Thompson Springs vocalist collects lyrics, melodies

August 18, 2017

For years, Thompson Springs guitarist and vocalist Matt Smith has been collecting bits and pieces of lyrics and songs for years, which he at last decided to put to good use.

The folk-rock band’s first EP, “Artifacts” brought the band onto the scene in 2016. Their newest EP, “Fond Regards,” released Aug. 11, follows in the vein of their previous folk jams, with groovy tracks like “Sun and Gun.” But this one is rounded out by softer songs like “Dandelion Queen,” and the slow-burn ballad “Graffiti Rose.”

Smith, a 25-year-old Chicago area native, said he hopes the variety keeps people’s ears interested in the music.

We caught up with Smith in advance of the country-wide release tour for “Fond Regards,” which will bring Thompson Springs to the Neches Brewing Company on Monday.

Q: Who is in the band?A: Lately it’s been the same group. I’ve had a solid group of guys. I’ve had my friend Jake Bicknase, who plays drums, and Andy Goitia plays bass - Andy was on the first and the new EP and Jake is on the new EP - they’re my main guys, and they help with the songwriting, too. Whoever is interested in playing, if they want to play, they’re welcome. Andy has another band called Coyote, so sometimes his time is split with that. Our drummer, Jake, has all sorts of other projects, but I’ve been playing with Jake for six years in different groups so, we get along.

Q: Who are the biggest influences, musically?A: I started with blues music, but it’s branched out from there. The stuff I’ve been listening to lately is more like Wilco, Nick Cave - stuff like that. There’s a couple of really awesome new bands, like Mammoths - they’re from Texas, actually - and this gal from Los Angeles named Weyes Blood.

Q: When did you get started in music?A: I guess I started as a music collector first - just listening and being a fan. My dad would take me to Allman Brothers shows and we’d get all the CDs and stuff, but I got a guitar when I was 12 and started playing. I didn’t really write songs for a long time, but I just started playing.

Q: What does the songwriting process look like?A: It seems to not really have a process. Sometimes they are just fragments - I would say I seem to collect fragments - whether they’re pieces of music, lyrics or just ideas - that’s the initial inspiration. Later I sit down and organize them and see what fits together. That part’s not as creative. It seems like the initial part is creative - collecting them and coming up with the idea - but putting it all together seems more of an organizational task. Oftentimes it starts with the music, and I have a backlog of lyrics, and I kind of see what fits. It’s pretty random.

Q: Where do you draw inspiration for your music?A: Oh, man - it seems that it’s mostly personal experiences. Especially lately it’s been the concept of growing up. When you’re young you think everything is going to go smooth and perfect, and there’s more to deal with as you get older - more internally - than you think. But I’d say there is no one specific place where inspiration comes from.

Q: How has the reaction been to your music?A: It’s been good. We were in Appleton, Wisconsin, playing the “Mile of Music” festival and we only had two slots to play, but a band didn’t show up so we asked to play there on the spot and they let us play. We had a great response, but we haven’t played a ton of shows yet, so that’s to be determined. It’s fun for us - that’s for sure.

Q: What can people expect from the show?A: We’ve got some shredding going on, but we’ve also got some more heartfelt love songs. There’s a wide variety. Hopefully it makes the show not boring. Some bands, every song sounds the same. It seems like we’ve naturally had different songs. I don’t know if it’s good or bad.

Q: What has the band been up to recently?A: We haven’t really done many shows in the last two months because we’ve been recording the EP and finishing that up. Actually, most of the vocals were recorded in Sydney, Australia, with my friend Maia Marsh - she makes great music and deserves a shout-out. We had a couple of cool opening shows in Chicago, opening for this guy named Entrance from Los Angeles - a pretty inspirational dude.

Q: What should people notice on the new EP that’s changed from your last one?A: I’d say the lyrics. I’m hoping that it’s a more honest EP, and more direct with the lyrics. It’s always hard to put yourself - to be true with yourself and say things that other people may hear - to put yourself out on a limb. I hope that the honesty makes it more appealing and more relatable.

Haley Bruyn is a freelance writer.