Chicago's the Smith Westerns are a band looking for some teenage kicks with their home-brewed mixture of garage, glam, and punk, and they come by their youthful energy honestly -- none of the group members were old enough to buy a beer when they released their first album.
The Smith Westerns were formed in 2007 by Max Kakacek and Cullen Omori, who at the time were students at Chicago's Northside College Preparatory School. The two had been turned on to '60s garage rock through compilations like Nuggets and Back from the Grave, and they decided it was music they could play without knowing too much about technique. As Kakacek and Omori began learning to play guitars, they drafted Cameron Omori, Cullen's brother, to play bass, and with the three members taking turns on drums, the Smith Westerns were born. Within a year, the band was steady enough to be booked into some of Chicago's better rock clubs, including Schuba's and the Empty Bottle, while also playing lots of house parties on the side, which helped win them a loyal local following.
In 2008, the Smith Westerns finally found a full-time drummer, Hal James, and local independent label HoZac Records (originally an offshoot of the punk 'zine Horizontal Action) released their first 7", a three-song single featuring the tunes "Irukandji," "Crabman," and "Spiritus Sanctus." The single promptly sold out its first two pressings, and in June 2009, HoZac brought out the band's self-titled debut album (initially a vinyl-only release), which found the Smith Westerns indulging a taste for '70s glam rock along with their punk and garage influences. The band was also touring steadily by this time, including a road trip with Nobunny in which the Smith Westerns opened the show and then reappeared as Nobunny's backing group.
In 2010, the band released a split single on Fat Possum with the Magic Kids that featured some of their most polished music to date, and the band pledged to keep making music while several of the members also attended college. That move toward a slicker sound continued on the group's second album, Dye It Blonde. Released in January of 2011, it featured drumming by Brian Chase of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and John Eatherly of Turbo Fruits and production by Chris Coady. After a long tour that involved over 140 shows, the band headed back into the studio in 2012 to record its next album. The Smith Westerns used the same producer but switched labels, moving to Mom + Pop Records for 2013's Soft Will. In 2014, the Smith Westerns announced their breakup. Cullen Omori moved on to a solo career, and Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek launched a new band, Whitney. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi