Ohio rock band Smug Brothers is a collection of contradictions.
The members are neither smug nor brothers, and the caddish name poorly fits these serious, veteran musicians. Furthermore, Smug Brothers could very well be your favorite rock band, especially if you love the pop virility of the Beatles, the lyrical bafflement of Guided by Voices, and the beautiful shambles of Big Star—but you may never know, because you may never see them or hear them.
Take a nap, Schrödinger’s cat. This here is a real paradox.“We’ve been doing this for 20 years,” says Smug Brothers singer and guitarist Kyle Melton, “and no one knows who we are.”One of the reasons for this is the fact that due to real-life responsibilities and a shifting lineup on Spinal Tap proportions, the band rarely performs live.
“You have to tour to make any kind of headway [in the music business],” explains drummer Don Thrasher. “You can’t just play Dayton, Cincinnati, and a few other places and get famous. Any group that has ‘made’ it has had to hit the road and play anywhere they can.”
And then, when the group does perform live, there’s an exciting yet mystifying dimension of difference between the live sound and the recorded material.“A lot of bands today are really, really good at replicating their studio sound in a live setting,” Melton says. “That eludes us. We thrive in a more controlled environment.”
Not surprising for a group that began, way back in 2004, as a one-off studio project between Melton and Dayton musician and producer Darryl Robbins (Peopleperson, TV Queens). It was only with the addition of drummer Don Thrasher, in early 2008, that the Smug Brothers became, to paraphrase Pinocchio, a real band.
Since then, Melton and Thrasher have held down a steady center among a revolving cast of additional musicians—the current lineup includes Kyle Sowash, from Columbus indie-rock stalwarts The Kyle Sowashes, on bass—and have released a series of ever-improving singles, EPs, and LPs. The band’s most recent album, Application of the Twig, is the season of spring distilled into a porch party soundtrack. Brisk and refreshing.
“While we’re not well-known,” says Thrasher, “we make well-done records. We provide a good listening experience for people who like short, catchy songs.” Melton agrees. “A lot of care and consideration goes into our albums. They are singular experiences that you will never see duplicated live.”
All of which brings the Smug Brothers’ quandary full circle. To get a better sense of the elusive Smug Brothers sound, please visit smugbrothers.bandcamp.com! Do it!