As we near the close of 2019 there are certain to be a plethora of “best of” and “hottest new” lists to commemorate the past year. From a rock and roll perspective 2019 was a fine year, especially here in our own little Miami Valley. Over the last few years there has been a uptick in the number of local artists publishing and producing excellent music, as well as a few reunions.
The sheer quantity of releases this year has been staggering for a city this size, and the bands and artists represented in this year’s class is impressive in both number and diversity. Within this veritable cornucopia of music, our own little embarrassment of riches, are a number of standouts. Several new Miami Valley artists and bands released debut albums this year, with even more offering up sophomore efforts, which universally have been excellent. A few veteran groups released full albums as well as a few releasing projects for local music day. The tally is still climbing, but it is safe to say nobody is going to release more records in 2019 here in Dayton than the fellows in Smug Brothers. Last month Smug Brothers released their third album of 2019. You read that correctly, their THIRD album of 2019. These are not singles or 3 song EPs. Smug Brothers released three full-length albums this year, and they are ready to talk about it.
Artistic process is part of the reason why Smug Brothers has been able to produce so much music this year. Drummer Don Thrasher explains, “We have the choice of recording songs that are fun, and they sound like us, and they capture this idea. We can spend a month on them or we can get that moment before it’s gone, and that’s what we did. We are going to go that way every time.” Don goes on to describe a bit of their methods for song writing. “Kyle is so prolific, he will have dozens of ideas he will send us, and then we see what sticks. He sent us 110 song ideas in one big drop.” He expands on their process further stating that they absolutely love to record. Kyle Melton, who is the principal songwriter and vocalist, did a lot of the recording himself this year which was a deviation from their previous work.. The pressures of recording three albums this quickly can add up and so can the financial impact of that much recording. Recording technique wasn’t the only change for Smug Brothers in 2019 though.
Since their last release in 2017 the lineup has also changed with Scott Tribble and Kyle Sowash joining on lead guitar and bass respectively. The new members had no obvious difficulty finding their places, as the albums this year are cohesive and well voiced. Perhaps the most impressive thing was that the Smug Brothers releases were only a part of the total output for the band members as they are very involved and active in their other projects as well. Smug Brothers as of November actually has upwards of 30 more songs tracked and show no signs of slowing down. Thrasher admits that it can get hard to mentally catalogue all that material, but they will keep producing records as long as the ideas are coming and fast is good. Pedal to the floor, Gas-Daddy-Go as they say. Or so I have been told.
“Attic Harvest“ was the first of their records this year and released in the late winter. The record was a beautiful vinyl LP with abstract light-emanating Mickey Mouse head meets virus particles under a scanning electron microscope cover art (you’ll get it once you see it) and punchy 2-minute hook and run songs typical of their craft. Their second album of 2019 was a surprise release in July, “All Blur and Spark.” It was a short collection of odds and ends that the band decided to release and for most bands would have been a great addition to a big studio release. Not to be outdone however, they marched onward.
Their latest release “Serve a Thirst Moon” is a bit more evolved than the others, and that is no small feat when the average song is under 2 minutes. The song order flows naturally, and the tones are less stark and more reminiscent of psychedelic and seventies rock while still frenetically introducing, expanding and then resolving the brief compositions. For anyone new to the band’s work, this is a great album to whet your appetite. For any music fans, it would make a great holiday gift. For Smug Brothers it is a fine feather in their cap for a prolific and transformative 2019. With over 30 songs ready who knows what 2020 looks like.
Paul Levy submitted this guest post on the Smug Brothers