A lot of people have said that rock music is dead. However, Brennan Smiley seems to differ strongly on this opinion. If you don't believe me, listen to their five-song EP that his band, The Technicolors, just released. Five straight-up rock songs, with just a little bit of indie flare, that would probably make the strongest of naysayers step back and reconsider their opinions. I had the great opportunity to chat with Smiley at the band's stop in San Francisco, during their tour with The Maine, Real Friends, and Knuckle Puck.
I read that The Technicolors evolved when you were acoustically supporting local acts and meeting people at show. About how long did the process take for the entire lineup that we know as the band today to come together?
We started a few years back. I had started writing towards the end of being in high school, and was actually planning to move out to Nashville and be a session guitar player. I had done that all throughout high school. But I started writing music and just fell in love with writing.
I think it wasn’t too long before I went from dabbling and just writing songs to playing gigs with a full band. We didn’t really identify it right away as The Technicolors, but that was happening pretty early on. It didn’t take too long for that to happen just because I wanted to play the songs louder and there were people around me that wanted to part of that as well.
What was the process like writing Ultraviolet Disguise in comparison to Listener?
Well, they were both done very quickly. Listener we did in about ten days, and then we wrapped up and did some final adjustments a couple weeks after that, just adding little bells and whistles.
This one was so quick because I think with Listener, there wasn’t as much of a pressure since we were just starting out. When you’re just starting out, you’re going at your own pace. We were doing it based on how much studio time we could afford at the time. With this one, we had already been sitting on a whole other set of tunes. We had recorded another batch of tunes at the end of last year that we were potentially going to be putting out. This opportunity just came up to make more. We were just very inspired at the moment.
Maybe for me, the challenge for me was ‘we have two weeks. Can we do it? What can we pull off?’ I would say, overall, that was the biggest difference, being the walls that we had to work within.
Did you have more than five songs when you were writing, or did you go in with the mindset of “okay, we’re going to do an EP, let’s write just five songs”?
We just did those five from scratch. We didn’t even really have a set goal of [a number of songs]. We knew we wanted to do an EP, but we didn’t know if it was going to be four or seven or whatever. We just did it one by one, and that’s what we ended up with.
Some of the tunes evolved from old riffs and ideas that were just laying around, but it was just those five.
Where does the title Ultraviolet Disguise come from?
We named the EP that because it’s a line in one of our songs called ‘Tonight You Are Mine’. For me, I liked the idea of naming it that because part of what I wrote that song about was the idea of pretending, the lure of it, and how enticing it might be where you can pretend to be someone and get away with it. It just felt right to name the EP that because we were doing it so off-the-cuff, I guess. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we were dabbling in other genres of music that we had never dabbled in before, and the excitement of that.
What does the album artwork represent for you guys? I have a theory, but I’m very curious to hear what it represents from the band itself.
For me, I’m very touched by aesthetic. I’m very sensitive to the things that I can’t explain. I think, growing up and seeing artwork connect with music in a way that for some reason clicks, was part of it.
The artwork was totally vague. It was also from a really close friend of ours who shot the photo. I love his photography. I sent him some of the tunes, and he went out and snapped that photo based on what that was. For me, there’s no really deep meaning to it. It was more about the lighting, and the tunnel, and the idea of seeing the fake fluorescent light versus real light that isn’t visible in the photo. For some reason, that connected with me.
Were there any tracks in particular that were harder to write than others?
Yes. (laughs) The first one, “I’ll Love You Someday”. It wasn’t hard, but it just took longer because you kind of have the pressure of ‘what’s this going to be?’
Definitely. First song gives the listener turning on the album that idea of what the album is going to be.
Yeah! We spent more time at the beginning of that one. Once it snapped, it happened very quickly. “Feels Like Trouble” came right out. The songwriting part of “Heavy Leather” wasn’t the part that was so difficult. What took longer for that song was more of the arrangement of it. That was one where we really wanted to reach far outside of our box and try some stuff. That one probably took the longest.
What kind of message, if any, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
We try to create the best we can. I think there’s a beauty in pushing yourself in that. For us, the songs are kind of just the starting point. When we record them, we’ve always recorded them so fast that we haven’t really had a lot of time to live with them. On the road, they evolve and they really come into their own. I think that we are driven by that idea of creating and never really resting with it, always pushing yourself, and knowing that it’s okay if you don’t get it right the first time. We don’t’ overtly share that message, but I think that’s how we function as a band. The more that people get to see our band and become familiar with the songs and the style of music that we play, and how much we care about what we do, I think more people will see that.
What does music mean to you?
Freedom. As cliché as that sounds. You’re able to express yourself in a way that is completely different than anything else. Just like with any other art form, but especially with music, you’re able to say things that you would never be able to say in a conversation. You’re able to communicate a feeling without words. To me, the thing that really intrigued about music early on in general was that feeling of ‘what was it about that song that made me feel this way? What little part of that tune makes me think back to this?’ That’s the answer that you’ll never find, but the chase of that is beautiful.
After this tour with The Maine finishes up, what can fans expect to see in terms of shows, new music, anything you’d like them to know about?
I believe we’re going to be touring in the summer! With the way that we function in this band, we try not too plan too much ahead of time, but we still try to have an outlined plan about what we’re going to accomplish for the year. We’re also most likely going to using that time to be creative and hopefully dive into a new batch of tunes based on this EP. That’s what I’d like to do, but who knows what will actually happen? So you can definitely expect some tricks up our sleeves for the end of spring and beyond.
Ultraviolet Disguise by The Technicolors is available now via Eighty One Twenty Three. For more on The Technicolors, visit www.facebook.com/thetechnicolorsmusic
This has been another Shameless Promotion.