There's nothing like the smell of an overcrowded rock show.
As I stepped into the middle of the crowded dance floor, the air around me became so congested I could clearly smell the odd mixture of cigarettes and liquor on the two girls behind me. After about two minutes more of stale top 40 radio, the DJ towards the corner of the room began to dim the lights as he lowered the music. As I further made my way up a bit closer towards the front of the crowd, I head into a speed bump in the form of a tall pale-faced surfer looking guy who obviously had a bit too much to drink. Before he could ruin the cool leather jacket of the cute girl in front of him, he was quickly pulled away towards the direction of the bathroom by two equally surfer looking guys. The rest of the crowd was your normal mix of South Bay locals along with the usual amount of tourists. Cigarette smoking ladies, crowded dance floors, overexcited visitors and drunk surfers - yep, I was definitely in a Southern California bar on a Saturday night. And then the band began to play…
The Weather is Great in Southern California
As far as music companies go, we here at ProAudioLand are lucky to reside in one of the most musically prolific hot spots on the planet. Although we are certainly players in the global market by servicing customers throughout the world in need of professional audio equipment, we have a soft spot for Southern California. Sure, the weather is great, we all know that, but another great perk of being based in a location so musically rich means that there is certainly no shortage of original homegrown bands. While there are plenty of generic groups that range from tolerable to ‘please shoot me in the ears’ unbearable, every once in a while you get a band that – for lack of a better word – simply makes you smile…
Along with our staple of featured artists, every so often we like to introduce our guests to a few of the best kept secrets around town, specifically those from our stomping grounds of Southern California. A few months ago, as I blindly strolled through the bar district of Hermosa Beach, I was lucky enough to catch one of the most original bands that I’ve heard in a long while and although at first I was a little taken aback by their positively positive name – Smiles – by the end of the show, I was converted.
And Now, Introducing... Smiles
From Left: Austin Anderson, Lauren Jimenez, Devin Jimenez, Jonnathan Romero and Jesus Lopez
Based in the Los Angeles area city of Redondo Beach, Smiles seems like your average group of five precisely dressed indie rockers, but once those lights dim and the guys take the stage, you will definitely see that this is not your average rock band. There is no dedicated drummer, for one. Did I mention it’s a stand up drum kit? Not only that, they employ a side by side setup where each of the five members are directly next to each other – like soldiers lining up in front of their commander. But looks and setup aside, once they actually start playing, you will be hard pressed not enjoy the show, especially if you have love for the classic genres of American music.
And this is exactly why they remained in my mind for so long after the show. Each song played as a slight homage to classic tunes many of us grew up with. Beatles are an obvious influence that can be heard in their original songs but plenty of punk, new wave, garage and even R&B shine through. Even their choice of covers couldn’t help but impress. Imagine a show where Aretha Franklin and The Talking Heads both feel like a seamlessly natural fit. And as far as musicianship goes, for a group where the average age of their members is just barely old enough to drink, these guys can belt out melodies and hold harmonies right along with the best of them – something that is sorely absent from your average unsigned band. The showmanship was top notch. There was no shortage of outstanding solos – drum, guitar and keys – and every member was as ecstatically upbeat as their name suggested. The lead guitarist in particular rocked out like a complete mad man. Even the occasional funny quip during between-song dialogue received a positive reaction from the crowd. During their entire one hour set, I must admit they held my attention. Each song was uniquely its own and the covers never failed to surprise and satisfy. Most of the members even switched instruments from song to song – capping off the set with the keyboardist and guitarist dueling it out on drums! You will simply not see another band quite like this five piece… but enough about what I saw.
Get to Know Them a Little Better
I was lucky enough to meet the members that night and although a formal interview was out of the question (far too loud that time of night), I did manage get a copy of their first single from their soon to be released debut album. So, rather than hearing me go on and on about what I heard, read on past the break, get a small taste of their sound and get to know the eclectic genre-mixing ensemble of the local Southern California rock band – Smiles.
- Devin Jimenez – Guitar, Drums, Lead Vocals
- Jonnathan Romero – Guitar, Drums, Vocals
- Lauren Jimenez – Bass, Keyboards, Backup Vocals
- Jesus Lopez – Lead Guitar, Backup Vocals
- Austin Anderson – Keyboards, Drums, Backup Vocals
- Redondo Beach, California
Band Bio (off of site):
Out of L.A., Smiles, a most ambitious young group can be described in many ways: colorful, energetic, classy, beautiful, accessible, driven, loud, electric, dynamic, harmonious, eclectic, clean, unique… however you may wish to describe what you feel, Smiles is here to captivate your ears, hearts, and minds.
Formed in late 2007, Smiles has now grown to a quintet consisting of brothers Devin (lead vox, guitar, percussion), Lauren (vox, bass, keyboards), and long time friends Jonnathan (vox, guitar, percussion), Austin (vox, keyboards, percussion), and Jesus (lead guitar). Together, these five performers create a joyous energy, unique even in the competitive market of today.
Performing at venues such as The Whisky a Go Go, The Knitting Factory, The RIMAC Arena, and The Black Box Cabaret, the “Smiles” quintet has now become notorious for their live sets, seamlessly performing a diverse repertoire of covers and originals. All multi-instrumentalists, Smiles’ members easily trade posts on stage and command a demanding presence among the many blossoming artists today with their harmonies, percussion, and songwriting.
This is a band that aims to please… everyone. Eager to finally present themselves to a worldwide audience, with their heads pointed to the sky and their toes planted on the ground, they are…Smiles.
Next Live Show:
Wednesday August 1, 2012 @ The Studio (21+)
1320 Hermosa Ave
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
Show starts at 9PM
The Gear Behind the Music
The following equipment was used in the recording of the single "Gooey Gumdrops" which can be downloaded using the embedded media player below.
- Gretsch Electromatic G5122 Electric Guitar stock
- Gretsch G5129 Electric Guitar with custom TV Jones pickups
- Fender American Jazz Bass Standard
From Left: Austin, Jesus, Jonnathan, Devin and Lauren
- Ibanez Tube Screamer
- Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb
- Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Boy
- MXR M-133 Micro Amp
The Music of Smiles
"Gooey Gumdrops" off their debut record, Sharing
*If you would like to be featured as a local artist (doesn't have to be from California but unsigned bands only please) contact us through our FaceBook page or simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
** All images courtesy of Smiles