For a band that technically didn’t form until the summer of 2015, Ill Smiths have quickly become one of the buzziest acts in the 817 and the 214. Despite a press kit consisting of only three songs on Soundcloud.com/ill_smiths, the Fort Worth quartet is already gigging regularly at venues like The Crown and Harp, the Double Wide, and Shipping & Receiving, and its brand of washy guitars, distant vocals, and chopped-up drums is getting semi-regular airplay on a local radio station.
The foursome didn’t actually start out as a band at all. It was just frontman Elijah Wichryk writing and recording songs himself, programming all the beats on his computer and playing all the instruments. After coming into a combination of inspiration and downtime a couple of years ago, the thirtysomething divorced father of three children sought out bandmates through Craigslist. Guitarist Rene Floyd was playing in Sons of Sierra when he came across the ad.
“When it comes right down to it, the reason why I responded was the strength of the songwriting,” Floyd said. “Two years ago, it was cool, now it’s cool, and I think in a couple of years it will still be cool.”
The two realized they had a lot in common, including fatherhood. Wichryk wanted to play shows but had other professional/life obligations, and Floyd was busy with Sons of Sierra. So Ill Smiths was simply something to do when their kids had a playdate.
“The name was kind of a joke,” Floyd said. “The pacing was kind of a joke. It was summertime. We were more about getting together, having a few beers, half-assing through the demos and saying, ‘Man, this is great!’ ”
But when Sons of Sierra stopped gigging and Wichryk sorted out a few personal issues, the two decided to practice and perform with a full band. Wichryk recruited childhood friend Bryan Stamps to play bass and Rickey Williford (War Party, formerly Bummer Vacation) to play drums.
As soon as the four guys started taking the band seriously, the world quickly reciprocated. Their track “Arsonist of Hearts” was spun on The Local Ticket, the music show on the sports talk station The Ticket. Ill Smiths went from playing on weeknights for tips to bigger shows at premier venues.
“This is the fastest I’ve gone from playing shows that were dinky … house shows to getting guarantees,” Floyd said.
Floyd and Wichryk said their brand of concise pop-shoegaze developed from influences as varied as New Order, My Bloody Valentine, The Smiths, Best Coast, and Wavves. But no artist has inspired Ill Smiths’ sound more than one particular hip-hop megastar.
“Drake is thought about, talked about more in this band than anyone else,” Floyd said. “The way Drake is dancing in the ‘Hotline Bling’ video is the way that we approach the band. It’s carefree. It’s fun. If you don’t like Drake and his dancing in ‘Hotline Bling,’ we’re not for you.”
Early next year, the band will be drop a four-song EP to be recorded with producer Jordan Richardson (Son of Stan, Oil Boom, The Longshots). Wichryk and company won’t be releasing it as Ill Smiths, though –– they will be changing their name to Vvoes (pronounced “woes”) in December. The guys were nervous they’d be forced to change their name anyway at some point, because it’s so close to The Smiths. Plus, they’re tired of being solicited for shows by people who mistake them for a Smiths tribute act.
The band’s show at Lola’s Saloon on Thursday, Dec. 3, will be its last as Ill Smiths and its last with Stamps on bass –– he’s moving to Colorado. Savannah Loftin from Loafers will take his place.
Wichryk believes the band, whatever its name is, is just as much about having fun as creating music.
“It’s kind of like a dream come true for me,” he said. “I was writing and recording demos, playing drums, recording bass with a guitar on the low E, so having a band playing it and sounding like how I wanted to is fun.”
Thu, Dec 3 With Pale Dian and Honor System at Lola’s Saloon, 2736 W 6th St, FW. $7/10. 817-877-066[/box_info]6.