Interview: Andy L Smooth – Skinny Knowledge

Good-time rockers Skinny Knowledge release their new album ‘twentytwo.’ on October 27, and frontman and guitarist Andy L Smooth joined us for a chat about everything going on in the world of Skinny Knowledge:

The new single ‘I Wanna (Rock N’ Roll)’ was up for Classic Rock Magazine’s “Track of the Week”, that must be a bit of a boost and lets you know that the band are on the right track.

Yes, Classic Rock has been very supportive over the last few years, and I think most of the singles have been part of the “Track of the Week” process. It’s not like we expect it, but it’s nice to get that constant clarification that we are doing something right. It’s a magazine that all of us would have bought and grown up with in the past, so to hear that they are digging what we are doing is always nice to hear.

It must also be nice that it is a public vote, so even if only 300 people vote for you, then that is 300 people voting for Skinny Knowledge rather than someone like Rival Sons or Joe Bonamassa.

Exactly, yes. Also, a lot of people follow that page, when they are looking for new music, so when we are on “Track of the Week” I always notice that our YouTube videos get a lot of views because of this. It’s a good way of getting on people’s radar’s that might not have had the opportunity to do so before.

The opening track on an album is often the first impression that a listener gets of that album, with that in mind, was ‘I Wanna (Rock N’ Roll)’ always going to open the album?

Yes, I think so. As soon as I wrote it, and it has that intro, and that super exciting riff, it is in your face I think, so we started opening gigs with it. It has that energy that as soon as I wrote it, I thought yes, that is an opening track. Plus, I didn’t really see it anywhere else on the album, so it was an obvious choice.

It does do what it says on the tin…

It was an exciting song to write, I wrote it with Matt Bigland, the singer from Dinosaur Pile-Up – I think that 5 or 6 songs on the album were written with him – and we had a songwriting session last November and we came up with ‘I Wanna (Rock N’ Roll)’ as well one of the other singles ‘Disobey’. We wrote those in 2 days. We were thinking about what to write about and the ethos for the song was post-break-up, but rather than sitting dwelling on it, I’m just going to go out and party and have a good time.

The new album, ‘twentytwo.’, is quite autobiographical, is it easier for you to write that way rather than writing from a fictional point of view?

Definitely, yes. I just find it more comfortable to write about real feelings and real experiences rather than trying to come up with stuff or come up with a concept. It does mean delving into your emotions more, but I like that and it means that it comes from a real place. I’m not saying that fictional writing is not good, coming up with characters, storylines, and songs about Vikings, is all great! But I always find if you listen to something and you can relate to it, then it has that kind of click to it. You can latch on to it on that extra level, so, yes, it is super personal to me, but hopefully, other people can listen to it and feel similar things.

The songwriting process must be quite cathartic for you.

Yes, I mean, sometimes I want to rip my hair out – well, if I had any – because writing lyrics is probably my least favourite part of being in a band. Sometimes you can get writer’s block, or you can be so self-critical that you come up with an idea and instantly you are like “No, that’s trash”. But then, when it does click it is so satisfying. There are 2 songs on this album; ‘I Hate That I Miss You’, and ‘Devil Lives Within’, and I had instrumentals for these for ages. And for the life of me, I just could not get the lyrics down. Often enough I would just get words out, or scribble down random sentences, but I just could not put the pieces of the puzzle together. And then suddenly for both songs, it just happened, and that was so relieving. ‘I Hate That I Miss You’, I literally just woke up about 2 a.m. and my brain was like “Here we go!” and I wrote the whole thing in an hour…and then went back to sleep! I don’t know what I was dreaming about but it obviously worked!

Slept like a baby afterward…

This album is about some stuff that I went through last year, so it has been hard to delve into but it makes it that more special because it is personal, and although every time that I hear it I’m like “…that happened…”, I’m out the other side, and at the end of it.

With it being so personal, did the writing process take a lot out of you?

I don’t think so. It was weird approaching Matt, I mean, we are on a friendship level now, but when I first went to him, it was purely just business. We didn’t know anything about each other’s lives. On that first writing session, it was almost like the first 2 hours were a therapy session for me. I just had to unload everything that happened so he fully got it. That was a weird thing to do, but I think that Matt appreciated it and it made it easier on me that someone else understood what I was going through.

‘Goes Around Comes Around’ was the lead single, what was it about this one that made it the lead single?

It was always between ‘Goes Around Comes Around’ and ‘Disobey’ as lead single. The reason that we leaned more towards ‘Goes Around Comes Around’ was that it was a more hard-hitting, emotional track lyrically, and I wanted it to be the first thing that people heard. And I wanted certain people to hear it first! [laughs] I wanted it to be like: “Fuck you”. It was so emotionally charged that I wanted it to be the first thing that people heard. I wanted to get that song out and for it to have the impact that it did! [laughs]

You must have felt better once it was out!

Yes, I did feel like that! I showed the song to my Dad and told him that it was going to be the first single and he said “Is that probably the best thing?” And I was like, “To be honest, I don’t care!” I had something to say and I was fully within my rights to say it. I didn’t name anyone, or shame anyone, I just expressed how I felt.

You’ve mentioned Matt Bigland quite a few times, he obviously played quite an important role in the gestation period of the album.

Yes. With Matt, I was in the place where I knew that I was ready to start doing something and I was finding that it was too difficult to motivate myself to do it on my own. So I went to Matt – we briefly had contact before – and we initially started writing together online, and then I went down to his place, we went into the studio and it just clicked. Our styles are very similar and we both like the same bands, so it was easy. It made the writing process enjoyable. I’ve only been writing songs for the last 3 or 4 years, so it was nice to get Matt’s approval, and it was great to have someone that I really respect saying “That’s fucking killer!”

‘Twentytwo.’ is a heavy album, not “heavy” as in Slayer-type heavy, but heavy not just musically but also as in subject matter, and lyrically…

It’s heavier than the first album for sure, just because I was feeling angrier…a lot! [laughs] And I think that the music just matched that. But what I like about this album is that I think that it has found “a sound”, the first album was just me on my own and was a lockdown project. Whereas now, everyone in the band has been a bit more involved, and writing with Matt, and the “sound” of the band is starting to come together. Honestly, Dinosaur Pile-Up was a big influence on that because I was listening to loads of their stuff, and it’s a bit riffy so that’s the natural route that we took.

How weird was it playing Maid of Stone Festival earlier this year at 11:30 am?

It was weird, yes. We were thinking “Fuck, it’s 11:30 am, who the hell is going to be up at that time?!” But we had a really good turnout for that time in the morning. I think that we made a bit of a racket and people were probably intrigued and came to see us. Put it this way, I like to think that we definitely woke them up! [laughs]

What are the plans for the next 6 months or so?

So we have the album launch in our hometown, Bournemouth, on November 17th, and then next year we have a couple of big shows to announce where we are supporting, and a couple of tours that are in the works at the moment. Festivals are starting to come in which is nice, so yes, just get out there and play. We haven’t actually played that many shows, because of lockdown and other things, and essentially we are still only 2 years old, so we are looking forward to getting out there and playing to as many people as we can.

 

‘twentytwo.’ is available October 27th pre-order here

Interview – Dave

Portrait images – courtesy of James Sheppard

Live image provided by O’Neill PR

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