Smut ‘How the Light Felt’ Interview: Indie Mixtape 20

Five-piece shoegazers Smut are big on nostalgia. That becomes more than clear while spinning their latest album How The Light Felt, a smoldering project underscored throwback influences like Gorillaz, Oasis, and Massive Attack.

Diving deeper, it’s understandable why Smut leaned into the sentimentality on their sophomore album. The band, composed of vocalist Tay Roebuck, guitarist Andrew Min, bassist/synthist Bell Cenower, guitarist/synthist Sam Ruschman, and drummer Aidan O’Connor, have been through a lot. Roebuck immersed herself in music following the tragic passing of her sister in 2017, pouring a range of complicated emotions like grief and acceptance into music. Songs like “After Silver Leaves” and “Let Me Hate” combine the ethereal quality of a bands like Cocteau Twins with the upbeat wistfulness of Alvvays.

As a whole, How The Light Felt is ten yearning and dreamy tracks that evoke the comfort of seeing fog dissipate on an unseasonably warm autumn day. It’s intimate, heartfelt, and keeps looking forward to what the band has in store next. Celebrating the release of How The Light Felt, Smut sat down with Uproxx to talk The Killers, a Morrissey tattoo, and Death Cab For Cutie giving them depression in our latest Q&A.

What are four words you would use to describe your music?

Cenower: Hot people being sad

It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?

Roebuck: I’d like them to think we were a historic band. Have we done anything to deserve that title? Not yet, but I do think we could get there. We just have to invent a new genre of music or make the next anthemic song for baseball games. Maybe an iconic Christmas song? Easy.

What’s your favorite city in the world to perform?

Roebuck: Right now it would have to be Chicago. We haven’t lived here very long and already feel so welcome. It’s a city full of talent and enthusiasm and we’ve discovered so many great local bands by playing shows here. I don’t think we’ve had a bad band on a Chicago bill yet!

Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?

Roebuck: Personally, I’d say my family. They are not an influence on the sound but I grew up in an environment where my dad’s side of the family are all natural singers. And my parents both kind of figured me and my sisters could make it in anything we tried to do, I think even beyond the “you can do anything you set your mind to” speech. They truly know in their hearts that we can do big exciting things and growing up with that kind of… ego embedded in yourself is step one to making it. You have to have an unrealistic level of belief in yourself.

Where did you eat the best meal of your life?

Ruschman: Gotta give it up to that fresh piece of halibut I had in North Carolina one time.

What album do you know every word to?

Cenower: Honestly, probably quite a few. But my very first CD that I bought was Transatlanticism by Death Cab For Cutie and I will never ever lose those lyrics. I’ve been listening to that album since I was like, 9 years old. I think that album gave me depression. One of my favorite albums of all time.

What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?

Cenower: April 28, 2007. My first concert ever. The Killers at Madison Square Garden on their Sam’s Town tour. I was freshly 13 years old, a super fan, and in the fan club (The Killers Victims…yup), and somehow won a contest to see the band soundcheck. So my mom took off early from work to chaperone me, a completely starstruck tweenager, at a rock and roll soundcheck. I was so embarrassed because I thought Brandon Flowers would think I was a child for having my mom there and wouldn’t fall in love with me (I recognize now that he would have perceived that either way. I didn’t stand a chance). My mom did teach me what a vomitorium is which was cool, but I didn’t appreciate her expansive vocabulary at the time. Later that night I went to the concert with my family, seats so ridiculously far back in the nosebleeds, and I passionately screamed along to all the songs so hard that I completely lost my voice for like a week. The Killers were the first band that made me want to be a musician. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to experience that sort of pure joy again. It remains one of the best nights of my life, period.

What is the best outfit for performing and why?

Roebuck: Whatever is most comfortable. We’ve tried and dressed up on occasion but, personally, if I’m wearing something loose and (usually) black I can move around and perform better because that underlying layer of self-consciousness is gone. I’d like to look hot or cool but I’d rather sound great without overthinking how people perceive me. I’m too anxious to handle looking and sounding good.

Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and/or Instagram?

Roebuck: Bell and Andrew both love @sana_ssnn who is an artist they’ve bought prints from. Also our friend @shelleyuckotter has amazing art, I think we all have her early doodles framed in our houses.

What’s your most frequently played song in the van on tour?

Roebuck: It changes every tour, except for maybe the stuff Bell puts on. She likes what she likes so with that in mind I think I’ve heard “Cool Water” by Marty Robbins more than any other song in my life. She plays a lot of honky tonk when we hit the desert. Or the plains. Or the south.

What’s the last thing you Googled?

Roebuck: “women’s steel armor chestplate” on the shopping tab. I couldn’t afford it.

What album makes for the perfect gift?

Roebuck: I want to say… How The Light Felt. We all have different tastes but we do all like the album we made, it’s fun for the whole family.

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?

Roebuck: There have been so many, I’m not sure what to pick. One place we haven’t talked about much was a favor of a friend, but when we got to the house it was almost completely empty and full of leaves? There was a mattress in one room (also covered in leaves) and we didn’t question it because we were tired and had a huge drive the next day. But I’m not fully sure if anyone actually lived there.

What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?

Cenower: The story of my first tattoo is humiliating so I’ll talk about my two favorites. The first is my freaking sick Morrissey tattoo that pulls from the song “I Am Hated For Loving” — it literally just says “hated for loving” in an old London font armband. I do love the song but it’s also always resonated with me lyrically. It’s a song about accepting how you feel like you don’t belong anywhere, but it’s okay because you belong to yourself. A little corny but close to my sentimental bleeding heart. My other favorite tattoo, on the subject of bleeding hearts, is my Smut tattoo. It’s a take on the classic “Mom” heart tattoo, but the heart is barbed wire and instead of Mom it says Smut. I think it is sort of the mirror of my Mozzer tattoo — I got the Smut tattoo because I love being in this band and it’s one of the few times in my life I’ve really felt a strong sense of belonging.

What artists keep you from flipping the channel on the radio?

Roebuck: I do not have a car, Aidan and Sam do! They listen to NPR, I think? I like that new Momma record. When I hear it on Spotify at work, I’m happy.

What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?

Cenower: Like, 5 years ago my boyfriend threw me a surprise birthday party. And last year Tay threw me a semi-surprise birthday party. I’m a real simp for birthdays! Always makes a girl feel really special.

What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?

Roebuck: Don’t date that guy, move straight to Cincinnati and seek out a man named Andrew Min. He will know what to do.

What’s the last show you went to?

Ruschman: Saw my friends in S.C.A.B. play in Chicago after joining them on their tour of the regional Chicago delights (deep dish). Great tunes and energy!

What movie can you not resist watching when it’s on TV?

Ruschman: Wayne’s World 1 or 2. If there happens to be a double feature I’m clearing my schedule for the rest of the day.

What’s one of your hidden talents?

Roebuck: I can put my feet behind my head, I used to be able to do that and walk around using my hands but I think I’d hurt myself if I tried it now. I’m also pretty good at remembering almost every jingle I’ve ever heard.

How The Light Felt is out now via Bayonet. Get it here.


Posted

in

by

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *