Calling all hard-rock fans: the California trio Smile Empty Soul is currently on tour promoting its new album Chemicals and will stop at the Bottom Lounge (1375 W. Lake St.) on Nov. 14. Fans can expect the band to put on a high-energy performance with a lot of passion and to hear songs from its new album as well as older hits.
Smile Empty Soul is an alternative, hard-rock band that formed in 1998 and currently consists of Sean Danielsen (lead vocals and guitar), Ryan Martin (bassist) and Jake Kilmer (drums).
The band’s 2003 self-titled album went gold, exceeding more than 500,000 album sales in the United States and “Bottom of a Bottle,” a single off the album, reached No. 7 on the Billboard alternative charts in 2003.
In June, Smile Empty Soul announced that it had started Two Disciples Entertainment, its own trademark label which is a unit of the larger Pavement Entertainment company.
“[We just finished] our sixth album and each time [you make a new album] you learn, you grow, you see a little bit more on how things work,” Danielsen said. “I think we just thought we were ready to take control of things, even on the business side.”
On Oct. 1 this year, Smile Empty Soul released its sixth album, Chemicals, under its own, newly created label. Despite the change in labels, the band’s approach to recording Chemicals did not differ from its previous albums.
Often bands will make albums under the supervision or direction of a label, which takes some of the powers away from the band members. In contrast, Danielsen said the band members have had complete creative control over their previous five albums and that they used to pitch the album to labels after it had been completed.
Following the creation of its new label, Danielsen said Smile Empty Soul wanted to try something new when creating Chemicals. It was recorded as a raw album, with most of the songs in a live format.
“We did our bass and drums all together, and we did very minimal editing and production on that,” Danielsen said.
The rawness can be heard in the first song off of the album, “Black and Blue,” with booming drums that set the tone for the album.
The band also recently released a music video for the album’s first single, “False Alarm.” The video shows Smile Empty Soul performing the song live in Flint, Mich., a city that Danielsen said is one of the band’s favorite cities to play because of the atmosphere. The song has an eerie sound to it with a smooth chorus. The video also reflects the simplicity of the band’s approach to the album.
Grunge-rock of the ’90s had a heavy influence on the band’s sound, according to Danielsen. This is noticeable in the song “Chemicals,” with deep-cutting guitar riffs that are reminiscent of bands such as Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.
The song “Sitting Ducks” opens up with the lines: “Shut down/ Fall in. Weak mind/ Thick skin.” The discomfort expressed in the words reflects a common sensation of pain that is voiced in many of the band’s lyrics.
Overall, Smile Empty Soul pieced together a solid hard-rock album that fans of the genre can certainly appreciate.
Their upcoming show in Chicago will give listeners a chance to see the band play these songs. It is also a chance to hear some of its other hits like “Nowhere Kids,” “Don’t Ever Leave” and “Silhouettes.”
As far as the future of the band goes, Danielsen said it plans to continue to promote Chemicals by hitting the road again in February and that fans can look forward to the release of another single soon.
But until then, you can catch Smile Empty Soul at the Bottom Lounge on Nov. 14. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here.