NOTE:  I became aware of The Smiles through various avenues - YouTube, Facebook, and other online sources.  I approached original member John McGrath about the possibility of interviewing them for this site, and he graciously agreed.  You can check them out at Bandcamp and Facebook

First order of business: Introduce yourself - where are you from? What's your role(s) in The Smiles? Any background information/personal philosophies you'd like to share?

I'm John, from Baltimore, and I play the guitar whilst singing in the band. There's not too much exciting background information for any of us, except Will is a C-List youTube star. We've all been playing music since we were kids, The Smiles is as good as we've ever been (or that is what we hope).

What was the genesis of The Smiles?

The Smiles started with convincing Will to write some songs with me. After that everything was a fairly-tale - we got rejected from America's Got Talent. We actually did win an on-campus songwriting competition though.

Let's talk about the name of your band: Who thought it up? (and just to get the 'elephant out of the room') Is it a reference to The Beach Boys 1967 album "Smile"? Any Beach Boys fans in the band?  Favorite Beach Boys albums/songs? Any surfers in the group?

I came up with the name right from the album. I remember hearing about this breakdown of Brian's after he heard Strawberry Fields, which led to burning (maybe this is myth, but it's candy for me) tapes of the sessions for Smile. I had to hear the album, so I did some digging on the web and finally came across a full, well, as full as it could be, version, and was completely struck after hearing. I must have burnt it for five people and ordered them to listen to it. It is such a good piece of music, I really wish it could be released on vinyl. This long winded paragraph should suggest that I'm a huge fan of the Beach Boys, but to re-iterate, I very much am. Bren is too, and I'd say Will is a casual fan. I'm not sure about Echo.
Pet Sounds is my favorite album, this is probably true for Bren too (Although Bren does have the Pet Sounds sessions "album" which is amazing, but isn't really an album). I can't pick a song, I'm sorry! There are so many great ones that I will definitely bore the reader by the time I'm finished listing (I am listening to Vegatables right now, if that is worth anything).
I surf! Love surfing, I have two boards, although neither I really like. I want a longboard, I feel like I've blown through the years where I should want to rip the waves, and went right into the "old dude" longboarding phase. Bren tries to get out and surf once in a while, I think I've gotten into the water with him twice. He's been trying to save up to buy a board for the past year.

Who are your musical heroes? Who do you listen to?

I would have to say The Beatles are my musical heroes, The Beach Boys really do come close.

For brevity's sake, I'll make a list of old and new bands I listen to:
Old: Beach Boys, Beatles, Dylan, The Faces, Otis Redding
New: Phoenix, Animal Collective, The Strokes, Vampire Weekend, Dirty Projectors

How would you describe the sound of The Smiles?

We created a genre for ourselves, for the past and present question "what's the sound?" It's called Tropical Grunge, take The Beach Boys and The Strokes, you get The Smiles. I feel the direction we're going in is even more sun-spired. I know both Will and I would like to work with harmonies more, so we may have to change our description, but for the Hermosa EP that'll have to do.

Who are the songwriters in the band? What is your writing process like?

Will, Bren, and I all wrote songs for the new EP. Having more than one songwriter in the band is a great experience, and the songs come out great. Usually one of us will have an idea and bring it to another (in most cases me to Will) and we go from there.

Did you have a specific plan in mind for your first EP? i.e. a certain mood or theme you were shooting for?

Sun. It was the first song we wrote as a band (Will, Bren & I) and is definitely the theme of our music. We live in Southern California, it is inescapable. Hopefully we have conveyed that mood well on the EP.

How many songs did you write for the album (including ones that didn't make the cut?) How long did the recording process take?
And who produced the album?

It's hard to say how many songs we wrote for the album, depending on what you call a song. I know there are definitely at least three songs that we play live or have played live that weren't put on the EP. So I guess one could say we had nine songs that could have been recorded, but there were so many more ideas for songs written in the past year. The recording process spanned seven months I think, but we really spent maybe seven days in the studio. Being students and musicians at the same time is a little tough. Michael Peha, our friend from school, recorded, mixed and produced the album, along with the band.

If you wouldn't mind, discuss each of the songs on your new EP; any personal favorites?

Cala Cola is the opener, its the most accessible for fans. It used to be called Coca Cola, but we can't use the name for legal reasons. It's too bad, would have been good publicity for them, right? Sun is next, first song we wrote. These two songs are really the foundation of The Smiles' sound. Swimming was written in April - the last song recorded, my favorite song too. We recorded the album with a friend and didn't really know what we were doing. By April I think we got a hang of it a bit better (the tone on my guitar is great on the song). I Could Love You More was written over winter break - our friend made a video of us and his camera had distorted the bass sound when recording this song, we loved the sound and used it in the recording. Girl I Love - least tropical song we wrote, Will and I wrote it after I had been listening to Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for a week straight. Cali Girls started with Bren and went through more drafts than you'd care to know. We didn't want to use the same title as the Beach Boys, but it was the best for the song. Its the same as the color red, it describes so many different shades of that color - this is our view of California Girls. It is unfortunate that Katy Perry used this title though...

Finally - now that the EP is finished... what's next? Do you have a certain label you'd love to sign with? Do you want to stay independent? Do you have any specific goals for the band?

I think our goal is to get fans and play shows. We'd just like everyone to hear our songs, because the people who do hear them are more often than not, really happy they ran into our music. As far as labels go, I know Will wants to sign to a label called SubPop from Washington. Other than that I think it's whatever would be best for the band. My goal is to become the next Beatles, might as well aim high, right?

Thanks so much for your time, guys. Anything else you think people should know about The Smiles and your new EP?

It's been a pleasure! Well the EP was released two weeks ago, so it's available for download now, there are six songs, and I hope everyone reading goes to check out the music! At our bandcamp website you can stream the whole EP for free, and it is actually the only place to buy the album as of now. Cala Cola is free for download at the site too. We'll have physical copies of the EP in August and it should be on iTunes by that time too, so stay updated!

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