Bullet holes and budget rock: Talking shop with Smoke Eaters

Culture Music
Smoke Eaters kick it after their show at Copper Owl. Photo by Michelle Yun, Contributing Writer
Smoke Eaters kick it after their show at Copper Owl. Photo by Michelle Yun, Contributing Writer

Fresh off their summer tour, Victoria-based indie rock group Smoke Eaters are keeping themselves busy. Bonnybrook Road, their latest full-length album, is nostalgic and summery, a collection of feel-good songs with equally jaunty lyrics. I got the chance to talk to Misha, Leigh, Rodney, and David, the four members of the band, in their cozy tour van before a show at the Copper Owl on Jan. 19.

The Martlet: How did you all meet and how did you decide to start playing music together?

Misha: Me and David actually met on a dating site, he was posing as an older woman —

David: Catfished.

Misha: — and then we just became really good friends friends from that . . . Rodney and David were actually friends before.

David: Rodney and I met in kindergarten. We celebrated our 20-year friendiversary this fall.

Are you all from Victoria?

Leigh: Oh, we’re from here, there, everywhere. We’re multinational.

Misha: Leigh was born in the States. She’s from California.

What’s your creative process when it comes to writing, recording, and producing your music?

Misha: Well, as far as Smoke Eaters’ records go, we all record and make music. Most of the records were conceived in different ways. It’s usually quite experimental. There’s not really much [of a] formula to it.

Rodney: And as new people join the band, I feel that songs tends to change a bit.

Is there a member who does most of the songwriting?

David: That would be Misha.

Misha: That would be me. I do all of it. James used to do half of it, but he moved away to Saskatchewan.

David: Really? Saskatchewan?

Misha: Yeah, Saskatoon. He’s an engineer now.

Leigh: Yeah, he realized that deep down, where he really wanted to be was the prairies.

Your album Bonnybrook Road was recorded in the small towns Ymir [pronounced why-mer] and Bonnybrook. Do you think your music is influenced by small-town vibes?

Misha: Bonnybrook is not a small town, it’s a road in Calgary. [The album] was recorded in Calgary and finished in Ymir. It was actually mastered in this van while we were driving to Edmonton.

David: Ymir’s a beautiful little town.

Leigh: It’s full of dogs and people.

Misha: Yeah, no matter where you go, there’s dogs and kids running around. It’s really strange . . . [Ymir] does inspire me to work on music —and relax, mostly — but I think Bonnybrook Road was mostly influenced by travelling and living in a big city. I lived in Vancouver when we started recording it, and we finished it in Calgary.

Looking through your albums on Bandcamp, I noticed they’re all tagged “garbage pop.” What does that mean for you guys?

Misha: It’s more of a self-hating thing. I don’t really stand true with it, but it just happened. I think our music automatically gets tagged with that now on Bandcamp . . . We should probably change that.

David: We’re more of a budget-rock group.

Misha: It’s like top 40 music played by 11-year-olds.

You filmed/directed/produced your own music video for the song “Mopeds.” What was that process like?

Leigh: Misha had a dream one night and he wrote it down in his sketchbook. He brought it to us and told us he’d had a dream.

David: Misha actually is a collector of moped bikes. He’s got a bunch of ‘em.

Misha: Yeah, it’s a joy, it’s a bliss. Highly recommended by Smoke Eaters to ride a moped bike.

You were on tour for two months last summer and hit up a bunch of major cities.

David: Yeah, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Vancouver, Winnipeg. We hit them all.

Rodney: We didn’t play in P.E.I. and we didn’t play in Newfoundland.

Misha: But we did play in New Brunswick and Halifax.

Was all the travel done in the van?

David: This very one! We have a stove, a fridge, a medicine cabinet.

Leigh: David started a new micro-career during the tour as a van chef.

Misha: An internet van chef. We made spaghetti at a hundred kilometers an hour. We had to strain the noodles out the window.

David: We got really broke after a while, but it was great! The van became home.

Did anything crazy happen while you were on tour?

David: Yeah, lots of crazy things. There’s some bullet holes in the back of the van from when someone shot us.

Misha: We were in the middle of rural Ontario . . . when we heard this ‘bump bump’! We thought we hit roadkill. It wasn’t until we got to Kenora that we saw the bullet holes.

What was your favourite city to play at during the tour?

David: Quebec City was awesome. We don’t speak any French, which I felt was a big gap to overcome, but it was also nice to be isolated.

Misha: The bands we played with were so awesome.

David: They know how to party in Quebec City.

When it comes to venues, do you guys mostly play at smaller ones like the Copper Owl here? What’s your favourite thing about playing smaller, more intimate spaces?

Misha: We like to play house parties and D.I.Y. spaces the most. All-ages is important to us. Highly recommend the Victoria space Outer Heaven as a venue.

David: It’s not the size that matters so much as the establishment itself. We’d rather have local artists make money rather than some bar taking kids’ money . . . We support musicians for musicians.

How does playing live affect your energy?

David: We’ve been playing these songs for a long time so we’re kind of bored of them, but when we play them live it’s always more fun because of the crowd.

Are there any local bands you’d like to give a shout out to?

Misha: Naked Chilling, Plastic Cats, Superfashion, OKGB, Bored Décor, Oprah Winfrey Sex Change.

Check out Smoke Eaters on Bandcamp at smokeeaters.bandcamp.com.