Naarm/Melbourne's latest rock 'n' roll starbreakers Smooch are ready for action following the release of their hard-hitting debut album, A Force to be Rockin' With. To take a further dive into the 30-minute rock 'n' roll blitz, we caught up with the band's bassist-vocalist Ciarn "CC Star" Gallagher who discusses Smooch's transition to playing more riff-heavy hard rock and staying true to their influences.
Flashy spandex clothing and teased hair haven't been at the forefront of rock music for over 30 years, but the Naarm/Melbourne rock 'n' roll gang Smooch are here to change all that. Following 2019's debut 7" Pucker Up, the band has just released their anticipated debut album A Force to be Rockin' With, through the always dependable Legless Records (Split System, Stiff Richards, C.O.F.F.I.N.). Self-described as "KISS without the misogyny and The Runaways on speed," Smooch certainly leans heavy on the forefathers of hard rock, but add their own thunderous statement to the searing arena-sized guitar riffage and jabbing rhythms especially with their garage punk roots.
Forming in 2019, Smooch is comprised of bassist-vocalist Ciarn "CC Star" Gallagher, guitarists Adam "Madam Gold" Ritchie and Mitch "Casino" Cassin, and drummer Steve "Silver Bullet" Kelly. Having all come from more harsher, garage punk-oriented bands like Dumb Punts, Drunk Mums, Meat, and Mesa Cosa, Smooch's full-throttle supercharged earworms are fueled by their heavy metal sensory overload and lethal tongue-in-cheek charm. In their quest for speed, the opening track "Feminine Touch" is a nonstop guitar onslaught while the razor-edged rush of "Pucker Up" replete with turbo-charged dual guitars that wouldn't sound out of place on a Thin Lizzy album.
To take a further dive into the 30-minute rock 'n' roll blitz, we caught up with Gallagher to discuss Smooch's transition to playing more riff-heavy hard rock and staying true to their influences.
Paperface Zine: Take me through the line-up of Smooch. What's something special that each of you brings to the table?
Ciarn Gallagher: Well everyone in the band brings something smokin hot to the table. We got Adam who is the writing genius behind all the riffs and rockin', Mitch adds his solo wizardry and guitar riffing magic to each song, and Steve keeps us all in time with some psycho fills chucked in and the occasional hair twirling moment.
PZ: How SMOOCH start and what was the vision when forming?
CG: We started in the back room of our share house in Spotswood about three years ago. We all were rockers who love KISS and it just came fairly naturally for us to get together and drink some beers and write some tunes. We wanted to stray from the classic garage/punk/power pop that we'd all been apart of and create straight up rock that was epic, but not too serious at the same time. It's all very tongue in cheek.
PZ: Your hard-hitting rock 'n' roll style is all over your debut LP A Force to be Rockin' With, which was recorded at Hot House Studio with the same mixing console that AC/DC and Midnight Oil used. How did this album come together and what were the sessions like?
CG: We had plans to get the record done well before the old Rona hit and once it did, we were put on the back-burner for what felt like an eternity so as soon as we got the chance to get to the studio we were in there. It was an amazing experience recording at Hot House, a sense of history to it which made it all the more special. Jez was an absolute legend to work with and pushed us all super hard to get to where we wanted the record to be and where we believed it could go. Stoked with how it turned out — shout out to Jez.
PZ: With this record being much heavier in style, it strays away from the bubblegum-glam from your 2019 debut 7" Pucker Up. The earworms on this one carry more of a sound in the territory of KISS, Suzi Quatro, Coloured Balls, and early Judas Priest. Was this shift natural for you as you were working on a bigger project compared to a 7"?
CG: I think it was natural, we sort of look back on the 7" and think it seems super slow. We clearly had polished our playing and had strayed more into the heavier style just from playing more. Quicker and louder seemed to work for us and I think that's how we got to the record sound. It was hard for us to pinpoint exactly what genre we were even playing, but I think we sit more in that heavy rock, more early metal style and it seems to suit our songs a bit better. Obviously hugely influenced and inspired by all those bands you've listed.
PZ: Were there any songs on this release that turned out way different than their initial idea? And if so, which ones?
CG: I would say again the only real noticeable difference would be with the two songs that were on the 7", the rest all progressed naturally so it was hard to see any significant shift. When we write a song we go over it relentlessly before its allowed to see the light of the stage so most of them are how we wrote them 2-3 years ago, but hearing them after we recorded was pretty epic and we were stoked with how they turned out.
PZ: Take us behind the scenes of the video for "Feminine Touch." What was it like putting that together and seeing its final version?
CG: We had the best day! It was done at the studio where Adam's business, Tee It Up, runs, in Coburg with Wild Rose Studios (Squid, Tori, Scott, Chris etc.) who are good mates of ours and they just do incredible work. We had a day before to get the area all set up, painted the platforms, etc. and then the next day, we got all our makeup done by Emily Stacey and hair transformations and styles done by Silky. We had our outfits made by Annabel Brown and just spent the day doing the shooting and drinking beers. It was one of our most enjoyable experiences as a band and just so much fun.
PZ: Sounds like a blast! Being based in Naarm/Melbourne, who are some of your favorite bands in the scene? Also, what's it like navigating that scene? There's rock 'n' roll shows almost every night!
CG: It's actually unreal the level of talent of musicians in Naarm/Melbourne and Australia generally I think. Picking a handful of bands is super hard but I'd go with Rot TV, The Prize, No Class, Stepmother, Future Suck to name a few
PZ: Legless Records has one of the best rosters in the Naarm/Melbourne scene with Split System and of course Stiff Richards. How did you get connected with them and what’s it like now being part of that crew?
CG: Weirdly enough, it took us a while to get to know them I think mainly because Adam was releasing all our close friends bands with his own label, Pissfart. Now that his label has folded, it seemed to make sense to go with something very likeminded and similar to what we know. Also shout out to C.O.F.F.I.N. for spreading some of the glue that blinded us together.
PZ: Hell yeah we love C.O.F.F.I.N. back here in the states! You've played some great shows in the last couple of years with bands like Future Suck and Private Function. What's been your favorite SMOOCH show so far?
CG: Our first show in 2019 was honestly one of the wildest ones. We'd been rehearsing our songs for an entire year and weren't planning on playing until Adam got back from a USA tour. A band pulled out of the festival just before he was supposed to go so we sorted our shit out and jumped on the bill. We were really nervous to show everyone what we were working on especially as mentioned before because we play a genre that we haven't particularly worked on in our other projects. The response was overwhelming, we could hear people cheering during the songs and it meant a lot considering it was our debut show.
PZ: What else can we expect from SMOOCH in the coming months?
CG: We have a few other festival appearances, one being CHOPPED in December which should be wild and another one next year. We have to keep hush about it, but we're most excited about touring this album in March. Seems like a while away, but hopefully that builds up some anticipation. Hopefully organize a few more film clips too!
PZ: Lastly, I got to ask what your plans are for this year's KISSmas? Possibly a cover show with Billy of Research Reactor Corp. singing "Mr. Speed"? }:P
CG: [laughing] that sounds too good, but we might have to wait till next year to flesh that idea out. Maybe we'll just dress up like KISS at the family dinner table and shock the grandparents. Let it snow motherfuckers!
A Force to be Rockin' With is out now through Legless Records.