Smith Westerns Bust Out of the Basement | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Smith Westerns Bust Out of the Basement

MAX KAKACEK: The first time we hung out it was just like, we were just screwing around, it was like, bring your guitar over to my house and I was like. Okay. And we just did nothing, made terrible music, but yeah, it was you know, it was really boring and really high school.


ALTHEA LEGASPI: That's 19-year-old Max Kakacek. With a few years of playing guitar under his strap, he would become the veteran of Smith Westerns. Eighteen-year old Cameron Omori plays bass.


CAMERON OMORI: Me and Cullen didn't play any instruments until we started playing with Max.


LEGASPI: Singer/guitarist Cullen is Cameron's 19-year-old brother. Cullen and Max met three years ago at Northside College Prep High school in Chicago, and together with Cameron they became Smith Westerns. The band favors crushed-out teen lyrics with sing-along choruses, all wrapped in lo-fi pop. Glam and power-pop inform their sound. But one thing guitarist Cullen Omori insists they're not, even though some have made the comparison, is garage rock.


CULLEN OMORI: The way they compare you to being a garage band now, or like I guess the stigma that comes with it is like you don't really know how to play your instrument, you're kinda sloppy and the lo-fi thing ties in as well, where you're – lo-fi's like minimal. You're using minimal equipment; you're using not a lot of instruments. But like, I think we're the exact opposite of that considering that if you listen to our record, there's a lot more than just you know guitar going on in it.


LEGASPI: They may not consider themselves garage, but the album's rough-around-the-edges vibe captures the energy and impatience of youth with spirited melodies.  Their lyrics can be simultaneously lustful and yet cute or even a tad absurd, in a teen idealistic way. Cullen explains their rationale.


CULLEN OMORI: It's was just like, was kinda like that “let's try that” –and just make it like the most like, simple caveman-esque kind of like lyrics. And I think it has a charming quality to it and like kind of like the brashness of it. You're really like, is that really being said right now? Like “Be my girl.” Like “You can't stop running through my dreams?” Who would you say that to? You know, you'd like get laughed at or slapped in the face.


LEGASPI: And though they reject sounding garage, they admit they first emulated Nuggets-era styling. Because, well, Cullen says it's the easiest music to learn to play. As they've played together, their influences have grown. Their debut album was impressive enough to be released last year on local label HoZac. Max recorded it in his basement.


KAKACEK: When we were making the record, I'd just gotten a Mac, and we were like excited to be using Garageband, and like I'd got two Shure SM 57s and we were like excited to use those and we thought like compared to our other stuff, it was like hi-fi to us. So like yeah, I mean when we were making it, we weren't considering making a lo-fi record, it sounded a lot better than any of the other stuff we'd ever made, and we were happy with that.

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