What is Murder Weather?
It’s not freezing rain, and it’s not the double-digit sub-zero temperatures we’ve seen this winter. It’s rock ‘n roll.
A new album from Tillsonburg band The Smile Case, Murder Weather will be released Friday, Feb. 22 and to celebrate everyone is invited to Sammy Krenshaw’s (51 Broadway) Friday for a CD Release Show. Doors open at 9 p.m. and the show, which features The Smile Case, The Lexington Cure and local band Small Town Leeches, starts at 9:15 p.m.
Ben Andress, frontman, started writing songs for Murder Weather in 2014, the same year The Smile Case released its Angel Beach CD.
“It kind of took until now to craft…” said Andress. “All the songs came out in a short span of time and they finally got perfected in the last couple of years and recorded.”
Origins of the album title came from a “silly joke” after playing a show in Windsor on a creepy, foggy night.
“There was just this kind of vibe – there was this fog going around and it just seemed like anything bad could happen at any moment in time – and I just kind of blurted out ‘Murder Weather.’ It kind of just stuck as this concept theme over time and grew from there. It’s just that feeling, that vibe that ‘anything can happen.’ And usually that ‘anything’ is not a good thing.
“It wasn’t inspired by any real murder.”
The first song on the album happens to be Murder Weather, which Andress noted might be the most laidback, non-murderish song on the record.
“It was kind of like a ‘face your fears’ song,” he said, describing a ‘peaceful vibe’ dream he had where he was on a beach, blinked, and was suddenly standing on a sandbar in the middle of the lake. “Usually water kind of scares me – one of my first memories was just about drowning in Lake Erie as a child so I kind of avoid large bodies of water – or swimming – if possible. So in this ‘meditation’ dream I ended up just feeling very calm and collected and being okay.”
The ‘face your fears’ theme shows up in other songs on the album, including a song about quitting alcohol.
“We’ve matured a bit as a band in the last five years,” he said.
At the same time, there is continuity from Angel Beach. The band is still made up of Andress, Shane McElhone and Jackson Cronmiller. It was recorded by Kyle Winkworth, who also recorded Angel Beach. And they were joined by friends, including Justin Hammond who was also around for Angel Beach, for select songs.
“In a way it feels like a sequel, in a concept kind of way,” said Andress. “Even in the art. It’s Angel Beach… but it’s a lot darker record. Angel Beach was ‘A New Hope’ and Murder Weather is ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ I guess I have to make my ‘Return of the Jedi’ next.”
The album cover, while sharing similarities to Angel Beach, is “intense.”
“Our friend, Jeremy Bruneel, he’s an illustrator in London – a really respected artist – did it. It’s really cool… and that’s kind of an understatement,” said Andress, noting some images were inspired by songs on the album. “I feel that the person on this album cover might be the same person that’s on the last album cover, but two different people did the art.
“A lot of imagery and things that exist in this album are… just insane,” Andress laughed, noting a reference from backwards-played Stairway to Heaven. “We were like, ‘No one’s ever going to get this.’ There’s a lot going on.
“It’s a wild record. It’s just kind of dark – with a little bit of sunshine that pops out in some parts. For the most part… it’s ‘life’ in a way. It’s a darker record, not just ‘things are chipper all the time.'”
Andress describes Murder Weather as rock ‘n roll, inspired by 90s radio (eg. Matt Good Band and Tom Petty).
“Actually, one of the influences ended up on the record. Growing up I was a really big fan of (Canadian band) The Killjoys, a 90s staple on the radio. Killjoys’ singer Mike Trebilcock played guitar on a song on the record which is pretty sweet. He rips a little solo and does some harmonies, which is pretty cool.”
CD Release Show
The CD Release Show for Murder Weather on Friday, Feb. 22 features The Smile Case, The Lexington Cure and Small Town Leeches.
“Lexington Cure are some friends of ours – Justin Hammond’s in that band, he sang on the record,” said Andress. “Kyle Winkworth’s in the band, who recorded our record. Alex Fruch is in that band, he sang on our record too… so it’s kind of cool to do the CD Release Show with those guys. And Small Town Leeches, they’re kind of new but I really like them big. It’s just nice to have a little party to celebrate with some friends.”
Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door, and admission includes a free Murder Weather CD.
Smile Case will be doing a show in Toronto on Feb. 23 at Cafe Embargo (1521 Queen St W).
Other dates can be found at thesmilecase.com or on their Facebook page.
“Solo, acoustic and full band,” said Andress, who has developed a large network of show and venue promoters over the years. “Taking the show on the road, doing some stuff in the States this year. Planning on getting out east, it’s just juggling it (with family commitments)… I have to juggle the dad stuff.”
Smile Case was able to draw from their industry contacts to collaborate on the Murder Weather album, in addition to Trebilcock and the Lexington Cure crew.
“There’s a guy from Fort Wayne, Indiana that sings on the record – Grey Gordon (Kill Surf City). Another guy, Justis Krar, he’s in a band called Single Mothers, he’s in a song and did a music video from the record, too. The singer from Boys Night Out (Connor Lovat-Fraser) is on it – they’re pretty popular. The singer, Wheatus, is on a song this time again.
“So it’s a neat little record, I’m pretty proud of it.”
Meghan Wright did the graphic design and put the package together, said Andress.
“It’s a really simplistic straightforward design that makes a lot of sense for the record. It’s just so neat that there were a lot of friends – so many different friends – involved in making this happen. And that these weird little thoughts in my head that became little ditties on a guitar turned into loud rock ‘n roll, turned into a neat little package that people can take home with them. It feels kind of cool, kind of fun.
“A lot of effort was put into it – and like a lot of artists, I guess it’s therapy in a way.”
If you can’t make it to Friday’s CD Release Show, the Murder Weather album will be available at select record shops across Canada, and on their website.
“It’s going to be on Spotify, iTunes, GooglePlay, all that good stuff. If you don’t like buying CDs and just like streaming stuff… stream ‘er up.”
His dream, related to growing up listening to the radio, would be to spontaneously hear a song from Murder Weather on the radio.
“Part of me would love to just be driving somewhere, not knowing that my song’s going to be on the radio. I still listen to the radio in my car and I want to be like, ‘I don’t want to listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers,’ switch the channel. ‘Ugh, Pearl Jam,’ switch the channel. Then, BAM, Smile Case is on. That would be cool. So I just want to channel surf one day and hear my song come on the radio, not knowing that it’s going to be on. I think that would be a cool full-circle thing.”
Another part of him, like most bands, just wants to break even financially.
“It does cost a little, so if I’m making a CD, sell enough to pay to record and press it. That would be the ultimate aspiration,” he smiled. “The ultimate goal would be to break even.
“Once you get to 32 years old, and you kind of see a lot of different kind of stuff, you just think, ‘I don’t know if I want to be a rock star’ like that. I don’t know, it’s hard to say. I juggle a lot of different things in life. I just have too much fun dipping my hands in everything – I really like the kind of all-you-can-eat smorgasbords. I don’t like an abundance of things, I like a little bit of everything. Variety is the spice of life.”