You can be forgiven for being previously unaware of The Smoking Hearts. Despite travelling many, many miles in their short career to play shows with the likes of Gallows, Bring Me The Horizon, Misfits and Skid Row, they have remained fairly off-the-radar for most Australians. However from this moment on, anyone still unaware of these sexy Rock N Rollers from the UK is officially irrelevant. Having been signed to 3Wise Records, as well as appearing on the bill for the joyous event that is Soundwave 2012, I caught up with singer Ben Mills to chat about this meteoritic rise to the international stage, and all the roads that got them there.
After a brief chat about how cold it was in London, how hot it was in Sydney and the potential plan to send some sun and surf his way, Ben and I began to talk about 2011 to when Australia became a massive part of The Smoking Hearts lives. What has been rumored to be an arduous, painful and tediously long process, signing to a record label that is, I asked Ben how it all went down with signing to 3Wise. “The 3Wise deal went pretty smoothly, I didn’t know much about it, then AJ [Maddah] who’s behind Soundwave, shows up at one of our shows in London, this was after we’d gotten announced to Soundwave, and we’d already agreed to speak to 3Wise but none of us really knew what was going down, and yeah, AJ showed up…and he’s the coolest guy I’ve ever met! He was really interesting to talk to and yeah, he told us the whole deal and after the next 2 weeks we were signed to 3Wise and had a release date for the album. That was it really; there was no hassle involved! They wanted the album, we let ’em have it!” Describing what has got to be one of the easiest record deals ever! Ben continued “But yeah, because it was only an Australian record deal, there wasn’t too much to worry about” It seemed like such a lucid process, and what was even more relaxed was Ben’s attitude towards all this commotion. “It was kind of weird though, Calvin [Roffey], our bass player and AJ met backstage at Download Festival in the UK. They’ve met a few times because Calvin worked [as a bass tech] for Bullet For My Valentine, and Aj went ‘oh you’re in a band? Let’s hear it then” Calvin showed him one track, AJ got 1:30 into it and agreed to sign us!”
Clearly very humbled and grateful for all the attention his band is receiving, Ben explained how it’s all still a bit of a dream for the boys “It’s all pretty unbelievable, especially the Australian thing with Soundwave and everything, We didn’t think how quickly it would go or how many people would care, every day we’re getting tweets from people in Australia who can’t wait to see us and want to know if we’re playing extra shows…it’s all so unbelievable, but it’s such a great feeling to have people on the otherside of the world just…interested” It was at this point that I reminded to Ben that these are all just the consequences of being in an awesome band, he laughed. “Well, thank you!”
So going back to their position on the Soundwave 2012 line-up, Ben explained “Well we never had a formal offer, we never got asked to be on the show we just got put on the poster! So it was kind of a shock, me and Calvin, I think we were on tour – everyone was asleep but me and Calvin were up, and I got an email saying ‘Soundwave Announcement’ so I thought alright, let’s see who got picked up…I went through the line-up and saw heaps of our friend’s bands and heaps of people we knew such as I Am The Avalanche, and good friends of ours Your Demise…they were all on there…got further down…The Smoking Hearts? And we were like Jesus Christ dude, we’re playing fucking Soundwave!” In a wave of excitement and confusion, the guys then Googled their band name to make sure there wasn’t a second Smoking Hearts gigging somewhere. “It was all a bit…a bit bizarre ha ha” What great ways to find out you’re playing an international festival! No notice, no waiting around to see if it gets confirmed…”we celebrated with a lot of alcohol” Ben added.
Hearing the excitement in his voice for our little Australian festival, I asked Ben how Soundwave compares to other festivals he has been exposed to such as Download Festival the famous Reading, and so on. “Soundwave shits all over Download. Yeah man, that line-up compared to this year’s Soundwave line-up, it’s just ridiculous, and it’s all in one day as well so you don’t have to fuckin’ sit around at a camp site with loads of idiots. Festivals in the UK can be hit or miss…like I love Reading Festival, I’ve had some of the best moments of my life at Reading, I also joined The Smoking Hearts – I met the guys at another festival…but the line-up this year has got nothing on the Soundwave line-up…especially with Slipknot headlining that’s just ridiculous, such a great band” This will mark the first journey of the band to Australia, who, apart from Calvin, have never even been close. “It’s still an unreal feeling” Ben said of losing his Australia virginity “It’s so bizarre that we’re going to tour and play shows in another hemisphere”
Also in 2012, The Smoking Hearts will be celebrating the release of their sophomore album Victory! including some of the same team behind Enter Shikari, Sikth and Young Guns, I asked Ben what he’s willing to share about this release “It’s the most fun to play, the most fun to do live. It’s just super fun, I gave it to someone at work yesterday and he said his wife loved it…ha ha so she said it sounds angry but is really good” The Smoking Hearts harness a sound that can only be described as high voltage rock with hefty injections of punk, we don’t see too much of that down here so I wondered if this was a new trend kicking off in the UK “I want to say yes, but I think really only bands doing what we do…there’s a lot of bands with delay pedals, with these weird melodic singing break downs, auto tune and all that…there are a lot of great bands in the UK but comparing many of them is hard…there’s a lot of them doing great things but not too many of them are doing what we’re doing, I guess you could say we’re burning a smoking heart-shaped hole in the music scene in the UK! It’s taken its time for people to take notice, but when they watch us, they enjoy it because it’s fun! We’re serious but don’t take ourselves too seriously”
And to wrap things up, what is he looking forward to the most about Australia? “Oh man…walking around and not being cold” Straight off the bat, he must have been thinking about this for a while now! “I’m going to be your typical English tourist…no t-shirt on that whole time and I’m going to be drinking furiously” An excellent strategy I told Ben, He should blend right in!