In 2012 Smug Brothers set to work on the follow up full-length to their 2011 EP Treasure Virgins. With then bassist Shaine Sullivan and guitarist Brian Baker, Smug Brother founders Don Thrasher and Kyle Melton recorded sever songs over the past few years for On the Way to the Punchline. The Smugs engaged in a whirlwind recording session in Spring 2012 and the band ground to a halt.
When the band reconvened in 2013, Larry Evans joined the mid-fi pop rockers on bass. The band quickly assembled and released the Strictly Triggers EP and with the new lineup in place, the band plans to release On the Way to the Punchline via Thrasher’s Gas Daddy Go! label on February 25.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Melton to discuss the band’s first physical album release in their 10-year existence. This is what he said about it.
When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?
Well, the song “Investigative Years” dates back to 2000, when I was still in Montgomery Greene. I did a few different versions of it around 2005-2006 that just got shelved, but I always liked the song. Don and I tracked the album version in the spring of 2012. So, that one’s the longest arc. Some of the songs were slated for an album in 2009 called “The Blazing Trenchcoat Operator” that eventually just got picked at for various EP releases over the years. Some of the songs were written and recorded as we were finishing the album in spring 2012.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
Based on the last question, “Investigative Years” would fit that bill. The song is fairly straightforward, but getting the arrangement and dynamics right was just a challenge for whatever reason. Also, other songs were always getting written and recorded ahead of it, so it was always just missing the cut. I’m glad it took so many tries though, because everything came together on this version pretty well.
“Quick to Illustrate January” took a few tries to get the structure right. Also, we accidentally recorded over the first version we deemed a master. Always mark your tapes properly, kids.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
“St. Paul at the Helm of Wyoming” turned out pretty strange and great. The feedback and chaos in the first half were fairly spontaneous when we tracked it at my old house on Burns and then it got a sort of glam rave-up thing in the end. “New World Limits” – I don’t know what I ever really had in mind for it, but it definitely took a turn for the weird.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
Yes, Andy Smith [of King Elk/Me Time] and Benjamin Smith [The Redd Foxx] contributed to “New World Limits”. I gave the basic track to Benjamin and he came up with some great eerie guitar. Andy kicked the amp with unbridled determination. The two of them made that song.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
We all kind of produced the record, really. We work with Darryl Robbins [Motel Beds] on mixing and mastering, so his imprint and his abilities to give us great weird sounds is definitely an important external imprint.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
Not intentionally, but I think there are some themes and ideas running through that make it cohesive. It’s definitely an “album” though, in the sense that there’s a flow and dynamic to it that make it a listening experience. Beyond that, the listener can make it whatever they need it to be.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
Yes, we’ve been playing several of these songs for the last couple of years. Andy Smith loves “Investigative Years”, although he thinks I say “all the cherries”, which is great. I wish I had actually written that.
(Smug Brothers will debut the album at a Saturday, February 22 event called Cabin Break at The Venue on Third, 905 E. Third Street, in Dayton Ohio. Visit the band at http://www.smugbrothers.bandcamp.com.)