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By Phil Bonyata
April Smith and the Great Picture Show
June 24, 2010
New York-based songstress April Smith is a beautifully witty, up and coming agent for change...but instead prefers to step back into the cobblestoned shadows and cabarets of the 1930s to catapult said change. Smith learned about music early by attempting to crash her older and very talented siblings jam sessions. To their chagrin her relentless efforts paid off and she was allowed in. She developed a powerful and seductive voice and even a more intriguing stage presence. She loves Tom Waits and horror movies. Don't we all know that they go hand in hand? Her writing is bemusing as it can be confusing. The happy optimism of big band, the hopelessness and fear of horror movies mixed in with the fatalist despair of Edgar Allen Poe and a ubiquitous peppering of Tom Waits to form a musical gumbo that's not for everyone. But, if you take the time to peel back the layers - you will find something very charming and surprising in April Smith and the Great Picture Show.
Livewire: Where are you now April?
April: I'm in Oregon and I'm looking at the most picturesque hillside there ever was.
Livewire: Of all time and that ever was in the history of hillsides?
April: (laughs) We've just been having an intense discussion on King of the Mountain.
Livewire: Any significance with the band's name?
April: It's sort of the 1930s, 1940s sort of retro feel. I've always been a big fan of old Hollywood and I just like the ring of it.
Livewire: On Songs for a Sinking Ship how would you best describe your sound?
April: The best way to describe it is a retro pop sound with a 1930s feel with a modern spin on it.
Livewire: Do you read reviews of your music and live performances?
April: Yeah, I do actually. The album has been pretty well received for the most part and there were a couple of people who weren't as excited about it. Yeah, but I try to read everything that's out there and take it with a grain of salt.
Livewire: I guess you need teflon skin for the bad ones.
April: Yeah, you just have to realize that everyone is not going to love what you do.
Livewire: If you had to choose only one - would you take artistic acclaim or the money?
April: The answer is I have to sleep with myself at night.
Livewire: There's a cool, hokey vibe with the album artwork. Was that your idea?
April: It's actually interesting, I met this photographer a couple of years back at a show and he used to be in advertising. He said "If you ever want to do a shoot I would love to do a shoot with you" and I said "We would love to." After we finally got it together he photographed everybody in the band in his studio separately and he digitally created the background. The cover art actually inspired the album title Songs for a Sinking Ship. You know the whole Titanic ship sinking thing and it really set the tone for the name. So yeah, the artwork is a very important part of the album.
Livewire: You seem to be a fan of horror movies and the macabre. Do you think that fear is a great artistic motivator?
April: Yes, I guess it depends on what kind of fear and what you are afraid of. I would say yes absolutely. I would say it's less of a motivator and more of an inspiration. I love to be scared and I love to watch horror movies. I just finished this great book about Jack the Ripper and there is really this strong case of it being this guy Walter Sickert and it's a really very compelling argument and it's really a great, great book. It really leaves you no doubt that this was the guy. I like dark, historic tales and stuff like that really gets me working. I love a good mystery!
Livewire: Tell me how Kickstarter got your career going.
April: Yeah, basically a friend told us about this great website and you have to sign up for it. I told my manager that we really wanted to do it - so we started a project on Kickstarter and we got $10,000 and really the fans were extremely helpful because they were the ones getting the word out. Not only did I get the album funded, but we got a lot of new fans. They really know what they're doing at Kickstarter and it's a great platform for artists to raise funds for their projects and we will probably use it again for our next album. I would like to get this album out on vinyl and that might be a project worth doing.
Livewire: Give me one of the more bizarre experiences in your life.
April: I don't remember this, but my parents told me that there used to be this crazy lady that babysitted me when I was three or four and she was actually taking me to these crazy cult meetings. She had my mother dress me up because she told her that I was going out to some formal thing and my mother finally found out it was one of these crazy religious cult meetings. I don't know how bad these meetings were because I don't remember anything. So, apparently my babysitter was trying to sacrifice me or make me into a little wooden lawn ornament. (laughs) Maybe that's where I get my darkside from.
Livewire: If you could tour with anyone who would it be?
Livewire: I know that you love Tom Waits - maybe him perhaps.
April: I love Tom Waits, but I don't know...I mean if I never meet Tom Waits my whole life - I would be totally fine with that. Not that I don't think it would be wonderful to meet him, but I really admire him as an artist and I probably wouldn't need to go beyond that. I'm sure he's really lovely guy and a very interesting person, but I'm really happy just loving him from afar. That all said, it would still be cool to tour with him, but when you tour with someone you start to turn into "in-laws."
Livewire: So you love tutus?
April: I do, I absolutely love them. Why did I ever get into tutus when they take up so much room in your suitcase and there's no room for anything else, but all of your tutus. I have a great selection too. I think too that the more raggedy they get the better and the more character they get as well.
Livewire: Where do you see April Smith in five years?
Ohhh....I'd like to move to another country like Italy. They really know how to live out there. They're very relaxed and enjoy life and I need to learn that a little bit. So, I'm hoping in five years that I'm at least living part-time in Italy and figuring out how to truly live life!
April Smith and the Great Picture Show are performing at Summerfest at The Miller Lite Oasis in Milwaukee on Sunday, June 27th at noon www.summerfest.com.