That's exactly how you can describe the folk-flavored indie pop being made by the boy-girl duo Smile Smile. Members Ryan Hamilton and Jencey Hirunrusme are riding high on the success of their Kirtland Records-released sophomore offering Truth on Tape. And while they are strong with their pop sensibilities, it's the lyrics that at times can cut you in two.
Everybody's been through a break up. Everybody can relate. And when this former couple bares the pains of a love remembered, it hits hard.
We had the chance to catch up with Ryan from Smile Smile, who shared some of the details of his musical influences growing up. And while it may not come as a surprise that the band's sound is steeped heavily with the sounds of classic rock, it may come as a surprise to you just how modern his influences are not.
Read on to find out which era that Ryan thinks he was supposed to be born in, to take a look inside of the mind of a budding music trivia specialist, and to find out what Smile Smile has in store for 2011.
What are some of your early music memories?
I was raised on a healthy dose of classic rock. Zeppelin, The Beatles, Marshall Tucker Band etc. My favorite thing as a kid was to play the "Who Sings This?" game with my Dad as we rode around in his truck. I became so obsessed with knowing who sang every single song that I now know more than he does about that musical era. I love the '60s and '70s an unhealthy amount. I was born 20 years too late. I really believe that.
What are some unexpected influences that your listeners may be surprised to know about?
I love Frank Sinatra, listen to him all the time. I try to listen on tour, but it drives Jencey crazy. I usually get about half a song in before it gets turned off. I then resort to singing a capella, "Fairy tales can come true, It can happen to you..."
Do you look to anybody for inspiration when it comes to your live performances?
I don't really look to anyone but myself. I have to draw from my past experiences with Jencey to sing the songs that we do. I will say that I hate it when bands look like they're trying too hard...
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Do you have any ringtones in your cellular Hall of Fame?
"When your rooster crows at the break of dawn... " My all time personal favorite. I feel sorry for people who are going to have to Google search those lyrics.
The first record that you bought for yourself?
First record I ever bought for myself was John Cougar Mellencamp's Scarecrow. True story. Not ashamed at all. Still listen to the Coug.
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What are your musical guilty pleasures? Anything embarrassing?
I'm a classic rock junkie. Some of that is embarrassing, but the most embarrassing is probably Third Eye Blind. I even cringe as I type that.
What do you have in store in the future? Any special plans for 2011?
Smile Smile has had a really busy but very successful couple of years of touring the U.S and Canada. Truth on Tape was huge for us. We're very fortunate to be where we are in the musical world, but it's going to be hard to follow up a record about the two band members breaking up -- well, it'd be hard to follow it up if the new songs weren't as good as they are. I know that sounds pompous, but we've really stumbled onto something special as we've been writing new material over the past few months. That's saying a hell of a lot for two people who can barely stand to be in the same room together. The songs Jencey and I have written post-Truth On Tape are the best we've ever written. I can't wait to share them. But we've got a lot of time before we release a new record. We're going to share some of the new songs via YouTube in the next few months, but I'm not sure when new music will be "officially" released. Hopefully sooner than later. In the meantime, we're going to play some shows. We've been invited to play SXSW.
How about a mini playlist for your listeners so they can get a taste of your unexpected influences?
Elton John - Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Bob Dylan - Just Like a Woman (Live at Royal Albert Hall)
The Rolling Stones - Sweet Virginia
The Shins - Gone For Good
Tom Petty - Wildflowers
John Mellencamp - Pink Houses
Third Eye Blind - The Background
Frank Sinatra - Young At Heart
Wilco - Ashes of American Flags
Tegan and Sara - Wake Up Exhausted
Ryan Adams - Oh My Sweet Carolina
Placebo - The Crawl
The Kills - Cheap and Cheerful
The Kooks - Ooh La
Johnny Cash - Cocaine
The Beatles - The Ballad of John and Yoko
Download Ryan's Unexpected Influences playlist here.