Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Mar 2nd 2011 4:30PM by Emily Tan
Fat Possum Records
Before heading off to Austin, guitarist and singer Cullen Omori talked with Spinner about why he doesn't consider himself a musician, and how the standout track 'Weekend' almost didn't make the new album.
How did the band get together?
I've known Cameron ever since he was born. He's my brother. I met Max in school when I was about 15 or 16, and we started playing music.
What's the story behind the band name, Smith Westerns?
It's something that came up when we first started and were playing around. The name, Smith Westerns, has been around since I was 16. It's supposed to be a neutral kind of name. Sometimes I think people think that it has a Midwestern kind of draw, which I originally thought of, but I think it's good that it has become the music now. It's a very neutral and unsuspecting word, like other band names.
How did Chicago influence your music?
We never really lived anywhere else, but it was really just us digging through stuff and finding stuff online. Maybe there is a scene in Chicago, but we don't really live that much in Chicago. We're never there. I don't really know what's going on. The couple of bands we're friends with, we didn't have much musically in common with them. We hung out with and played shows with them when we first started, but they have all broken up.
Your music has been compared to the likes of David Bowie, T.Rex and the bands on the 'Nuggets' compilations. What drew you to these retro sounds?
We weren't trying to make anything old or a retro-sounding record. The idea was that we wanted to make a timeless record that had an older sound but at the same time stood on its own. For me, when I wrote my parts of the song, I just approached it with what pop songs I liked and trying to figure out how I can make something that would be really poppy. They're very guitar-driven. There was a lot of very influential guitar stuff going on in the '70s, so if it has a '70s spin to it, then that's maybe why.
Who are your influences?
There's no one person that that's the only person we worship. I tend to listen to music really intensely and listen to a genre or decade until I'm extremely bored with it and move on to something else. But for me, I've been an Oasis fan for a long time. I liked Oasis when I was little, and I like them now when I'm older.
Like the Gallaghers in Oasis, you play with your brother. What are the ups and downs of being in a band with a sibling?
We get along, and there's a lot of people in our touring party so you can talk to other people. We don't have a Gallagher-brother thing going on.
What was the first song or band that turned you into a music lover?
That band Fastball was really influential to me when I was younger, just because it was Top 40 but at the same time was kind of guitar-y. 'The Way' was a really good song.
You were initially a drummer, then you taught yourself to play guitar. Were there any guitarists you watched or songs you listened to while learning how to play the instrument?
Not really. When I was playing drums and started playing guitar, it was more like getting all the different types of chords and chord variations. I'm really bad at just sitting there and playing guitar. I kind of learn the chords from the songs I like, then figure out the structure and mimic that. [Songs like that are] the very first material we ever released, and it sounds nothing like our band now. It's almost a separate band completely, and pretty much the first songs I ever played were the songs I wrote.
When did you realize that you were going to be a musician?
I don't know. When I think "musician," I think someone practicing the violin for hours on end. I guess it hasn't really sunk in. I mean, I'm just playing guitar, and I'm not thinking too much of making some massive opus.
What's the song 'Weekend' about?
That was a throwaway song. We weren't going to use it, and then we needed 10 songs. We built that song up -- I think it was the most production-heavy song -- and really worked it in the studio, compared to the live version of it.
Smith Westerns went from recording songs in Max's basement to playing stages all over the place. Was this what you were hoping or expecting to accomplish when the band started?
As far as expectations and how things are going to go, we're on a growing basis, where you get to one point then think, "Wouldn't it be cool if that happened?" We're very much just going in steps. When we started, there was no way I'd think we'd be able to play to as many people as we are now. The shows that we're playing now are really great. They're packed every night. And just opening for MGMT, I would have never thought that was a possibility when the band first started.
Catch Smith Westerns' SXSW Set on Wednesday, March 16 at Stubb's (801 Red River St.) 10:15PM.
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