Our next one’s probably going to come as a shock.
story by Jake Malooley
photo by Michael Robert Williams
After a group of English schoolchildren dig into a box of Quality Street chocolates, oftentimes the only leftovers after the feeding frenzy are a few unloved noisettes (an apparently unsavory chocolate and hazelnut combination). It’s ironic then that the English rock trio named after these unwanted confections are currently one of the most buzzed-about U.K. groups. A good amount of the buzz is warranted, though. On their debut full-length, What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf?, the Noisettes show off their garage rock sound, which is simultaneously hard-edged, raucous and polished. Often overshadowed by bassist/frontwoman Shingai Shoniwa’s palpable charisma, model-esque good looks and versatile, unrestrained vocals lies the fuzzy menace of Dan Smith’s guitar. Chicago Innerview rang Smith during a Noisettes tour stop in Ireland to pick his brain about, well…axe-shredding, of course.
Chicago Innerview: Growing up, did you listen to a lot of rock and roll?
Dan Smith: I was lucky, in that I had a good introduction to music as a kid. My dad had lots of soundtracks to all these ‘50s and ‘60s Cold War films like Ice-Cold in Alex, The Quiller Memorandum and the Harry Palmer films starring Michael Caine. They’ve all got amazing soundtracks like John Barry. And then Bernard Herrmann’s Hitchcock film soundtracks. I was about three or four years old, and we had a walkman tape — between me, my mom and dad — and I was listening to the Psycho theme and just loving it. Then I got really into Hendrix and Nirvana. I tried not to get into [Nirvana] because all my contemporaries at school were into them and I didn’t want to be like that. But eventually it just happened.
Chicago Innerview: What about Oasis and Blur? It seems like every ‘90s English kid who started a band started a band because of them.
Dan Smith: I didn’t really get into them back then. I was busy with Hendrix — who is my biggest influence — and Cream and all that. At the time, I thought Oasis and Blur were weak. It was really boring. I’ve got into them recently, though, and love them now. Supergrass were great when they came about; immediately I thought they were amazing.
CI: It’s been written, in more than one place, that your band is garage/blues. So, how much blues music do you and your mates actually listen to?
DS: They’re a huge influence on us. My dad is a blues musician; he plays harmonica. When I first started playing with people, it was with his band at about age 14. Shingai, I think, is more into her jazz. Early on, when we were finding our sound, a lot of the stuff we were listening to was like Junior Kimbrough and T-Model Ford. Albert Collins is a big influence; he’s all about one really loud fucking note, and it’s very percussive.
CI: Did you all originally conceive What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf? as a high-energy rock and roll album?
DS: I think we wanted to make it sort of Dark Side of the Moon. We always had those aspirations, but after wrestling with it for a while we realized that it just went naturally into a good time rock and roll record. We had some really ambient soundscapes going on that never really made it onto the album. But for as much as we are a product of our influences, I don’t think our future is going to be within the genre of garage rock. I see us using more electronic instruments. Our next one’s probably going to come as a shock.
The Noisettes :: with Maccabees :: Schubas :: June 9 (late show).