To say I were pleasantly surprised when Kyle Melton sent us an advance copy of Smug Brothers new album “Disco Maroon”, would be an understatement.
I wanted to know more about the new album, but also wanted to get some of the backstory on the band. Through the wonders of modern technology, we chatted about many smug-like things. This included the differences between Hi-Fi, Lo-Fi and the Smug Brothers‘ Mid-Fi sound.
The band is comprised of Kyle Melton (vocals/guitar), Larry Evans (bass/vocals), Brian Baker (guitar) and Don Thrasher (drums).
So, I picked up the phone and dialed Kyle’s number. None of this texting or email stuff for us. Oh, no. Like cavemen, we actually talked with each other. And, it was good. Plus, how can you not like a band whose official beer is Genesee Cream Ale? The New Yorker in me is smiling ear-to-ear at learning this fact.
But first, we must delve into the history of all things smug.
“It originally started as a side project of another band I was in at the time, Montgomery Green,” said Melton. “Darryl Robbins, who’s played with Motel Beds, he and I were both in that band and we just wanted to do something outside of that scope. So, we started this thing called Smug Brothers in late 2004.
“We put out our first record, ‘Buzzmounter’ in 2005. It kind of sat there for a couple of years, and then Don (Thrasher) joined in early 2008. Brian (Baker) joined in 2009, and we went through a few different bass players over the years. Our current bass player, Larry Evans, joined in 2013.”
Guided By Voices is the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of the Lo-Fi, Dayton sound. Really, it’s okay to think that. But, Smug Brothers have a more polished sound than GbV, hence the “Mid-Fi” moniker.
“I copped that off of Guided By Voices,” he continued. “Their early stuff is all Lo-Fi, four-track stuff. We were doing some of that, but even when we were doing a lot of four track stuff, we would still take it to a studio, put the four-track stuff on a computer and add more that way. It’s not Hi-Fi and it’s not a super-glossy product. We’re not really that Lo-Fi.
“I mean, I love that stuff, but we don’t want to do that all the time. So, we kind of split the difference. It’s kind of a joke… Mid-Fi. I don’t even know what that is.”
And yet, that term really does fit the sound they have. To get the more polished sound on their new album, they hooked-up with Micah Carli at Popside Studios in Troy, OH.
“Micah had a studio up in Troy (OH),” Melton said. “He found this space and I saw some of these other local Dayton bands that were going up there. I liked how they sounded, so we contacted him.
“We did (A Minute For) Ruby Skate (2015) with him, just to kind of test the waters and see what we thought. We were like ‘Yeah, he’s great to work with. Let’s do the next record with him.’ So, it was a no-brainer.”
That collaboration yielded their most solid album, to date. Although I enjoy the entire band’s catalog, “Disco Maroon” (available March 31) is a sonically wonderful journey.
Ed. – We’re reviewing “Disco Maroon” March 21
I was curious as to where Kyle thought the album fit in the band’s numerous offerings, as they have released 10 full-length and EP’s since their genesis.
“It’s just where we are now,” he said. “I think it definitely carries forward a lot of the stuff we’ve always done. There’s always the hooks, but there’s always a little bit of weirdness in the songwriting that maybe… throws a few people.
“On this one, there’s a little bit more acoustic stuff than previous releases. So, that’s kind of new. I think it’s just us pushing forward, again, like we try to do with every record. I don’t want to keep doing what we’ve already done.”
Although they want to explore their sound, they do pay homage to their roots with an underlying feeling of quirkiness.
They’re releasing the new album on Gas Daddy Go Records, which Thrasher started when he was playing drums in Guided By Voices. Melton goes on to explain a bit of the history with this label.
“That’s our label. Don started Gas Daddy Go Records in 1989. He put out a bunch of Dayton stuff for four or five years. When we put out the ‘Treasure Virgins’ EP (2011), we put it on the Gas Daddy Go label.”
Their current lineup has an obvious chemistry and a tight sound that Melton is really enjoying.
“This is definitely the most solid lineup we’ve had,” he said. “Nothing against the other bassists we’ve had; they were both great. But Larry has been like… ‘oh, the fourth side of this thing is here now.’ So, it’s complete and works together.
“From ‘Woodpecker Paradise’, the first one that Larry was on, it was pretty obvious rather quickly that this was a whole new style of playing for us, and it was great. I think we’ve kind of developed our sound a bit more on this one (Disco Maroon).”
With Melton and Baker living in Columbus, while Evans and Thrasher still live in Dayton, practicing on a regular basis presents challenges. Although, they do manage to get together once a week on the weekends.
Delving back into the new album, I asked is there are any tracks on “Disco Maroon” that Melton is singularly proud of.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “I’m proud of all of them for different reasons. I think Hang Up is a great pop number. I think Skin of the Most Perfect Cheetah is a definite departure, for me, with a bit of a ‘proggy’ thing going on. Concentration Lawns is a great rocker.
“But, I really like Amplifying Sigh, because it has some cool changes in it that I haven’t done before. And, I claimed the bass on that one. I’m a huge Paul McCartney fan, so every once in a while, I’m like ‘Let me do my Paul thing here.’ Larry tunes his bass weird, so I’m like… where are the notes I’m looking for?”
This elicited laughs from both of us. Although the new album took almost two years from genesis to release, Melton said they have a lot of new music and to expect new material in the near future on the heels of the “Disco Maroon” release.
“We’ll keep doing it, as long as it makes sense for us to keep doing it. We still have tons of fun when we get together. We’ll do some shows, get out of town a bit, make another record and keep going until it doesn’t make sense anymore.
“I mean, we’re not going to get rich doing this, so we better be having a lot of fun. And, we are. That’s what matters.”
He is indeed correct, as having fun with what you are doing is what matters.
I, for one, hope they continue to have fun making music long into the future. Maybe I’m just a bit selfish, but I want to hear more from the band.
We reviewed their show at the Big Room Bar in Columbus HERE.
Disco Maroon is available March 31.
Smug Brothers – They Are Fluid