Joy of joys – today we have the return of a band that we thought we’d lost forever! Swedish duo Smith & Thell featured heavily on these pages for a steady two years – thanks to the large volume of high quality dancepop they kept churning it out. They kept it coming, and we kept on loving. But over the past twelve months or so, they’ve really been finding their feet (and it’s fair to say – a lot more commercial success) as songwriters. They’ve been behind songs for Molly Sandén (ie one of the biggest hits of the year, ‘Freak’), Linus Svenning, Samir & Viktor, Panatoz, Galavant, and also ‘Tired of Missing You’ by Isac Elliot, as well as three other songs on his forthcoming EP. Who could blame them if they wanted to jack the whole popstar thing in, and just continue being amazing at songwriting for other popstars? But actually, they’re not done with being performers themselves. Instead, they’ve been developing a whole new sound for Smith & Thell – and today we get to hear the first fruits of all that labour. Their new single and video. ‘Hippie Van’.
Born during a recent session in RedOne’s studio in Los Angeles, the song was originally meant for someone else (that whole songwriting-for-other-artists thing getting in the way), but actually led the duo back to their roots perversely. In their original band with five other people back in 2008, acoustic folk pop was the sound they were mostly inspired by, and therefore peddling to their audiences. Before they dropped the other members, fell into love with synth, signed a management and record deal, and got themselves a bit of a fanbase – taking them up to this year when they were flown across the Atlantic to work their magic on others.
”We were in LA to write hits, connect with people, have fun and take a break from Smith & Thell”, says Mary Jane Smith. “One day we picked up the guitar and out came a song about taking off in a van and leaving everything behind. We first thought that we were going to pitch it to an artist like Taylor Swift, but very soon we felt no – this is our song!”
Now – we know what you’re thinking (if you’re anything like us anyway). Acoustic folk pop – no one wants that from dancepopstars who are really very good at being dancepopstars and making dancepop music. But actually, Smith & Thell make acoustic folk pop just as palatable as what they’ve done previously. ‘Hippie Van’ is up there with ‘Kill It With Love’, ‘Super DJ’ and ‘Illusion’ in terms of tunage. And even stronger melodically. Basically – if you’re gonna return with a whole new sound and style when no one was complaining about what you were doing before, you had better come back with something good. Smith & Thell have come back with something brilliant.
”Hippie Van showed us the way”, says Maria. ”The song is about a longing for a less superficial world, which is very symbolic to us personally. We have never lived a superficial life – we’re two music nerds who live in our own little bubble. Hippie Van is our inner desire to return to organic music. Now we are getting back to our roots”.
Want to know more? We’ve asked them some questions about the new tunes, the tunes they’re writing for others, and the old tunes;
As you’ve been gone for so long (as performers at least), can we expect a packed release schedule from you in the next twelve months? Have you got lots of material that you’re gonna be putting out there as Smith & Thell?
Yes! We really feel that we’ve found our sound and heart as artists. We have got at least five songs that we can’t wait to put out there, and more is being written all the time. Both acoustic naked songs and full-band, uptempo songs. Some have a touch of ambiance and electronic instruments in them, but it’s still organic pop. We’re adding instruments like harmonica and banjo, sitar – you name it – which we think is really fun working with to create interesting sounds. So yes, you are going to hear a lot from us this year and the years after this, we won’t stop until we get old and deaf and can’t hear our own music anymore. 😉 Some thought Smith & Thell was over, but we were just soul searching.
How hard is it to know what songs to keep for yourself and what songs to give to others? It’s not quite killing your darlings, but it’s definitely giving your darlings away!
It’s been hard before. Now there’s no doubt about what songs are ours and what songs are for others. Sometimes it takes time to find yourself. My voice is not a powerful Adele voice, and it works best in pop/folk/alt country, the music we did when we started our band way back. And that’s really where our own heart as artists is. Our little dilemma has been that we’re writing so much songs and we want to do everything, cause we love music so much, we couldn’t just pick one thing. But when we started pitching some songs we made to other artists and got creative input there too, everything fell into place. Now we wouldn’t give away what we now call a “Smith & Thell” song with this specific sound and type of lyrics for anything. You know what songs they are when you get heartache and it feels like a break-up just talking about it. But other darlings we’re happy to give away!
Despite the fact that you’ve changed your sound entirely, please tell me that you still look back on your old material with pride. You had some big songs!
Thank you. Of course we do. We really loved what we did before, but to be honest, we’re head over heels in love with the sound we’re creating now. You know when you’ve found your home, and we’ve been longing for our home for quite a while now. At the same time we actually were a bit worried about how people would react to us changing our sound so drastically, so we tried to compromise between acoustic and electro the year when we worked on the EP, and limited ourselves. In music and creating you can’t compromise. So we said “fuck it”. This is so much fun and we felt so good writing these kind of songs for ourselves again, so we just did it. We expect to evolve and creativity is a living energy. We might try different sounds, more or less country, more or less pop, darker or happier. Right now we’re living in a sugar coated rainbow world, writing songs about unicorns and colours. And we enjoy it a lot so we will keep on doing that as long as it’s fun.
RIGHT THAT’S ENOUGH WORDS FOR NOW. LISTEN TO THE SONG AND WATCH THE VIDEO – BOTH ARE AMAZING. RELEASED TODAY IN SCANDINAVIA.