Starting a band is easy—the difficult part is standing out. That’s a main concern for Kid Smoko, a New Jersey band who closed out the final Friday of McGill’s Open Air Pub (OAP). With irresistible songs and energy to spare, Kid Smoko forces audiences to pay attention. And much like their enigmatic name, their sound is hard to pin down.
“We’re post-genre,” said Michael Burke, one of the band’s two vocalists and a founding member. “I just wanted to make a Soundcloud band […] Like Lil Uzi [Vert] vocals over indie beats.”
Listening to their music is very much the rollercoaster that this description suggests. Since their 2018 album Not Your Son up until their newest single, “Tommy Boy,” out next week, Kid Smoko has been displaying their versatility at every turn. Jumping from song to song, listeners will be able to identify a wide variety of musical styles, ranging from hip hop and indie pop to punk and various forms of electronic music, often all within the same track.
“That’s just what we like,” says guitarist Sam Berkley. Each member— including Declan Martins (guitar), Matt Salort (vocals), and Michael Ferranti (producer/engineer and the only McGill student of the group)—lists some of their diverse inspirations: Vampire Weekend, The Strokes, Gorillaz, Joji, Playboi Carti, Brockhampton, and Odd Future.
“Beyond just the music, [this mix of influences] represents who we are as people: Just different guys with different interests,” Burke said. “Our music is a direct reflection of who we are, and we believe people can connect to that […] Listening to us is like you’re becoming our friend.”
As a project, Kid Smoko feels like a long-running inside joke that fans slowly start to understand the more they listen. Their lack of self-seriousness and their contagious energy create a space for listeners to be comfortable and let loose. The band describes their live performances as an emotional outlet and opportunity to go crazy, a participatory experience.
But it’s not all fun and games. In the end, Kid Smoko simply makes fantastic songs. They mix their variety of aesthetics with catchy pop melodies, grand guitar solos, and sticky, stand-out production, all of which contribute to their unique charm. And, as the group’s sound grows and evolves, so do the members themselves, as they begin to interrogate the music they make and listen to.
Despite Kid Smoko’s breezy persona, the musicians are always cognizant of the wider implications of the music they create, rising to every challenge as a means of self-expression.
“We’re doing this for ourselves. I want this to be my livelihood,” Michael Ferranti said.
Kid Smoko can be found on all streaming services