For Wetwood Smokes, starting a band meant more than writing songs and carving out time to jam; it meant moving in together and finding a way to dodge neighborhood noise complaints. While the tale may sound familiar, vocalist/guitarist Josh Bowman, drummer Steven Howard, and bassist Chrystian Cano are determined to beat the odds and make their story a successful one. Judging by their sophomore EP, Organ Donor, they're on their way. The title track is peppered with sweet harmonies and swells with Bowman's raspy, soaring vocals, and "Stark" is an emotionally raw call to arms.
Bowman and Howard are stepbrothers who grew up playing together, but it wasn't until Cano entered the picture that Wetwood Smokes came to fruition. The group caught a break last year after playing a string of sold out shows in Los Angeles opening for The Brobecks (whose front man is Dallon Weekes of Panic! At The Disco), and they're looking to build on that notoriety with the release of Organ Donor. The group is set to play The Wayfarer in Costa Mesa on March 19 to celebrate the release, with support from opening acts Bird and The War, and The Lucky Lonely. The Weekly caught up with Cano to hear how the group landed OC Music Award-winning producer Jon O'Brien, why their sound is changing, and what's up with those masks.
OC Weekly (Heidi Darby): How is Organ Donor different from your first EP?
Chrystian Cano: The first EP was more toward indie pop, Organ Donor is more alternative and geared toward indie rock. We're hoping they're the kind of songs you can listen to over and over again, and not get tired of them. That was our goal. With our first release we had more hooky songs, and I feel with pop songs people get burned out faster. On Organ Donor we wanted to create something that was, in a way, timeless, so people could come back to it.
The masks you're wearing on the cover of the EP are pretty out there, how did they come about?
The masks are for our music video which is almost done filming, we're hoping it's out in time for the EP release party… We had an original album cover that's posted online, but when we were filming the video we caught this image [featuring Cano's little sister] and decided it had to be our new cover. I had to call the distribution company and everything, and we had it switched just in time.
How did you get involved with producer Jon O'Brien?
Our roommate mentioned that he had a friend who was a producer, which we took with a grain of salt because it seems like everyone has a friend who's a producer. So we sent his friend our tracks and he ended up liking them. Then we did a little research on who he was, and it turned out to be Jon O'Brien who had happened to win the OC Music Award for Producer of The Year a couple weeks before that happened… We did Organ Donor, the single, last March and then we went back a couple of months later to record the other two songs. And almost a year later, here we are!
Given that it was almost a year ago when you recorded it, how do you feel it reflects your sound now?
Our taste in music and our sound is always progressing. We went for real instruments [on Organ Donor], so there's no background strings or fake instruments or anything. Our previous stuff had more synths, drum beats. This record is where we're at right now and sounds just like a live show, which is something we really wanted.
Wetwood Smokes perform at The Wayfarer, 843 W 19th St., Costa Mesa (949) 764-0039; www.wayfarercm.com; Thursday, March 19 at 9 p.m., $5, 21+. For more on Wetwood Smokes visit www.wetwoodsmokes.com