I first heard about The Smoove Sailors on the Film Photography Podcast. One of the hosts on the show, John Fedele, played drums for them and their music was often used as play-ins, links and to end each episode.
It was hard to pin down the style - sometimes straight ahead rock, sometimes avant-garde electronic, sometimes (often) both at the same time. Almost always instrumental.
The band get together in Jersey City, every Tuesday night (Smoove Tuesday) and just jam on an idea. Occasionally someone will bring a riff or a rough structure but apart from that, everything is improvised. The line-up is a moveable feast but there are a few ever-presents - John Fedele plays drums, Dane Johnson, Alan Walker, Joe Liebhart and Kevin Neblung all play guitar (yes, all of them), Mark Dalzell plays violin and Kenichi Sugihara plays bass.
But that's not the whole story because often they'll switch instruments. Their studio is full of gear so if one of them feels like playing a Saharan Nose Flute there's probably one there for them.
Anyway, about this E.P
. I visited New Jersey on my honeymoon in 2013. I'd already met a few of the guys in London the year before and had arranged to meet up with the band whilst over in the US. Even better, I'd written a song and was going to record it with them. You can hear it at the start of this mini-album, A Fire In New York City. Kenichi wasn't there so that's me playing bass and singing. A great night was had by all.
Feeling pretty excited by the whole experience of working with such a great band of musicians, I suggested we continued the collaboration when I got back home. I'd write a song and send them an acoustic demo (Piece Of The Dream, The Greatest) and they'd send me back a full backing track for me to put my vocals on. Alternatively, I'd take one of their already recorded instrumentals and put some vocals over it (I Wanna Be Your Alien, I Just Wanna Take From You). In the case of $3 Buzz, the music had already been written by Alan (and recorded by the band) and John wrote some lyrics for me to sing.
The whole experience was very different from what I'd been used to and I'm pleased to say, very enjoyable. It was such a thrill to receive a backing track from a band that can clearly rock with the best of them and a great challenge to write lyrics for an already formed piece of music. I Wanna Be Your Alien in particular was tough, until I hit upon the idea of barking out sci-fi movie titles over the verses. I'm not sure why it works but it does.
To my ears this is proper New Jersey rock. Not the watered down anthems of Bon Jovi, this is the sound of seasoned musicians just putting the boot in. Proper blue collar stuff and all the better for it.
I can only hope my working-class Bolton roots helped enhance what was already some great music.