must be a buzz – you are now a full time musician! Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night thinking “This could all end tomorrow, what am I gonna do!”? Not that I am being negative or anything!
Cullen: I mean I think doubt comes with anything you do in life. Being a musician for us is especially surprising because we started this band with no intention of going full time. We decided we would dedicate ourselves and tour for a year and take some time off school and four years later we’re still going strong. So for something that started off as a way to hang out and create, it has come a long way.
Bowlegs: My personal favourite track on this record is Fool Proof – do you each have your favourites? Were there arguments over the track-listing and even which songs made the cut?
Cullen: Usually we decide on the songs that are going to be on the album before ever stepping foot inside the studio. We seldom ever go in with more songs than we need or cut songs as we go. Of course, everyone has their favorites and the songs that they are the most attached to but we try to give each song the proper amount of attention.
Bowlegs: I have iPods and computers overloaded with music – but if I really love something I go buy it on vinyl, it then feels separate and more important than just megabytes. How do you organise your collection – still like the physical side of buying new records?
Cullen: Buy what you love. I usually buy classic albums that have always been in my life for posterity.
Bowlegs: The album reviews will start rolling in soon – is that something you get excited about – anxious about?
Cullen: I’ve learned to enjoy the good reviews and not put too much weight on the bad ones. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion or interpretation of what we’ve made but I don’t let any views either negative or positive really sway my songwriting.
Bowlegs: When you are in the studio and recording a track do you consider how it will come across live if you keep piling on extra instruments/sounds/effects?
Cullen: No way, we always record to make the songs sound as layered and lush as possible. Recreating the songs live can be a challenge sometimes but it’s a really cool exercise trying to match the sound of record with the live sound of the band.
Bowlegs: Finally what records have you been spinning of late – anything that is really doing it for you at the moment
Cullen: Wampire’s new album, we’re taking them on tour for our US run later in July.
-Interview by Sophia Ward-