Three-time Na Hoku Hanono nominee, lead singer of The Throwdowns and former Maui resident Erin Smith will appear on the Stella Supper Club Stage this Friday. The recent transplant to Oahu’s East shores is now a Fruit Punch Hawaii columnist. Her much-anticipated new album, which included work done in Canada, will partner Smith with the team that produced Arcade Fire’s acclaimed Fumeral.
As a solo artist and writer, Erin’s material differs from The Throwdowns pop sound–she has darker undertones and a more subdued indie-rock flare. MauiTime pulled up alongside Smith to get the lowdown on life and career–in her own words:
My sound is… Dark, sharp, indie-pop. Kind of Lana Del Rey, Adele, Feist and Florence + the Machine all wrapped into one. Mostly about men and emo shit. These days, I have a lot of Santigold, The Black Keys, Grizzly Bear, Cold War Kids, Sleigh Bells, Sia, the XX, MIA, Arcade Fire, At the Drive In and a bunch of pop on my iPod.
My solo career… is mostly separate from the Throwdowns, but I learn and draw from every musical endeavor I’m involved with. The material that I do on my own, and the production, is darker and moodier than the Throwdowns. The band is more upbeat, a little bit Reggae and a whole lot of shiny pop. On my own, I’m more torch.
I write… many of my songs by myself. Some of the Throwdowns material is co-written together and it’s definitely arranged as a group. Meticulously arranged. Producers are very important when it comes to records. I can write but outside of vague references I can’t produce and I admire that skill a lot.
Opening for the Fray… was a good eye-opener, in that it was one of our very first big arena shows. I learned how green I was by asking the guitarist from the Fray if he was the lighting guy, while he was standing by the monitor board. One show I will never forget is the time we played on Maui, at the Lahaina Civic Center, with Matisyahu. We had done all the islands with him and his crew, I had a busted leg and was in a cast for the tour. The night before Lahaina, we played Kauai during the tsunami scare and the whole tour got stuck at a mall for hours, after staying up all night in a Honolulu hotel room fielding calls from worried family members. All four Throwdowns in one room that night. The night of the Lahaina show, it was POURING rain. The BAMP guys were mopping the stage in between acts so we didn’t slip. It was pure rock n roll, sweaty, rainy, light-show awesomeness and I loved it. The Maui crowd was so pumped, supportive of our band, and amazing. Afterwards when we were hanging out with Matisyahu and crew, Matis said, “Erin you are extremely talented” and that meant a lot coming from him.
At shows I eat… a lot of poke and kale salad. But for singers, you need more like pastas and carbs to be able to belt. True story.
Canadian music… runs rich and deep. There are so many talented songwriters, partly because I think Canada really nurtures and values the arts. And partly because it’s fucking cold three-quarters of the year and you have to keep warm doing something. I have much to learn in the ways of songwriting when you line me up against other Canadian songwriters. There is a great sharpness and a huge amount of storytelling skill in the Canadian songwriters’ collective catalogue.
When I was young… I mooned over musical theater and thought I wanted to do that. I spent enormous amounts of time as a kid being a theater dork and performing in musicals. Then I went into theater at York University and ended up starting bands instead. I did graduate though. Working in music just kind of happened. I have a long way to go, but it gets bigger and better all the time. I took Suzuki violin starting when I was around four, and that’s all ear training so I think that’s where a lot of my singing ear comes from. I took a little bit of guitar, but am mostly self, brother and bandmate taught. I also took a handful of vocal coaching classes when I was really pushing my voice out in The Throwdowns for a bit. I’ve since learned to control from my stomach muscles and not just belt as hard as I possibly can.
In the studio I must have a… Circle scarf from American Apparel. It can be like a scarf or a hoodie. Super rad! My Mac laptop for bringing up song references. And my iPhone so I can text my boyfriend, family and friends.
This year… I started writing a weekly column for Honolulu art, culture and entertainment website Fruit Punch Hawaii. It’s called “Heels, Curls & Picks, Erin Smith’s Guide to Your Best Disaster” and it comes out every Wednesday at Fruitpunchhawaii.com. It’s tongue-in cheek, sassy, kind of personal and includes talk about music, fashion, girl stuff and just being a musician. That’s a ballsy move for me and I love it.
I want to collaborate with… Santigold. Black Keys. Matisyahu. Steven Tyler because Aerosmith sounds so much like Erin Smith.
What’s next is… I recorded an album in a very cold Montreal, Canada in March and April of last year. It is mixed and mastered and currently wrapped up in business. Stay tuned.
Photo by Jess Pearl