SBS: Smai! I’ve always looked forward to this day my friend. You’ve made some extremely special tunes throughout the past couple years that have seriously stuck with me over time, and I can’t thank-you enough for that. I’m familiar with what you create as SMAIBLUE – but for those out there that aren’t listening to everything on the internet every day like I am – how would you describe the sound?
SMAIBLUE: First of all, thank you for having a listen and I’m really glad you’ve found something in these songs! Probably the best place to start really would be to explain the story behind one of the newer tracks. There’s a song called “Petrichor” on the latest LP Lunar Dreams that took a long time to make. The piano’s being played in a way that’s based on talking. It’s voicing the syllables and name of a Deity that I can’t depict in any drawn artwork as there’s a certain passage you must go through before you have the right to create an image of it. The track formed itself around the rhythm in those syllables. After a lot of writing, rewriting, recording, performing… I eventually got the lyrics and the song. The lyrics are strange, referring to the way the city became a huge graveyard with these giant tombstone like buildings that mourn lost civilizations. There’s also talks of floods… and a ranch. This Deity is a mighty being that is known to create huge cascades of rain and floods and I remember seeing a drawing of this being and becoming fascinated and drawn to this wonderful artistry. When I learned about the tales formed from its existence and the artwork depicting it, it was mind-blowing and exciting to discover. These types of stories and places create something impactful, something that really gives you perspective. That’s what I’m aiming to create in the music I make.
SBS: We’re referring to you by your musical-moniker of course my friend…and I promise not to take off your mask and reveal that you’re obviously Batman your identity to the world – BUT! You alluded to the fact that there’s a story behind the name of Smai and how SMAIBLUE came to be – can you tell us more?
SMAIBLUE: I’ve been thinking a lot about the name Smai for a long time now. It’s the name my family calls me. It’s a reference point for me to return to my Indonesian roots. It’s the name I’d hear all the time in a language that wasn’t English and also a society that warmly helped me discover some really important and meaningful things. I was lost before then, badly. Being Smai is something special, it’s where my soul lives. In a way if you name something yourself you tend to give it more meaning as well. Smaiblue was a name that I came up with in this house way out in the jungle. There was loads of music gear that had been worn out by the jungle and yet some of it still functioned. Something about that place, gave me an idea. I worked on the instruments and found music to be really compelling again. I wanted to be and create as SMAIBLUE, this separate special true life from my seemingly straightforward just a guy with a job life that we all end up in.
SBS: How about we take that question one step further Smai? What would be the advantage of your anonymity? Perhaps you can share a bit about how it might benefit your art/music for people to not know who the Wizard of Oz is behind the curtain? What made anonymity on a personal-level important to this project, this music, this art you’re creating? Seems like most out there would want the credit…
SMAIBLUE: Smai’s who I am at my best. It’s more personal bringing out that name and being that part of the soul. Smai’s the most important person to be and these creations belong to my Smaiblue side. It’s just how it is, we never choose our names in the beginning, but we always find ourselves and our name eventually… hopefully. It doesn’t feel anonymous, it feels the most true to self I’ll ever be and I want it to stay that way. It works I believe and I need to believe that in order to make it work and work for it. If that makes sense. A lot of it as well is dealing with certain family members, the sharer of my anxious blood is so insistent on the idea of me becoming famous and doing this for fame but out of everyone they would understand the most why it’s not a desirable thing. For some people, they love that but it’s just not my thing. Lots of amazing electronic music comes out of people that we have no idea about, even visual art from someone like Banksy becomes more appreciated when you’re just there with the work. I hate celebrity, the idea of celebrity. Lots of people love that idea of being rich and famous and I’m happy to not be lots of people. If it happens it happens, but it’s not really the ambition behind what I’m doing and I believe the work is stronger because of that.
SBS: OK…we’re past the intro for the folks that don’t know ya yet now…so let’s get into some history & a few things I’ve always wanted to ask you about! The first question that comes to mind is definitely regarding the sincerity of the music you make Smai…when you’re listening to your own music come back after a recording session, what are you listening for – like, as in, what does that song have to have in order to make it officially into the SMAIBLUE catalog? What’s your focus on when you hear your new songs for the 1st time – what needs to stand out, what needs to be included in order to make the grade?
SMAIBLUE: Every song is different, but I’m incredibly picky and fussy about them. It needs to reach a certain mood, do something… Sometimes they take years like “Gentle” and “Petrichor” did and other times they take a few minutes like “I Miss You” did. “Gentle” was an overproduced mess for a long time because I was so dedicated and determined to get that one right more than any other song I’ve ever done, “Petrichor” had a lot of different forms before becoming the song it needed to be. Sometimes there’s an exciting ‘EUREKA’ with an experiment like “Navigate.” That song was transformed by Syauu’s mind-blowing soulful vocals. There’s that warbly whirl happening in “Two Different Worlds,” the secret sounds I formed in “Crimson Staircase…” that echoing piano in “Caught in September.” These are all tests in a way and if I see potential I’ll go after it and create with it and for it. I believe creating’s more like swimming and spearfishing as opposed to sitting and lure fishing. It can be challenging and sometimes leads nowhere. I like to experiment and challenge myself a lot but… if the mood’s not there or it feels like a waste of time creating and listening-wise, it’s not a success in my book.
SBS: You’ve mentioned behind the scenes, or at least hinted, at just how special the last three records have been for you – to the point where you’ve even written a novel about it! Wanita’s Quest – can you tell us about what we’ll find in this story of yours, and how it ties into these last albums you’ve created?
SMAIBLUE: While the first wave was ringing through the UK, like everyone, I discovered I had a lot of time on my hands. I’d just finished Lunar Dreams and battled through that album and an awful illness that was wrecking me. I wanted to get away from the music for a while and get into a project that wasn’t music. I’d always wanted to write a novel and this specific one was always deep within my soul. These three albums unlocked it and helped form it into what it was meant to be however. It’s a strange creation that showcases and reignited my love for these three albums, they’ll always be truly special personally. As separate from my other works as the story is and as much as the novel is its own creation, the albums cast themselves into the pages in their own way. That’s just how they are and where my mind was when it was being written. There are books printed and the ebook’ll be out soon… It’s a celebration of these albums.
SBS: As I mentioned in the review of your Lunar Dreams album, your title-track from the previous record, “That’s Enough Love Songs – See You Soon” still lives proudly rent-free in my head to this very day. I might have theories on why that is or have found some personal meaning that applies to me in there somewhere…but let’s back the microscope out a bit for a wider view of it all at the same time here – what is it about your music that you feel like people connect to, from your perspective? Why do you think a song like “That’s Enough Love Songs – See You Soon” would continue to resonate so memorably?
SMAIBLUE: Thank you, I’m really glad it made an impact for you! I’m guessing you’re talking about “I Miss You” and the final line announcing, ‘That’s Enough Love Songs, See You Soon.’ (Ed. Note – Yep. I was. Oops! Apologies on getting the title wrong lol…awkward time to have done that, my bad, my bad)
It’s a special song, that emotion is very open to interpretation to all of us. I think we’re all deeply yearning certain things at this time because that’s the essence of hope we have when it comes to the future. But at the same time, it’s nothing new… it’s something as old as our time here. It wasn’t a big grand ‘I need to make this project as strong as possible.’ Like “Gentle” or a lot of Avenue of A Dying Place was… it was more of a ‘…fuck…I miss you.’ We all can relate to that, we all have that person, or people that provide that mood for us. It causes you to miss things that you notice in someone that they never notice in themselves. These are very much my last and best love songs as well, which strengthens their significance. I’m never going to make something as beautiful surrounding love ever again and it’s completely worth it.
A lot of the fun is going and playing some of my music and surprising people or giving people some kind of reaction and emotion through it.
SBS: How do your albums compare/hold up over time? Have you ended up being partial to one more-so than the others in your past catalog? How often do you get a chance to listen & revisit your own material once it’s been put out into the world? When you check out your past records – do you feel they’re still comparable to the music you’re working on now, quality-wise, idea-wise, production-wise? Are there now things that you can do with your talent & creativity that you just couldn’t have back then?
SMAIBLUE: That’s Enough Love Songs was the easiest in a lot of ways because it was the purest but it was also a complete and utter shedding of every shield I’ve ever had up. I’ve done songs like that before, but never to this understanding, magnitude and significance. I think that’s what comes across and why it resonates with a lot of people, it’s also my favourite album.
I’ve got a real soft spot for these last three albums for sure. I can die happy now I’ve completed those three and in a way with Lunar Dreams that was the aim. The album before them Don’t Let It Disappear was this weird sort’ve selection of songs where I was trying to find things out sound wise. Some of it held up, there’s one track “TRANSFORMATION” that features a strange unknown ghost female voice saying ‘Don’t Let It Disappear’ or ‘Do Let This Be’ that I caught off the fly while recording piano in Jakarta. But apart from that those songs don’t quite have the staying power these last three albums have. I even remade a couple just to get some clarity and in a way closure from that working things out era. There are some strong ones on there but I definitely wasn’t there yet. There’s a security and sense of self and understanding that Avenue, That’s Enough Love Songs and Lunar Dreams brought, a maturity in a way.
Avenue is very fragmented in a way because I was fragmented while creating it. I had the opportunity to find new ways of expression through music but I was also really mentally ill at that time. I was struggling to find the balance and dealing with medication that you just don’t want to be on, I’m not on it anymore and feel great. Some of Avenue I find difficult to listen to but there are certain songs that I completely love from this album, it’s a mixed bag.
That’s Enough Love Songs is definitely my favourite and I believe it’s the strongest album I’ve made. It took me 26 years to make something as wonderful as this one. That warm light that it has. It kept me going when I really needed it and it’s bloody special, it’s my heart. It’s also not my album and it’s stronger completely because of that.
Lunar Dreams in a way is a drifty dreamy place. I was worn out, really ill… On what seemed like the end of all things and had this album itching to release. I got really sick, it wasn’t Covid, but it was devastating. Lunar Dreams was a mixture of exploring those fever dreams, going to the other realm and releasing something that I could be happy with if I did genuinely discover the afterlife. It’s got that sense about it. The artwork was absolutely brilliantly done and created by a friend you can check out on Instagram as Anima Van Gogh, she’s a genius.
These new sets of songs are a lot more challenging because I’m pushing myself more in terms of where I can go musically. The music’s marching forward in a much more exciting way I’ve found and diving into jazz, heavier guitar, soul, proper strings, electronic drums and evolving the ambience is an exciting realm of transition I’m happy to be in. The last three albums helped me really reach some sense of security in what I was doing, it’s working and I’m loving it.
SBS: I know it technically hasn’t been too long since you started releasing your music online – 2019 if I’m not mistaken…so it’d be understandable if you still felt like the exact same dude you were when you created your first record I suppose. That being said…there’s always growth…at least, hopefully! And as individuals, we’re the people that know ourselves the best – there’s no one out there that would have a better understanding of the progress & evolution you’ve been through & discovered as an artist than you would be. From your perspective Smai – how have you challenged yourself as an artist & grown since you first started releasing your music?
SMAIBLUE: I’ve definitely changed and feel/am completely different since the first record or first time I was playing music. Avenue was a real turning point, That’s Enough Love Songs was the big one and Lunar Dreams was in a way a finalization of this wonderful trio I dove into. These upcoming ones are really boosting things up. Volume is going to feature the volume bar as its artwork and some drawings of standard looking politicians with the mute symbol over the volume bar… or some-such-thingamabobble. It’s also very much focused on BLM, dealing with racism and this powerful place we’ve evolved ourselves into… hopefully. I’ve expanded and often changed the ideas of what I’m going to write about because I need to do so to evolve and continue to evolve. I’m trying out genres, music ideas that really wouldn’t sit on the last three albums… and that’s exactly what needs to happen. Sometimes I’m really in the deep end of the ocean without a lifejacket on but that’s how it works. Volume is a true challenge and I’m really enjoying the process of piecing it together.
SBS: When we first crossed paths in July of 2019, I reviewed a handful of singles that ended up being a part of your album Avenue Of A Dying Place. After having a look at your pages & the way you tend to release your music online, it seems like the tracks come out individually before the full album appears – and of course, with a series of records out there, we have to assume this is all intentional. Between putting them online and creating the album – is there anything else that occurs in the process that we wouldn’t know about? What’s the advantage in releasing the songs as singles prior to the album?
SMAIBLUE: It’s like a trailer before a film or a prologue before a chapter. Avenue’s a huge album, the singles are also the opening tracks of this strange world that they inhabit. I was just exploring a new way of expressing through music and it was really starting to reach somewhere new and quite exciting. “Infinity” was this huge burst of manic energy that I wanted to brood and contemplate in. “Kingdom of Passing” was based on this sound that I would constantly hear at random times. This weird high pitched sound you hear rumbling through the beginning was something I was so pleased to work out how to create and throw it out there. I don’t hear it anymore. A lot of that song is about trying to stay calm in the madness that is Shibuya in Tokyo. You’re swamped with a barrage of bustling people, strangers and their eyes glancing at you. It’s fucking intense man and fascinating at the same time.
I think the process with Avenue was ‘this album’s massive, if I just throw it out there it’s going to be a big block of text and artwork that nobody’ll preview… might as well provide the openers to open this new realm of releasing music.’ Plus it was a fun way to try out making and creating concepts for music videos. I’ve printed a bunch of CDs by hand since releasing Avenue and the latter albums on big music platforms online. I’m new at this kind of thing but prologues and previews are always important.
SBS: I ain’t gonna lie to ya Smai…the music you’re making is truly some of the more unique stuff that’s happening out there in the scene right now, compared to the vast majority of other artists/bands. Obviously I personally LOVE that fact…I’m all about things that are different and sincerity that makes an impact – and you have both of these aspects in your music pretty much at all times. I suppose it’s only natural to start wondering where it all comes from brother-man…and as much as I try to stay away from typical questions interviewers ask, this time I feel like I gotta know – what are YOU listening to over there? What kind of music did you grow up on…& who/what adds influence to your style/sound today?
SMAIBLUE: I listen to a lot of music and also don’t listen to a lot of music at the same time. It’s always been really varied but sometimes I’ll obsess over some new set of music that really impacted me for a while and shuffle along. Asian music and the variety it offers tends to be where I go to the most. Indonesia and Japan have a ridiculous wealth of music that I’ve enjoyed discovering. Traditional Indonesian music and also the wealth of brilliant musicians Indonesia has is a massive treasure trove. Japan has a lot of great music as well… there’s something I love about good videogame music in how it’s a constant repeat of pure pleasure you can keep on for as long as you wish as well. Of course if it’s rubbish it’s the worst kind of music as well but that’s just how it goes. The UK is also full of a lot of great musicians as well… but sometimes I’ve found the UK a bit overrated regarding its music scene…
One of the best perspectives that completely changed my life and idea of music came from Aphex Twin though. I can’t remember where I read this from but I read that he’d try to recreate the sounds he heard in nature or outside of music. Whether it’s legit or not that idea changed everything for me completely, when I started to approach music in that way things started to really make sense. 52HZ.1 and .2 was the first real breakthrough in how this idea works. These tracks were formed from the sound of the 52 hertz whale or the world’s loneliest whale. Regarding Aphex Twin, it’s tricky because his music is brilliant in its own right and I worry I’m leaning into him as an influence as opposed to being myself but that idea of creating music from the universe of sound and feeling outside of what music is ‘supposed’ to be… that’s exciting and can take you anywhere, literally… anywhere sonically.
I mean, in saying that… we’ll have to get the obvious Radiohead thing out of the way. The reference at the end of the reprise was based on this wonderful memory I have of accidentally meeting the band and possibly amusing Thom in Germany. I think it was inspiring for them because it was a weird situation we encountered each other in, it was kind’ve perfect for their way of art and expression and it still cracks me up to this day. It’s also been a big thank you as well to those guys. That band’s done a lot for me in terms of inspiration because they’re simply brilliant musicians and keep it insanely versatile. It seems like they throw themselves into different styles before settling on the emotion or innovation rather than box themselves up into something standard. That’s just exciting, that’s the potential music has and that’s something I think we’ve forgotten to embrace. I make a huge effort to try not to sound like them as well though they do often pop up as a reference point when I’m doing something… Sound like yourself… As challenging as it is sometimes.
A big part as well also has to do with my father. He’s a musician as well, but we never properly met for a long time, I only knew him through a strange sort’ve mythology. I’d play musical instruments and people that knew him would freak out and say I looked like him or was just like him. I’d listen to his music, it’s very reggae. Very traditional, Islander music. That’s definitely important and preserves a very rich and deep culture, but I wanted to move away from that comparison as much as possible. I wanted to be myself, making my own music. Never mind my father. Those were the only rules when it came to forming this music, form it yourself.
SBS: Beautifully melancholy. Mixed emotions. Thought-provoking music that makes you feel…something…and you never really know what – you might smile, you might cry. These are the kinds of things I think about when I’m thinking about the SMAIBLUE music that I know of. I definitely get that it would be tough to narrow the scope of your songs down to one particular demeanor, mood, or atmosphere that defines it all…but ultimately, when you examine your own material as a whole, from your perspective – do you feel like it comes out definitively one on side overall as ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ etc.? I think one of the best aspects of your music is the range of emotions that comes along with it…and I’d totally get it if someone else out there felt the complete opposite of how I feel about it, or identified with a different mood in your music as its main attribute. When you’re writing, creating, and recording – are you consciously steering the mood & style of the music, or is the mood of the music steering you?
SMAIBLUE: It really depends on the song. Most of the time it’s the music steering me. “Driving In The Desert” is a classic example. I originally was planning on doing a parody style song of those big motor vehicle adverts. Rocky guitar, ‘funny’ commentary… But … it was an utterly… terrible idea so instead I saved the title and just played guitar in celebration of finishing Avenue. That joyous celebration was something I fell in love with and put on the album straight away. That track is very much the music leading the way and succeeding, I love that track. It’s smarter than I am. “West” is also this really strange song, I was watching Breaking Bad on mute and just playing along to this strange rhythm I came up with. It was working though. “Recovery” was made when I was watching trash tv and got bored, so I sat down with my new synth and pedals and filled the room up with this music while the muted drama faded into the background as just a light for the room. I was starting to get the hang of my medication and the music was coming back again, strong.
Other times you’re looking to head somewhere specific. “The Way You Drift” is very much based on an incredibly powerful and significant moment. It was made to take me there and live within it happily. The closing track of Volume is a very much a pursuit in creating a run in the snow. “Shabu-Shabu in Nagoya” is based on a special meal I had in Japan and the motion I saw my aunt do when she was creating shabu-shabu. The piano again is mimicking something… the motion of moving kombu seaweed and food is the sound instead of a where must the notes go idea. Regardless the method or emotion when it works the music is taking you somewhere and I love going to those places and sharing it with people. I really collapse into the place the music takes me and it absorbs my soul. I close my eyes and the colours and world transforms within it, I can’t help it… I love it. “Cave With No Name” is open to anyone’s interpretation, they can enter their own cave. Nobody knows what “RCA” means, Wanita’s Quest will tell you the answer… A lot of the time as well I’m recording everything live. “RCA” is completely live, “Driving in The Desert” is live, I don’t make any notation or music through the computer. I’ve done electronic effects and beats live through an amp then recorded just to give it something a bit more ‘in there’ and less clinical. I could make and talk about it all day but I’ll shuffle to the next question.
SBS: What would you consider to be the definition of a ‘timeless’ song? Do you feel you’ve written one at this point in your career? Several? None? I suppose it’s only after a long period of time has passed that we ever truly know for sure…but’s let’s go hypothetical here…let’s say it’s a full two-decades down the road…you’ve got the option to reach for just ONE song from the SMAIBLUE catalog to listen to right before the Terminators all come to finish us off, or Arnold saves us, whichever comes first…but you still have time to squeeze in ONE song you’ve written that you know never disappoints…what song do you think that could potentially be, and why?
SMAIBLUE: That’s so hard to consider… Personally, probably “Gentle”… yet there’s a lot of tracks done that resonate strongly just in different ways. “I Miss You” is timeless through what it’s expressing… so if we’re talking the most likely timeless song so far it would probably be “I Miss You.” The most unhealthy burger of the future though would probably be developed by AI and synthetically formed in a lab out of a piece of corn.
SBS: On your site at Bandcamp it mentions that you’re “just a guy doing what he loves.” So wide-open question for you Smai…what does success look like for a guy like that when it comes to making music?
SMAIBLUE: Everyone goes into this kind of thing with different goals in mind. For me personally some of the worst music I’ve ever heard is the most technically impressive or driven to be popular. It’s this competitive sports style mindset that just produces garbage music in my opinion, I mean technical prowess is impressive but dull as well. It’s part of the anti-sports and competition philosophy that I live by. I believe success is making something good with a form of art that you love. That’s all you can really do at the end of the day. Some people’ll love it, some won’t. It kind’ve doesn’t matter. If you have the means and you can create, forming an end result that’s strong art… that’s success in my eyes. I think going into it to show off and be popular… that’s not what it’s about, I genuinely love what I do and I feel humbled and blessed to be able to create. That’s success enough.
SBS: I am extremely stoked to see there are plans for TWO new records from SMAIBLUE coming out soon! As far as I’ve read, they’re called Post-Pandemic and Volume – what else can you tell us about’em? Was it the sheer amount of material you had that ended up creating two full records as a result, or did you set out specifically to make two albums instead of just one this time around? Are they connected in any significant way? What makes them different from each other – why two albums? I’ve got so many questions I could ask Smai! I’ll take any details you’re willing to share about these upcoming SMAIBLUE records – what can you fill us in on about the new music you’ve got coming out?
SMAIBLUE: Volume’s an album for charity, it’s in support of BLM and I’ve been going into a lot of different places for this one. I’m playing violin with rosin everywhere, trying out heavier rock on the guitar, doing a lot of different things. It’s a way of discovering new releases with new styles. It’s probably the most ‘music’ orientated out of the albums so far and it makes sense because of its title.
Post-Pandemic is a big Berlin-esque rave. Which we’ll talk about in just a second.
SBS: Post-Pandemic is of course a title that’s bound to catch some attention in particular, given the isolated times we’re living in right now. I’m curious about it on several levels, as always my friend – but I suppose the first question would be…is that title a reflection of where you feel the world is at presently – or is that more of a hopeful title based on a future still yet to come? When it comes to the Covid-19 era we’re all stuck in, and with all the changes we’ve already made to society for safety precautions – how will we all know when we’re really Post-Pandemic Smai? Does that look like life as we knew it before, back to normal – or will there be different signs that tell us we’re in a Post-Pandemic world?
SMAIBLUE: Post-Pandemic is this strange album that’s essentially a dance album… Lots of electronic beats, lots of pulsing rhythm. There are a few tracks that I was forming when I experimenting with Avenue that just never were going to fit that album, they had a different energy. Eventually they’ve started to make sense in this Post-Pandemic album, it’s a red album that pulses along in the dark.
It’s heavily based on Berlin and how when the wall fell down the city threw itself into a big celebration. A lot of Europe has been getting ahead of itself in this time… Wanting holiday summertime, protesting masks and the numbers have been dire, especially in the UK, it’s being handled appallingly by the public and politicians. I’m always wearing these masks in a really physically demanding job and being disciplined in how I behave because I’ve been in the hospital, hooked on a machine at the start of this year. To do that to someone else, it’s selfish and so many of us are like this at the mo. This is a time where you’re either the best or worst of humanity, there’s no middle ground.
I’m going to set the Post-Pandemic release date for the day I think it’ll be over. 99.9% I’m completely wrong but it’s a fun experiment to try out and something to hope for. I believe that life will be rebuilding at this time and a lot of the album features this sort’ve progression in motion as well. It pulses along with rhythmic electronics, which I believe is how life will be going.
SBS: Has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your music in other ways than thematically? You’re looking to put out two records soon…presumably a global pandemic hasn’t made that process any easier. What challenges have you faced in recording these next records that are unique to this time we’re living in, as opposed to what you experienced in recording your last albums?
SMAIBLUE: All of my music is recording live in my lone living space. I can’t escape it, we live together and love each other… Sometimes we argue, but we’re always together and there for each other. Lunar Dreams was the most vulnerable because I genuinely had lost everything and was really feeling like I was a dead man walking at that stage. Covid came, my job got swept away from under me, my tech was failing and I was dealing with the worst illness I ever had that a lot of us were certain was covid… thankfully it wasn’t but still… I was destroyed at that time. Lunar Dreams felt like the finale and finishing it felt like a huge wave of relief.
Now I’m still here, working a regular job with huge hours, diving into music when I can. Covid hasn’t changed anything. The difference is how can I keep the music fresh. That is and always will be the challenge.
One thing that’s been amazing though is just how wonderful the environment has become when it started. We had beautiful days in the UK when March came along, the air was so fresh. Animals were roaming cities, I think it was a moment to really appreciate what we have. I’m getting sidetracked, but it’s definitely the best thing this heinous year has brought to us all.
SBS: I think…personally…that’s there’s a finer-line that exists between art & real-life than most realize. There’s the old adage that ‘art imitates life’ – and honestly, I believe that to be true – but what I’m saying is this: it’s tough to not let it fully dominate the creative process, know what I mean? Like I can’t even begin to explain just how many Covid-19-related songs I’ve already heard & had sent our way at sleepingbagstudios…and the reality is, there will be a whole ton more over the years to follow. It’s inescapable, and rightly so; musicians are artists, and they’re the truth-tellers of their time – it’s always documented right there in the lyrics & has been in our history over centuries now. To a large degree, I believe there’s not much we can even do to help that, or prevent it from happening – we write about what we’re experiencing…and in the Covid-19 era, that’s pretty much all there is, full-stop. We’re all thinking about & writing about the same things right now…it’s cathartic, it reassures & reaffirms we’re not alone in how we feel, and it’s an important part of the healing process for both the creators & the listeners out there. But do ya get what I mean Smai? You also don’t want your music to be permanently distracted by it either…or take you completely off the course of what you’d normally be writing about in your natural untainted creativity & thoughts…but the reality is, that is SO HARD to do…for anyone, and justifiably. How do you find the balance…how do you not let circumstances fully dominate the art – or should an event of this magnitude perhaps be afforded the opportunity to take control of our ideas, music, themes, and subjects we write & sing about for the time being until we’re past all this madness?
SMAIBLUE: People need to create what they wish to create, it’s probably the new break up song these days.
In a lot of ways Post-Pandemic doesn’t constantly outright reference it and nothing on Volume references it either. At the start after Lunar Dreams I was obsessing over the news, writing a lot about it, going full blown freakout, everyone was… then it was like… ‘Fuck what am I doing?’ So I wrote Wanita’s Quest and slowly have lowered my drip feed of news intake. It’s been a lot healthier. There is a disease in Wanita’s Quest, but a whole lot of the story is more personal with its characters and world than a worldwide plague. It’s that balance, we’re all living in it… It’s a strange time no doubt, but it’s like if you’ve got a broken leg. It’s there, every day. Sometimes it’s nice to look at the sky and forget about it and just enjoy the moment away from it all. The pandemic’s causing us to tie more into that need of escapism. The problem is these numpties trying to hand me flyers or having a go at me in a mask. In Indonesia they’re making idiots like that dig the graves for Covid patients that have sadly passed away, they should but never would do something like that in the UK. It’s ridiculous.
Anyway… while Post-Pandemic references it, the album is one for the future we’re all keen to reach. It’s not about current times but the ambition and drive of the times that we’ll reach once we recover and we always will. “Petrichor’s” ‘how much is a progress, how much is a start’ is probably the closest I got to referencing how the world would go when the pandemic started and that was a line from the time I was doing Avenue of a Dying Place.
SBS: When it comes to the songwriting process Smai…do you have a favorite part? Is there something you find you love to use or play more than others, or perhaps the addition of vocals, or writing of lyrics etc. – I suppose it could be anything at all, right down to the plugging in of a cable & feeling that inspiration spark up immediately…could be the moment you grab your notebook to write down some words… What stands out to you when you’re creating your songs as a part of the process you always look forward to – and what would make it that much more special than anything else? Or does it?
SMAIBLUE: Definitely finding the answer to the question you never knew you was asking. That’s probably the best way to describe it. I write a lot, I think about music a lot. The man I am now… I’m really quiet, reserved, always going back into it because it’s a special place to be personally. Every part has its moment. I guess my favorite part depends on the song. I loved mixing “Navigate” because of SYAUU’s vocals being incredible to work with edit wise, I loved performing and recording “I Miss You” and just letting it out there with all my heart, I loved writing and rewriting “Gentle” as I’m unlocking something special with the words. I loved standing in my home filled with the loop of “How It Feels When It’s Just Us Being Close” ringing throughout the walls. All those processes for all of those songs have their moments. That’s one of the many joys in doing this.
SBS: When you’re writing Smai – where do you draw your inspiration from most, & what makes it that special source of inspiration? Surely “a guy doing what he loves” draws inspiration from everywhere in some way, shape or form…so is it as simple as boiling it down to that when it comes right down to it – life itself – or is there something more specific you can pin-point than that? What makes you tick Smai?!
SMAIBLUE: So Lunar Dreams started with a scientific theory I had about why we dream. But instead of writing a hypothesis that was bound to not be seen by any of the scientific community I ended up singing through my wounded situation this theory. That’s probably the most different song in terms of songwriting topic. In saying that I wish I could tell you but I’m here to collect and create or recreate… I’ve never thought enough about why but I’m always motivated by my love for doing so.
SBS: You made it! Smai – I genuinely wanna say a HUGE thank-you to you for the music you’ve made over these past couple years…it’s truly meant a lot to me personally & it’s been an all-around pleasure to listen to your exceptionally creative & sincere songs as I’ve been gettin’ to know ya. I’m definitely looking forward to the new albums…but you know that. J Please take this final space – what we call the ol’ SBS Open-Floor…it’s a spot where you can say anything else at all that you’d like to communicate to the people out there…sage words of advice…website info…anything else we didn’t talk about throughout my rambling questions in this interview…anything at all – the floor is yours my friend.
SMAIBLUE: Thank you for the interview and questions, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have. You can find my work on smaiblue.com or just google smaiblue. More work will always be arriving until my last day. Stay safe and well, keep doing what you do and good luck. It’s been a pleasure as always J take care.
Make sure to find out more about Smaiblue & hear the music for yourself at the official links below!
We’ve got questions, you’ve got answers – be our next interview guest at sleepingbagstudios by clicking here!