While his band-mates will likely be looking on in slack-jawed awe as they take in the experience for the first time, Calvin Roffey, bassist for UK rockers The Smoking Hearts has somewhat of the inside track on the Soundwave Festival. Roffey served as guitar tech for melodic metal giants Bullet For My Valentine during their run on the 2011 incarnation of Soundwave, but it audibly hasn’t dampened his excitement about own band being a part of such a mammoth event.
“We can’t wait,” he enthuses. “This is my first time as a band, yeah. To me, it’s probably the coolest tour in the world. I can’t wait to show the other guys in the band, and also be a part of it. They’re (Bullet For My Valentine) enormous and to be a part of that trip was fantastic. But I’m so excited to be there with my own band, who seem to be going pretty well. I’ve never done it as a musician, and I can’t wait. Our expectations are kinda low; we have nothing to lose really. We’ve had so much misfortune, that this is a sign our luck has changed. We just want to grab it with both hands and make the most of the opportunity.”
Roffey does know a little of the “misfortune” of which he speaks. Formed in 2007 by friends Nobba Green, Simon Barker and Roffey with the intention of crafting their ideal mix of rock and punk, The Smoking Hearts were quickly joined by drummer Matty Taylor and singer Rodd Lethal. After releasing their debut album Pride of Nowhere to rave reviews from the British music press, the band toured extensively throughout the UK and Europe. Soon after their vocalist inexplicably quit the band (via a text message), but instead of calling it quits, armed with a handful of demos recorded in Taylor’s bedroom, the band decided to search for a new frontman.
“It was more through stubbornness than anything” the bassist reflects. “I sat on the sofa at home with Simon and listened to the demos we had, and knew that we had to make another record.”
Word soon got out about their search, and before audition requests could even be answered, Ben Mills entered the picture. His credentials for the job were only strengthened when, during his first meeting with the four remaining members of The Smoking Hearts, he drunkenly stumbled backwards in to a baby’s pushchair. Thankfully the pushchair was empty. They hit it off instantly and spent the next three days together, writing songs in varying states of excess. They’ve since released follow-up album Victory! which features their unique blend of high-energy rock, punk, metal and hardcore.
“Since Pride of Nowhere things have been difficult,” Roffey explains. “We changed singers, but then we got Ben in the band and things have gone from strength to strength. The record’s come out great and we’re all really proud of it. I think everything we did well on the first record, we now do better. The riffs, the songs, the production – the choruses are catchier, the riffs are heavier. The attitude is still there, it’s still punk rock, but it’s heavier, catchier and faster. Everything is better, really. We wanted a better production this time around. None of us were really happy listening back to the first album; we definitely wanted to improve on that.”
Recorded with Dan Weller and Justin Hill (Sikth, Enter Shikari, Young Guns), and recorded during a period of four weeks in Fortress Studios, London, the friendly bassist says production values aside, there weren’t really any other elements about Victory! that were premeditated.
“We didn’t deliberately go heavier or catchier, it’s just the way the songs evolved,” Roffey says. “It happened really organically. We knew what we did right on the first record… We focused on what worked the first time. We all had things we really enjoyed the first time, but we wanted… There are a few songs on there I don’t like so much, they haven’t aged so well.”
When asked about the band’s wide-reaching sound, Roffey says it is rooted in a connection established through literally decades of friendship.
“We’ve all been friends for so long. Nobba and I grew up on the same street; I’m 28 and I’ve known him 23, 24 years of my life. We bring different influences, but we bring a lot of the same ideas as we’re often in the same mindset. We’ve come through so much together that the songs almost write themselves. Even though we all bring different ideas to the table, we adapt to them quickly as we all know what we want to achieve. Outside of the band, there’s very few people I enjoy hanging out with as much as the guys in the band. I think that shows; we’re tight and I think it shows.”
In wrapping up our chat, the bassist says they will enjoy plenty of the aforementioned “hanging out” during the Soundwave run. He name-checks Cro-Mags, Kvelertak (“their record blew my mind,” he gushes) and Slipknot as acts he’s mighty keen to check out.
“We’re looking forward to having a great time,” he says excitedly. “A friend plays drums in Kill Hannah, Enter Shikari are good friends of ours. Their drummer did some gang vocals on our record. It’ll be a good summer, just hanging out. We can’t wait to come to Australia; we want everyone to have as much fun with The Smoking Hearts as we’ll have with Australia. We want the audience to have as much fun watching us as we’ll have playing it.”
The Smoking Hearts will be touring with Soundwave 2012 on the following dates-
25/2: Brisbane Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD (SOLD OUT)
26/2: Sydney Showground, Sydney NSW (SOLD OUT)
2/3: Melbourne Showground, Melbourne VIC (SOLD OUT)
3/3: Bonython Park, Adelaide SA
5/3: Claremont Showgrounds, Perth WA