Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to host an In-Studio performance with Smoke Season and sit down with them for about 15 minutes to talk about their influences, tour dates, and their headlining show in New York at the CMJ Music Festival.
Words cannot describe how incredible this band is to witness live. I have heard a lot of great responses from people who heard them for the first tie on KSPC, and it’s my greatest pleasure to bring music to people that why will gush over.
I think we were all worried from the start by their vast amount of equipment to set up in KSPC’s cozy studio room but with all hands on deck we made it happen. As they were setting up, I was pulling music out of our library and got distracted every now and then as they put all the pieces together to do their sound check. They came in with a sort of calm vibe that put me at ease during my set but also made me rather eager for it to be time for their session. I wanted the world to hear what I’d been “oozing” and “awing” about.
By the time time they came on, it was absolute magic. That feeling of being blown away upon hearing an artist for the first time–this was that moment. This was that feeling. And yet this wasn’t the first time I had heard them.
They mixed “Badlands,” which was one song that I recognized, along with new songs, not yet released. It felt like a world premiere of explosive “dustbowl” sound in everyone’s ears. This was a great experience, especially for people who listened to them for the first time. The layering of the guitars, the synths pulling you in to an incredible and powerful, soulful voice. I was blown away.
Despite my being in a small room directly behind the drummer, or as he called it, the “booty view,” I was able to feel and was in awe of the energy they exuded.
Jason Rosen and Gabrielle Wortman of Smoke Season finished up their set of 5 songs with “Opaque,” one of my favorites off the “Hot Coals Cold Souls” EP, as I waited for them by the door to the OTA room. I was greeted by one petite and excited gal and quiet man with a rather smooth demeanor. They immediately walked in and commented on how cool certain aspects of the room were, then sat down as we all waited for the current song I was playing to end.
“Who is this?” asked Wortman.
“Oh this is Hello Dollface. The song is ‘Sounds’ I believe,” I replied.
Wortman turned to Rosen and started talking about the bass line and how cool it was.
When it came time for the interview, I started the conversation by confirming that they each had been in different musical projects before they began collaborating. Wortman had come from the electronic-rock band TEMP3ST while Rosen had been the guitarist and keyboardist for the alt-pop band Honor Society. Having a lot of musical influences in common, they were able to produce their current project. Wortman mentioned that a more recent influence on their recent work was actually Alt-J, which if you’re familiar with his music you can sense the psych-indie aspect similarities.
In response to my asking whether being a duo served as a creative advantage for Smoke Season, Wortman explained that for the first EP Smoke Signals, she and Rosen each wrote all the music and lyrics but that they now had the luxury of bringing ideas to their other band mates and bouncing ideas off each other to see what works.
I then directed them back to one of their recent music videos that I’d watched nonstop for weeks. If you’ve read my previous analysis of their video for “Opaque,” you may know that it messed with my head as I spent quite a bit of time trying to analyze it and getting lost in the visualizations. I highly recommend you check it out and see what I’m talking about, by the way. (Check out the video below!)
I mentioned how I had read so many different reviews from LA Weekly and Buzzfeed, and of course how I had my own take, but I really wanted to know what it was really about.
They both laughed, and Wortman simply said, “It’s about a love triangle. I’m actually in the middle of a love triangle.”
My jaw dropped. “Really? That’s what it was?”
“And you were really in milk, right?”
“Yes, that was powdered milk that we were in,” Wortman said.
(As if the video wasn’t cool enough on its own, it’s always amazing to know these little facts.)
Rosen also mentioned that they like to make their videos intentionally vague and see what people come up with. (…Thanks, Rosen.)
Obviously, I had to re-watch the video later that day to be at peace with myself.
Back in October, they played the CMJ Music Marathon at Spike Hill, and then another show at Rockwood Music Hall. Wortman mentioned that she got sick (“as always”) but that other than that, it was exciting and a great show. With that, they announced their Cold Souls tour with which they will be playing from Seattle all the the way back home to Los Angeles. (See poster below.)
(Hopefully we can get a hold of some give-away tickets here at KSPC for some lucky listeners, so stay tuned!)
I had an incredible chance to meet a group of humble and talented individuals. I want to thank everyone involved for making this happen, and of course to Smoke Season for stopping by. (P.S. We have a great live sound team at KSPC!)