Home page of Smooth Kiwi, an alternative group from Bellingham, WA. making fresh sounds.
Q: Introduce yourselves. Where are you all from? How’d you meet?
A: Smooth Kiwi is:
Carly Gilliland, Bobby Pelkey, Joe Vacca, and Connor Kelly.
Bobby and Connor have known each other since they were second graders in Port Orchard, WA. They have been making music together since they were teenagers. Carly and Connor met through a mutual friend in Bellingham, WA. In around September of 2018, they ran into each other (not literally) at the local skatepark and Carly invited Connor over to jam. Connor extended the invite to Bobby who brought along his roommate, Joe, originally from Arizona. That jam sesh started it all. It felt so good. So right. Perfect.
Q: How did you get the name Smooth Kiwi?
It’s something that I (Connor) had been playing with for a while. It’s formulaic in the same sense as Tame Impala or Led Zeppelin. My logic was to choose a physical property or adjective and then a physical object and put them together in that order. It just works! For whatever reason. I also liked the idea of having Smooth in the name. It has all sorts of connotations.
Q: I see your inspirations on Spotify and love who you’ve chosen. Can you pick 1 or 2 and explain why they inspire you?
A: I don’t have the list in front of me but there are so many. The obvious ones are bands like Pink Floyd or The Beatles which paved the way for the type of music we play. We love Pink Floyd’s music, especially their 70s albums. So emotionally and sonically layered. We love the interplay between light and darkness on albums like “Dark Side Of The Moon.” It’s definitely something we have tried to tap into on this album. The underlying groove, the enticing melodies, the experimental sounds and samples, and the thought provoking lyrics. David Bowie is a big one for us, because he was so fearless in his artistic expression. It’s hard to pick just one or two!
Q: Coming from Washington, do you think bands around your area have influenced the way you write your music at all?
A: There are definitely some bands in the area that have influenced our sound, but I don’t think that it has much to do with their geographic location. The music is really all that matters in that department. We’re definitely not trying to replicate anything specifically. At least not consciously.
It’s interesting to think about how your local scene influences you. I (Carly) definitely feel inspired when I go to shows and most of the shows I attend are fairly local bands. I also love playing shows with cool bands and drawing inspiration from their sets. ..
Q: I see that you all like to be quite goofy. What’s the goofiest thing each of you have done?
A: We don’t know how you get that impression…. We do not appreciate humor. -Bob
Q: Please tell me a little bit about one of your two songs. The story of how it came together. And the meaning behind it.
“Those words” is a case where the songwriting process was very collaborative. Carly had this garage band demo of this cool piano song which she had written a few years back. I heard it and couldn’t help but write a vocal melody, and some lyrics to it. Joe and Bob then added their unique take on it. After jamming on songs for a few days we kind of figure out what works and what doesn’t. Then over a longer period of time we make structural changes every once in a while.
“The Egg” we wrote a few days before we debuted it. Joe and I were sitting in the closet of our practice space while Bob and Carly were trying to record a drum demo in the other room. We just started jamming on this bass idea Joe had and within 15 mins we had written the basic structure of the entire song. We showed it to Carly and Bob who wrote their parts in just about the same amount of time and within an hour or so the song was completed. It’s one of our favorites ;)
Q: Do you have a specific routine to how you write your music? If so, please describe.
That’s different for every song. Some songs are fleshed out demos before they ever make it to the practice room and some songs we cooperate on in various ways from the beginning. Sometimes I (Connor) will bring a song that I think is finished to the band only to realize that it’s not going to work the way I had envisioned. Usually everyone adds their own unique style to each song and that’s the beauty of collaboration.
As far as a routine, I always hear music as an arrangement in my head, so I’ll usually just sit down with a guitar looper and try to figure out which bass-lines work with which chord changes and vocal melodies. Lyrics are usually just the first words that come to mind. Things that I’m dealing with in my life or fictional scenarios that I can relate to. I also like to take songs I love and try to recreate them. They usually end up sounding completely different than the source material.)
Q: Describe a typical day recording music. Are there any rituals or traditions?
A: We had the opportunity to stay at a beautiful studio near Mt. Baker for three days and we had non-stop fun recording guitars and some keyboard. It certainly helped that the two folks who are engineering/producing our album are just as goofy and weird as us. The days would start with each of us emerging from our chosen sleeping-bag spot, getting coffee and brekky into our blood, then hitting the tone zone! So much of recording is hunting for the right tone. You might spend a wild amount of time trying different settings with different guitars for a 15 second part that will eventually be layered with many other tracks. But it’s all worth it! I’ve (Carly) never been more giddy than after listening back to some of the takes in that studio. We did have a lovely bedtime ritual where we would promise to meet up with each other in our dreams. One night, we planned to meet at the third waterfall up the jungle river, called Hawk Rock Raptor Falls. No one could remember if we really met up, but I bet we did.
A lot of Oreos.
Q: Tell me about your new album! We’re so excited to hear it! Is it going to have a similar sound to your two current songs? Or you’ll change it up? What do you have in mind?!
A: It will have a similar sound, but far more developed and professional! We’ve had the opportunity to record with some incredible gear, including vintage drums, amps, and guitars all from the 1960s. The album will have layers of instruments, such as synths, piano, strings, hammond organ, vibes, and train whistles. It will certainly be an adventure through time and space. We all have a shared love of albums that take you on a journey. Recurring motifs, musical transitions, and weird soundscapes are all things we are exploring on this album. Above all, we are just trying to make beautiful music that will move people, including ourselves, first and foremost.
Q: What do you do as a band in your free time?
A: We go to shows. Food? Do we hang out? We don’t hangout enough haha
Carly and Connor skateboard together. Joe and Bobby live together and often go on walks to buy kratom. Right now with everything that’s going on we’re feeling very separated. We’re all definitely anxious to get back to work on the album.
Q: How smooth is a kiwi?