With the upcoming release of their album Believe Me this July on Fika Recordings, a 3 track digital single, a European tour, playing the Indietracks Festival, and having songs on two compilations, it is a shock that The Smittens had time to participate in an interview. Thankfully, I had trained kittens sneak into their homes and steal their passports. I refused to give them back in time for their tour unless they thoroughly answered my ridiculous questions.
What's the most embarrassing band you loved as a kid?
David: When I was in high school I really liked this Boston based funk band called Chucklehead. In retrospect they were pretty awful.
Max: I don't know if i have one. I wasn't really into pop music at all until freshman year of high school and I entered on the top floor with REM. I refuse to be embarrassed by liking 10,000 Maniacs and Indigo Girls. Stay tuned for more on the latter...
Dana: Does Biz Markie count as a band? I definitely knew all the words to 'Just a Friend.' My cool factor drops when people learn that I was a Phish-head in high school. I followed them around for a while - saw 36 shows in total.
Holly: I guess I would have to say Tiffany. I also had a brief Bangles period too.
Colin: I don't know if this counts, but I did go to see Twisted Sister and Great White (and maybe) Y and T when I was in high school and I bought a Twisted Sister t-shirt that said "Love is for Suckers." My mom wouldn't let me wear it to school, so it became a sleep shirt. I don't think I am embarrassed by any bands I ever loved, tho. I remember loving the song "Cool it Now" by New Edition. Most songs I loved I still love, tho, including that one.
What is the first record you bought?
David: Michael Jackson - Thriller
Max: Do you count the Vogue maxi single or my beloved cassette of the Brandenburgs? If not, REM -- Out of Time
Dana: Do you mean legit LP? I remember playing the shit out of Squeeze, Singles 45's and under. I definitely grew up listening to a lot of Peter, Paul and Mary and Simon and Garfunkel. I thank my dad for that!
Holly: Probably Madonna's Like a Virgin
Colin: I don't think I remember. I used to listen to my mom's albums all the time. When I finally got to getting an album of my own, I probably picked Men at Work Business as Usual and I also had The Steve Miller Band Album that had Abracadabra on it. I remember buying the singles of Cat's in the Cradle and Heart of Gold. Meanwhile my younger brother was buying Van Halen's Jump and Jukebox Hero by Foreigner and Since You're Gone by the Cars. I was lucky he had good taste, too!
Unicorns vs. Narwhals? Who would win in a fight?
David - This is a trick question. The answer is whichever one was out of its element. The fight is going to have to take place on either dry land or in the water. Which would have to be settled by a coin toss. So really, the winner of the coin toss.
Max: Narwhals are real, so I'd go with them.
Dana: What's a narwhal?
Holly: Unicorns! They have feet! Run away!
Colin: I have to go with unicorns on this one. Because I love them and what if it's the only one? Are you saying there are a bunch of unicorns and narwhals? I bet unicorns don't feel the cold, so maybe they could work together and the unicorns could break the ice for the narwhals to swim through! They would be an awesome team.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you on the road?
David: This one one time we put "Putgarten" rather than "Puttgarden" into Mrs G (Mrs G is the name of our GPS) and ended up on an island in the middle of the Baltic sea at the most eastern point of Germany. Seven hours later we finally got to the correct ferry. Birds started pooping on us.
Max: David's answer didn't really feel funny at the time, until stress-induced giddiness set in. That day continued and included an in-van dance party whilst stuck in traffic somewhere in Germany. After 18 hours on the road, arriving at the Copenhagen club we were supposed to be at many hours before, literally running in and onto stage for the briefest of line checks. We didn't play for long, but it was probably the best-earned show we ever played. A few other memories: playing a green, carbon-neutral prom in a barn in Vermont, where the kids had to wear recycled clothing and get there on foot, bikes, or horses. Because someone was filming it we had to play the same song over and over and over. The kids, jacked up on organic fair trade coffee, just got more and more into it. And also the time we played in Birmingham, England during an invasion of flying ants, or "flants," as people were calling them.
Holly: What the gang said. I may or may not have taken some free candy like pills in Germany courtesy of our host there that are totally legal there and been really hyper when we finally made it to Copenhagen for our 20 minute set after 18 hours on the road. What a crazy adventure.
Dana: And during said trip we definitely wrote a song about our misadventures - to the tune of Jonathan Richmans "New England." Let's just say I'm glad we didn't record that one, though we did choose to play it when we got to the venue. My favorite van games are "name that Facebook status update" and "cutest person at the show that night" - we've had some good laughs during those. And there's a running joke about stashing a box of Depends in the car so that those with small bladders don't hold up our arrival times places... I suppose if we ever actually put that system in effect it would be hilarious for a minute, and then just stinky.
Colin: There is always some amusement wherever we go. I don't know if the funniest things translate well to seem funny to other people. I do remember running through the streets of Hamburg with Allo Darlin' trying to ring the bells on all the parked bicycles. In my mind it's pretty epic, but I have a good imagination, Maybe it was just a couple blocks. I probably wasn't running. Maybe I was just bearing witness and trying to get the the bar. I laugh a lot on tour whenever I am not reading or rocking or complaining.
Who has the worst van etiquette?
David: Define "Van Etiquette?" There is one of us that is a very loud eater. We have to say "Can you be mindful of your chewing." But I am not naming names.
Max: Part of van etiquette is the infamous "No Mountain Goats" rule. Again, not naming names on who'd be most likely to violate this one.
Dana: Hmm... no comment? ...We definitely each have our special needs and areas of high maintenance when it comes to van travel. Max and I are high maintenance in the nausea department, so we tend to require seats up front or by windows that open. Colin has a pillow-dependence. Holly has a smaller bladder. And David likes to be our DJ.
Holly: Hey, I'm little! But it's true. I usually am asleep though so I don't notice much around me.
Colin: I don't think this is a fair question - and it depends on East coast or West coast. On the East coast, we used to take my old van, so I probably got a little testy about things, like when the heat didn't work, I would get bummed when folks said they were cold! Or when the A/C would leak. Worst etiquette, tho? Not Me! I have good manners when I'm not the driver. I try not to step on peoples stuff when getting in and out of the van and I try to remember to take out my trash. I hate the middle seat - I like to be either way back or up front.
Who is in heavy rotation on your iPod?
David: Architecture in Helsinki, The Just Joans, Jens Lekman, the Labrador 100 comp and Donovan.
Max: Right now, The European, the new Cats on Fire record, Burning Hearts, Elli and Jacno, Hidrogenesse, Cris Williamson's "The Changer and The Changed" and the best of Richard and Mimi Farina.
Dana: My i-Pod is an i-Phone. Currently listening to a lot of the new Allo Darlin and Burning Hearts albums, the Motifs, Elton John, and Joan Armatrading. I was DJ'ing at our local college radio station this past year, so that required making lots of playlists that I've gone back to with some frequency. It's like a new mix tape every week.
Holly: Darren Hanlon, Architecture in Helsinki, The School and Allo Darlin'
Colin: Well, I generally listen to whatever is the newest recordings we've made, and otherwise use shuffle play a lot for variety. In the kitchen we listen to a lot of Standard Fare, Allo Darlin' The Just Joans, and Withered Hand. Those ones, our house has common ground love of. I've also been trying to develop a deeper appreciation of Trout Mask Replica, so I make myself listen to that about weekly. Otherwise, it's been the Indietracks Comp and another secret comp that is coming out soon that we participated in. Just got the new Middle Ones album in the mail and am looking forward to getting loads of new records on tour, too. Oh yeah, that album by The Beets is awesome.
What is the worst fight over nothing that you got into with each other after being road weary and exhausted?
David: What happens on tour stays on tour.
Max: Yeah, not worth getting into. Anything like that really would have been about nothing. Leaving gear at venues and realizing it when you're hundreds of miles away is always fun, though.
Dana: What's a fight? We don't have those. I mean, we are merely a consensus-based band of dear friends that have been doing this for ten years..... no fights allowed!
Holly: I think we have our little bickers and snaps and we let those happen so it allows us to not have any big blow outs. We're family!
Colin: I feel like each person takes a turn having a rough day - I feel like I have one per tour. We are so like family that when we get on each other's nerves, it can get rough. But we also do try to take care of each other and bring each other up. I am pretty non-confrontational, so I tend to avoid fights, but we still kinda grate on each in little ways - it's kinda like being in a couple with 5 people. I sat on a curb for a while outside a club in Goteborg because I got worn out, then got cranky, then we had some mixed signals and I was actually mad. I got over it the next day and it was fine. Sometimes a lack of alone time can make anyone crazy. By far the pros outweigh the cons of doing this - but it also takes some work from each of us, like any good relationship.