Monday, January 30, 2012

The Smoking Hearts

THE SMOKING HEARTS’ new voiceBEN MILLS talks to Rachel Barnesabout the band’s fight for survival after their lead singer abandoned them.

After the departure of their original lead singer Rod Lethal, UK punks The Smoking Hearts refused to let their fire die out. The boys never actually got an explanation from Lethal as to why he left and have since taken it into their own hands to make a few up for him. For example – despite his sudden exodus, the band all wish him well with his new peacock farm. The peacock-less Smoking Hearts have pushed on without Lethal and have never felt stronger. Their new lead singer Ben Mills says that the change has only been good for the band, and that Lethal’s abandonment actually empowered them. “It got better, that’s for sure,” Mills laughs. “I think as a band we gelled so well and we all came together. We’re a unit, we’re a team, and it feels good.”

Reinforced and ready, The Smoking Hearts are getting set to release their much-anticipated second album, Victory! When Lethal departed, the band still had songs in their heads that they refused to let go of, so the album was born out of pure stubbornness. With only one song finished in full when Mills joined, the boys came together to produce the band’s best work yet. “A lot of hard work went into this album and a lot of tears have been shed over the fact that it might never have happened,” Mills says. “I think we all agree that we have done something brilliant here and we’re so proud of what we have done and we hope everyone else is proud too.”

Ready to share their new sound and new songs with the world, the boys are coming to Australia to play Soundwave and could not be more excited. Calvin Roffey is the only member to ever visit our shores, and needless to say the rest of the band is eager to set foot in the southern hemisphere. “I’m pre-tanning,” Mills jokes. “I can’t wait, it’s in my nature, I’m from Essex,” he says, sounding like a child at Christmas. “I might actually get to hug a Koala,” he laughs, “but I’ve already decided that I want to get a tattoo of a kangaroo with boxing gloves on while I’m in Australia ... I just need to find someone to do it.”

Despite the thrill of a new tattoo, Mills is more excited to hit the stage and show Australia just what The Smoking Hearts have been up to. Having to keep their notorious guitar smashing to a minimum due to a lack of access to new equipment while playing Soundwave, the boys promise their shows will still be just as exciting. “Audience participation is definitely something we like to get involved in, we like everyone to be singing along, clapping along, jumping up and down, and having a good time, and if you don’t look like you’re having a good time we will make you have a good time,” he laughs.

The band’s world domination continues past Australia as they are set to hit the U.S straight after our summer. Though they aren’t down here for very long, don’t worry, they’ll be back – Mills promises he won’t be starting a peacock farm of his own anytime soon.

THE SMOKING HEARTS play the sold out Soundwave Festival at the RNA Showgrounds on Saturday Feb 25. VICTORY! is out Feb 17 through 3Wise/Sony. See for more.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Stillsons

Melbourne based band THE STILLSONS are braving the heat and starting 2012 off with what they’ve dubbed the Mammoth Summer Tour. Singer, songwriter, percussionist, and all round nice girl CAT CANTERI talks to RACHEL BARNES about the band’s eclectic and sometimes surprising style.

With their latest album Earnest being named album of the week by radio stations and publications all over the place, The Stillsons unique, non-genre-specific approach to music is getting them some well deserved attention. From bankruptcy scares that threatened to shut the band down through to line up changes that massively impacted their sound, they have been through it all. Now touring as a four-piece, The Stillsons are stronger than ever with a sound that seems to have become even more eclectic. Stepping away from the indie folk idiom of their first album Circus, The Stillsons second effort, Earnest, moves towards a more roots-country-blues base. The band’s plethora of personal influences have helped them in this sonic evolution. “We all listen really widely to lots of different kinds of music, so I think the music just comes out the way it comes out. We don’t sort of intend for any particular genre at any time,” Canteri says.

With the album is now out and getting great reviews, The Stillsons are very far from being still. The band have spent the lead up to their tour in Melbourne preparing for a jam-packed summer by rehearsing in 40 degree heat without air-conditioning. “It’s pretty sticky and smelly, but you gotta do what you gotta do,” Canteri laughs.

The band tour with a fourth member, bassist Edmondo Ammendola, leaving Canteri outnumbered three to one in the gender stakes while on the road. Canteri doesn’t seem fazed by being the only girl on tour, and only realises her plight when there is another female close by. “When there’s another woman around it’s like, ‘Oh, this is what it’s like to talk to a woman, I’ve almost forgotten what it was like,’” she laughs.

Girls or no girls, Canteri says she appreciates every aspect of being in the band and especially loves touring because she is able to interact with different audiences and fans each night. “I suppose at the end of the day it’s really just about connecting with people (and) I really enjoy that process.”

The Mammoth Summer tour is one full-on way to kick off the new year, but the band are eager to play gigs all over the east coast at the peak of summer. “We’re all pumped for it,” Canteri enthuses. “We’re all really excited and really pumped to get out on the road and play some good shows and meet some new people.” Fans can expect a load of new material at the shows, ranging from funky and up-tempo beats to a taste of rock & roll. “There’s some really fresh stuff that we’re really excited to pump out and get some people dancing.”

Despite having so much new material in the bank, The Stillsons are taking their time to showcase their scope on tour and don’t plan on rushing into a new album. “We’re just going to take it easy and see how it goes. I think we’re all going to know when it’s the right time to record,” Canteri says. “Before you know it we’ll probably be in the studio again,” she laughs.

THE STILLSONS play Byron’s beach Hotel on Wednesday Jan 18; The Royal Mail Hotel, Ipswich, on Saturday Jan 21; Earth Sun Markets, Brisbane, on Sunday Jan 22 (morning); The Cave, Nobby Beach, on Monday Jan 23; and The Palmy CafĂ©, Gold Coast, on Tuesday Jan 24. They also play two secret shows – one in Byron on Thursday Jan 19 and one in Brisbane on Thursday Jan 26; details EARNEST is out