Sitting in the ‘The Smile Ease’

• Anchorage-based band promises fresh, fun sounds

By Sean Pearson
Homer Tribune

The Smile Ease

The Smile Ease

Citing the musical influences of everyone from Radiohead and Broken Social Scene to Neil Young, The Smile Ease heads to Homer’s Down East Saloon for Friday and Saturday night performances with the The Jack River Kings.
According to their biography on Facebook, the group has been “warming the hearts and souls of Alaska” since they came together in 2001. Based out of Anchorage, band members Paul Jacks, Marc Bourdon, Kelsey McGee, Joe Bourgeois and Derek Mangrobang comprise a “decidedly organic blend that maintains the influence of past band members and finds inspiration in a diverse group of musicians who augment their sound.”
In the last couple of years, the band has shared the stage with both CAKE and The Mountain Goats, toured the Northwest and Alaska, and – fueled by a new lineup and fresh material – are currently working on a follow-up to their self-titled 2007 album.
Prior to their first Homer appearance, The Smile Ease took some time to answer questions for the Homer Tribune.

H.T. You list your band as Indie/Pop. What does that really mean?
S.E. We are really more piano-centered Indie. Indie rock can mean so many things, but it is really what you make of it. Our approach is a focus on instrumentals, aesthetics, lyrics and dynamics. It’s hard to distinguish these characteristics on paper without hearing the music, so it’s probably best you see for yourself. We just want people to come away having a good time, and hearing something they probably haven’t heard too much of in Alaska.

H.T. Why come to Homer? Are we really that hip?
S.E. Yes! We love Homer, although we have yet to play there.  Also, Reuben Cash at the Down East did a lot to reach out to Anchorage bands, so he should get lots of credit.  It was also a good chance to do something with our friends the Jack River Kings. I really think Homer will take a liking to them. They have some very talented people in their band who play good, solid, accessible rock, with a streak of rollicking alt-country.

H.T. What’s the story behind “The Smile Ease” name?
S.E. The meaning of the name has taken different shapes over the years, depending on who was playing and what the band was doing. At its core, “The Smile Ease” has come to be a metaphor for our collective of friends who have worked together to continually evolve personally and musically. Was that elusive enough? Maybe readers can tell us what their theories are…  

H.T. How does your music come together? What’s the process look like?
S.E. It usually looks like the five of us huddled under Christmas lights going over parts until it all feels right. Traditionally, Paul is the main songwriter and the rest of us augment the ideas, make suggestions, put our own touches on them. That’s been changing recently, as the new set of songs we are working on have more songwriting contributions from the rest of the band. Lyrics are super important to this band, while the backbone of our music lies in the instrumental aspects of the songs. We like to throw in time and tempo changes to keep it fresh and fun for ourselves. Our main goal is to balance what makes the audience feel good and what is musically and lyrically meaningful to us. A lot of times that means simplifying parts so it translates better. Less is more (more or less).

H.T. Are you trying to promote any kind of political or otherwise controversial agenda, or just having fun?
S. E. Aside from our occasional socialist leanings (wink), we usually just try to promote a fun atmosphere. We are on a bit of a mission to try and expand the musical landscape in Alaska. Many times it feels that the music scene here is polarized: metal and folk. And we are smack in the middle. That being said, Alaska has so many good musicians, both in and out of state. We have some friends that are really making things happen for themselves outside right now (Lives of Famous Men, Builders and Butchers) while there are a ton of good bands in the state: LaVoy, Jack River Kings, The Whipsaws, Paper Scissors, Woodrow, Shy Bones, 1120s, and on and on….

H.T. Is this where any of you saw yourselves being at 2010 when you entered this century 10 years ago?
S.E. Some of us weren’t even playing instruments 10 years ago, so no.  That being said, it’s been a wonderful time so far. It really is true that you get out of it what you put into it. That’s why we aren’t scared to work as hard as we do.

H.T. What’s the “touring” circuit like? Do you have roadies? Groupies? Should we all be jealous of your hedonistic pleasures?
S.E. We have toured twice out-of-state, along with some in-state tours.  We’ve had a couple friends come along with us for the ride, although it is not so glorified as people would think. Loading a 160 pound piano at 2 a.m. is no one’s idea of fun. To tour Alaska is a little rough in one go-around, due to the sheer size of the state. But we love playing anywhere in Alaska. Once we played for a group of 300 elementary kids. That was scary, as you’d imagine, but very rewarding. Groupies? Do our wives and girlfriends count? 

H.T. What’s the most fun thing you get to do – being a famous band and all…?
S.E. Knowing that people had fun because of you is the best, hands down. Touring was a fantastic time and meeting new people and other musicians is great, too.

H.T. Any thoughts, concerns, wishes, disappointments, philosophies or bad poetry you’d like to throw in?
S.E. We are thoroughly excited to play in Homer for the first time.  Philosophies? Boon-doggeries and atrocities, the lot of them. Hit the ground like a battery powered fan. And how.

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Posted by on Jan 6th, 2010 and filed under Music. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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