Another day in paradise

Smug Brothers celebrate release of new album at Blind Bob’s

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Smug Brothers, Woodpecker Paradise; Gas Daddy Go! Records; cover image: rawers

Lo-fi indie rock might seem like an outdated concept relegated to the 1990s heyday when bands such as Pavement, Beat Happening and Sebadoh were taking their home recorded four-track antics to the top of the college radio charts.

Fast forward about 20 years and there are still bands embracing the lo-fi and home recorded aesthetic and fans who love the raw intimacy of bands who can rock, no matter how big their recording budget. Dayton has been seen as a cornerstone of lo-fi indie rock thanks to bands like Guided by Voices and Swearing at Motorists, and one of the few bands carrying that flag into the 2000s is Smug Brothers. With the upcoming release of their newest full-length album, Woodpecker Paradise, they hoist that flag just as high as ever, entering the tenth year of the band’s existence.

Like a lot of lo-fi, home-recorded bands, Smug Brothers began in 2005 as a mere recording project for Smug Brothers songwriter and guitarist Kyle Melton – long before any inklings of full fledged band.

“The band was originally a side project of Darryl Robbins (current guitarist for Motel Beds) and I, who were both in Montgomery Greene at the time,” Melton said. “We started working on recordings and put out Buzzmounter in 2004. In late 2007, we set to work on new material and Don Thrasher joined us and contributed the majority of drums.”

“Between 2005 and 2009, Smug Brothers was a recording project, not a real band,” Thrasher said. “The recording approach was for Kyle and me to lay down the basic tracks for a bunch of songs on a four-track cassette machine, then pull from the best songs when it’s time for a release, do overdubs and unleash the finished product on the world. Using that approach, the band has released three full-lengths and three EPs.”

Indeed, Smug Brothers have been able to crank out a considerable amount of music with somewhat unorthodox methods in a relatively small window of time. Along the way, Melton and Thrasher decided they wanted to have an actual band that could perform their songs live on stage. So they recruited help from many friends, including Melton’s former Montgomery Greene conspirators Marc Betts and Jason Short. Currently, Smug Brothers features guitarist Brian Baker and bassist Larry Evans in addition to Melton and Thrasher, and this lineup makes the duo feel confident and stable.

“For me the highlight lately is just having a solid, functioning band for the past couple of years,” Thrasher said. “We’ve always had good bass players, but they always had a lot of other things going on. While Larry is as busy as any of us, he always finds time to work on material on his own time. Kyle has a backlog of songs and continues to write more, so having Larry stay on point is helping us be more productive.”

Following the release of the group’s most recent releases in early 2014, Strictly Triggers and On the Way to the Punchline, Smug Brothers began recording demos for songs that would eventually populate a new release. The band amassed a mind-boggling 30-some songs for consideration throughout the year. A chance opportunity presented itself for the band to fast track some of those demos into the Woodpecker Paradise EP that will see release on Gas Daddy Go! Records Saturday night. It’s the very first Smug Brothers recording to feature all four active members performing live on disc.

“Darryl and I were talking last summer and I mentioned I’d given the guys a lot of demos recently,” Melton said, “so I sent him a batch of 35 and he picked nine he wanted to work on with us in a very quick manner. We did one rehearsal then recorded all the songs live in two sessions with minimal overdubs. It was all done pretty quickly, but there is a good urgency to it as a result.”

Urgent is an apt term to describe the songs and performance on Woodpecker Paradise – the songs are played with lots of zip and energy, and that energy is just as infectious to the listener as are the simple, but catchy, guitar riffs that propel this short but plentiful nine-song disc. While Woodpecker Paradise isn’t all that lo-fi, musically it sits just fine alongside newer releases from similarly music-minded Dayton rockers like Robert Pollard and Joseph Airport – short songs that rock and run out of steam before you do.

And if the brevity of the EP leaves you craving more, don’t worry – Smug Brothers have preliminary recordings already down on tape for another EP. In the meantime, Smug Brothers will be ready to rock Saturday at Blind Bob’s and savor the flavor of yet another musically successful venture in their ongoing recording saga.

“I think, and others who have heard it agree, that this is the best thing we’ve done yet,” Thrasher said. “Musicians always say that, and it’s obviously what you hope for, but I think it’s true. I’m extremely proud of the work we did.”

Smug Brothers will celebrate the release of Woodpecker Paradise with a performance Saturday, Feb. 21 at Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth St. Human Cannonball and Forage are also on the bill. Admission is $5 for patrons 21 and over. Doors open at 8 p.m. For more information, please visit smugbrothers.bandcamp.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer
Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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