I’ve known plenty of former book editors in my day; none of them were likely to put out an album like Fetishes, the debut release from Brooklyn’s Smoota.
“That’s true,” laughs Smoota, aka Dave Smith. “That’s why I’m doing it. It definitely makes a mark. People seem to really get a kick out of it, which I like. And some people are confused by it, which I also like. It’s a really fun project to be working on.”
A trombonist by trade who has played with the likes of TV on the Radio, Sufjan Stevens, and Spoon, among others, Smoota’s first record is the epitome of truth in advertising: it’s sexual in tone, sound, and lyrical content, and it most certainly sets a mood. Is it the most unique thing you’ll listen to this week? Probably. And for him, that’s the point.
“My number one value is to just try to do something as original as possible and the thought of writing a typical pop love song about the normal things just seemed, at this point, not worth trying,” he said. “So I wanted to see if I could write a song about things that I find in movies and books that I’ve always been intrigued by that you don’t hear about in pop music as much. That was the challenge I gave myself.”
He met that challenge on the 12 track album, which was a risky move for anyone in the business, considering the subject matter. But for a debut, you can amp up that risk factor tenfold, and if you ask him if he’s always been willing to push the envelope like that, you might be surprised by the answer.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I’ve always been attracted to the edgy things in art, but I’ve been a musician for a long time and not a singer, so it’s been kind of a risk take for me to become a singer, let alone to be singing songs like this. So it’s definitely been a process, like figuring out how to do these songs live and get the whole thing together. It’s just not going up there and singing some simple songs. I’ve had to figure out how to present this material.”
And while he kicks off the release of Fetishes with a show tonight at Union Pool in Brooklyn, it’s not his first go-round with this material, as he’s honed it for over a year. And while he’s got the show down to a science at this point, the beginning of each gig never changes.
“The most difficult part is usually the first couple songs of every show,” he said. “I can just sense in the crowd, this confusion. (Laughs) Is this for real? What’s going on here? But I’ve done it enough now that by the third song, I typically have the crowd because it is a fun, unusual, weird, funny show, so I’m pretty confident that it’s entertaining. But I always have to get through that first hump of initial confusion and befuddlement on people’s faces.”
So what do family and friends think of the transformation from Dave Smith into the 70s-esque Lothario known as Smoota and the topics he broaches in his songs?
“A few of my friends, at first, were like ‘I had no idea this would come out of you,’” he said. “But my sister’s very supportive of it, she loves it and has come to a bunch of shows, and I think people are just happy that I’m doing something fun and creative. That’s the general feeling.”
Will the rest of the world be so agreeable though?
“I do think they’re ready for it, but they may not know they’re ready for it,” he laughs. “Once you listen to the record a couple times, I think the initial bizarreness of it goes away. The music’s very warm and groovy and I really wrote it as a full album experience. My favorite albums are ones where you can listen to the whole thing through and it sets a mood for the whole album. And that’s that I tried to do. It sets a groovy atmosphere, and that’s what I’m hoping for.”
Fetishes definitely nails it from an atmospheric standpoint, and the funny thing is, the more you listen to it the more you get the idea that as out there as the lyrics may be at times, this has some serious hit potential. But will those lyrics come back to haunt him?
“That’s crossed my mind, and I’m not sure if I should worry about that or not,” Smoota admits. “There’s so much crazy stuff that goes on in music these days, and it helps to be a little underground – or very underground. I just released the video for the song “Criminal,” which was kind of risky video to put out as my first one, but I want it to be on the edge. To me, a lot of music these days plays it very safe, and the music world can be boring if it’s not trying to push things, so I’m happy to take the risk.”
And we should be happy to go along for the ride and see what the future holds for this eclectic musician / songsmith. One thing’s for sure; you won’t be bored.
Smoota plays Union Pool in Brooklyn tonight, October 29. For more information, click here