At this point, there’s really no reason for anyone in OC’s indie rock scene not to know about Wetwood Smokes. With a fourth EP and a corresponding mini-tour through the Southwest carrying them through August, the Costa Mesa-based group has already broken through as one of the most prominent and relevant indie bands in the area. But this time around, things are a little different than they were on the first three records.
“We recorded a three-song EP called Jojo with Jon O’Brien right here at the Music Box Studios in Fullerton,” bassist Chrystian Cano says. “It’s our third record with Jon, so we finally fell into a groove we really like, and we’re dialing it in really well. I think our sound is also going to be a little bigger than it was with previous records because we got a new drummer.”
With the addition of the fourth member, Wetwood Smokes are a step closer to their everlasting goal of having the fullest sound they possibly can. It’s something they always strived to do ever since forming in 2010, and it’s a lot easier to pull off with a foursome — former drummer Steven Howard shifted to lead guitar to make room for John Gee on drums — rather than a bare bones trio. For that reason, Cano and vocalist/guitarist Josh Bowman are both pretty happy with how delightfully complex the new tracks are compared to some of their previous works.
“This one is probably a little bit closer to our second EP, Organ Donor, whereas Our Third EP was a little more rock-based,” Cano says. “For anyone who’s semi-familiar with our music, we’re getting back to a more dialed-in version of that second EP."
Although they may be best known as a trio, Wetwood Smokes was technically born out of the ashes of a larger band. With the band’s origins as friends dating back to at least high school — Bowman and Howard are actually step-brothers — it was only natural that they’d get a band together and try their hand at making some of the music that spoke to them. Unfortunately, the group didn’t exactly work out, so the musicians decided to bail on their high school project and start something new.
“All four of us were in a band before this, and it was just one of those post-high school bands, you know?” Bowman says. “It was a first band — everyone has their first band — and it kind of just fizzled out. When it came to an end, we all decided we wanted to move on and do our own thing, so three of us decided to do Wetwood Smokes.”
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“There was a different singer in the other band, and Josh was a backup singer with a lead singer’s voice,” Cano adds. “We ditched that band and started a new band with Josh on lead vocals and a little bit more of a mature sound. When we decided we’d explored the options of a three-piece, we added John, who was the drummer in that first band.”
With their mini-tour kicking off on Wednesday at the Wayfarer in Costa Mesa before heading to Palm Springs, Phoenix and Las Vegas before returning for a stop in Anaheim at the beginning of next month, the guys in Wetwood Smokes are really hoping to catch some eyes and ears live along with the release of their EP. After all, adding the fourth friend will only improve both their sound and enjoyment of each live performance.
“With the fourth member, I think the live sound will be a lot more authentic to what we recorded in the studio,” Bowman says. “We have an extra guitarist now, so we can throw in more harmonies. We’ve also got some cool bands lined up for the upcoming shows, so we’re really excited for it.”
“We love doing this, and I think that really comes across when we play live,” Cano says. “I just want to really encourage people to see us live, and the main thing that we want to come across live is that we are legitimately best friends who are doing it because we love it. We just try to have fun onstage. We’re having a good time, so we hope that translates not just with the writing of the songs and lyrically, but also in the live performance.”