Sonic youth

California Smile bring the noise
By CHRIS CONTI  |  November 19, 2008

cali-smile-pic-2.jpg
SWIRLING AND STOMPING A few of the Cali Smilers in action.

Cranston kids California Smile released their debut album, A Secret Message From Your Teeth (available for $5 at Newbury Comics and the Brown Bookstore), a few weeks ago, and the result is an entertaining exercise in instrumental prog-rock jams delivered by a young sextet (bassist Jake Lafond is 16!) who may have discovered dad's crate of stoner vinyl stuffed with Zappa and Kyuss records. After a pair of successful record-release gigs at Firehouse 13, Cali Smile will join an indie-rock bill on Friday (the 21st) at URI with locals the Coming Weak, the Noise Campaign, and Warwick's Dorado 30, to name a few — all for only $4 at the door.

Listening to the nine- and 10-minute space jams on A Secret Message From Your Teeth (named after a fortune cookie drummer Mike Murphy cracked open at a Chinese buffet), it's no surprise that Cali Smile started off as a metal band in junior high, or that the first three influences listed at myspace.com/californiasmile1 are the Mars Volta, Sigur Ros, and Tool. The disc convokes their idols, while Murphy and guitarist Jared Lafond add plenty of unforeseen dips and dives that keep things interesting. The lineup was recently bolstered with violinist Joanna Kiriocopolous and multi-instrumentalist (and Berklee alum) Cameron Brennan, the elder statesman at 25.

The dizzying sonic collage "Join Me In This Pot of Gold" and the audio acid trip that is "Erecting Nero Mountain" will benefit from the live setting. "Nero" alone is worth the $5 sticker price, traversing from horror movie skulking to wide-open, swirling chords and keys to a frenetic, piano-stomping, pogo-inducing finale. And pulling a few bong rips before "Half of the Earth In the Shadow of the Other Half" can't hurt, as the slow build-up from Murphy and bassist Lafond gives way to momentary chaos, then recoils in one of the album's more subdued moments.

"Half of the Earth" is a compilation of many guitar pieces written and arranged by Jared," keyboardist Victor Mansella told me, "and the recording process involved an almost entirely live take with a lot of raw energy.

"I remember being very excited about the Mars Volta show at Lupo's the night we recorded this song, which probably added to the performance," he said.

Mansella recalled the year-long recording process as "incredibly frustrating, but the end result was incredibly rewarding.

"Recording can be a really fun learning experience, but nothing beats the energy of a good live performance," Mansella said regarding the URI gig, "and we especially love playing in front of a diverse crowd." He reported that the band is slowing down on the local shows in order to book more gigs outside of the state and an early '09 tour is in the works.

THE COMING WEAK | THE NOISE CAMPAIGN | SCARE DON'T FEAR | CALIFORNIA SMILE | CITY CONFNESSIONS | DORADO 30 | VERMIN | URI Memorial Union, 50 Lower College Road, Kingston | November 21 @ 6 pm | $4 | urishows.com

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