Published on September 22nd, 2017 | by Craig Silliphant0
Local Music Feedback – Gunner & Smith
Gunner & Smith are releasing their new album this month, called Byzantium. We sit down with Geoff Smith to talk about the music and more.
Recorded at Sinewave Studios, about 80 klicks away from Saskatoon, Gunner & Smith’s new album, Byzantium, weaves a historic tale that hints at the toil of war on humanity. You can check the album out here.
I sat down with Geoff to talk about his music, what he listens to, and some thoughts on the local music scene.
THE FEEDBACK SOCIETY: Wait…if you’re Smith, who is Gunner?
GEOFF SMITH: I once had a co-worker who told me that Geoff Smith was the fake name he gave to cops when he got pulled over. When I started doing music I decided that my name might be to common and that there were probably other Geoff Smiths out there making music. I Googled it and I was right. I used to play a guitar that my buddy named Rex Gunner. That’s where the name ‘Gunner’ came from and it stuck.
TFS: How did you get into playing music?
GS: My older brother introduced me to a bunch of older music in high school. Stuff like Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Simon and Garfunkel. I absolutely loved it and became obsessed with music. I started playing guitar in grade nine and I always wanted to be a lead guitar player in a band, but I didn’t know anyone who wrote songs. So I started begrudgingly writing songs just so that I could play music and somewhere along the way I realized I’m a better songwriter than lead guitar player. So I accepted that I should just do that instead.
TFS: How would you describe your music?
GS: I’d describe my music as what you get when you combine someone who wishes they could write music like Pink Floyd and Townes Van Zandt—but can’t—with 5 to 6 months of Canadian prairie winter per year. Essentially it swings back and forth between a psych-rock project trying to be a country project and a country project trying to be psych-rock project.
TFS: Were there any albums you were listening to a lot while making Byzantium?
GS: I was actually writing this album during a time when I was too poor to buy new music and too full of righteous indignation to sign up for a streaming service, so my music intake was a little limited. I was listening to a lot of Neil Young with Crazy Horse’s ‘Everybody Knows This is Nowhere.’ The second half of the album was written after David Bowie passed away so I was listening to a lot of Bowie during that time as well.
TFS: What are your plans for touring on this record?
GS: My plans for touring this record include playing Saskatoon and Prince Albert the weekend of the album release (Sep 22/23). That will be followed by a trip to South Korea to showcase at Zandari Festa in Seoul. After that I’ll be headed out to Ontario and Quebec for a solo tour from Oct 12-22. Then I’ll join up with the band again for a short tour of Saskatchewan and Alberta late October till mid November to finish off the release tour. I’m planning to be back on the road in the spring and am working on some shows in Canada and the USA.
TFS: What is the first concert you ever went to?
GS: I can’t even remember my first concert. I remember going to lots of shows at the old Jazz Bassment and a bunch of DIY shows put on by friends around Saskatoon. Mostly I loved music from the 1960-70s so I didn’t really go to many bigger shows traveling through town. One very important show for me was when I was 19 I was a huge Mars Volta fan and two friends and I drove to Minneapolis to see them play right after they had released ‘Francis the Mute.’ That was definitely an important show for me. I haven’t been that excited for a show before or since that one.
TFS: What embarrassing phase did you go through?
GS: Oh…I had a pretty solid emo/hardcore phase. It’s a bit embarrassing looking back at pictures of tight pants and swoopy hair, but it was also a lot of fun.
TFS: What’s something you incorrectly believed for a long time?
GS: I always grew up with the notion that country music is really bad. Which of course it isn’t. Well obviously some of it is. When I finally got my hands on some good country music it definitely changed me as a songwriter. I found a documentary on Townes Van Zandt at the J.S. Wood library and took it home and watched it and that kinda changed everything for me. Soon after that I was getting into Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. So the moral of the story is public libraries are the best!
TFS: What’s a song or band you just can’t stand? Why?
GS: ‘Patio Lanterns’ by Kim Mitchell. It just annoys me beyond all reason. When I heard it as a kid I always thought it said Patty O’Lantern, like it was a song about some Irish lady. When I hear it I can feel my shoulders tense up! I really don’t like it.
TFS: Hahaha! Who is your favourite local musician/act right now?
GS: That’s always a really tough question because Saskatoon always has a lot of really good stuff happening. I think what Kacy and Clayton are doing right now is fantastic. I’m really excited for a few new albums that just came out this fall like the Karpinka Brothers, Ellen Froese, and The Radiation Flowers. It’s tough to keep up because there is just a lot of great stuff happening all the time around here.
(Pictured: Kacy and Clayton)
TFS: What would you change about the local scene if you could?
GS: I’d love to see more young bands. There is some great new ones, but I feel like there is a bit of a void in the 19-22 age range at the moment. There are some great ones like The Sips or In With the Old for example, but it seems like there are a few less bands starting up each year. I think its important for a scene to constantly have new waves of artists coming up as other bands get more mature.
TFS: Anything I’ve missed?
GS: I think we covered a lot of ground! The new album is out Friday September 22 and we are having a release shows at the Capitol with Ray Elliott Band and Twin Voices opening up the show, so it should be a lot of fun.