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The friendliness in singer-songwriter April Smith's smile has a girl-next-door quality, and yet, the vampiness in her stage persona and the sultry caress in her vocal cuts project a siren's lure. Teaming up with four musicians whom she affectionately christened The Great Picture Show, Smith concocted a good-time traveling band that crosses multiple genres and cultural differences to make a brand of pop music that is genuinely infectious and built to put laughter in people's lives.

Smith talks about how the band was formed in her native New Jersey. "They all came along at different times. My bassist, I've been playing with for a few years now, and we're really good friends. We met in Jersey, and then we both moved to Brooklyn. And I knew Marty from another band called Spiraling. He's a really well known and respected New Jersey musician. Then we were lucky enough to find our drummer Nick last year. He's one of the two newest members. Our keyboard player Mike is Marty's friend and he's a real cut-up, too...he's always making us laugh. I think we have the perfect mix of personalities at this moment and I really hope we can keep it going. These guys are really good to me."

The group's latest full-length recording Songs For A Sinking Ship merges a number of vintage musical influences from swing, ragtime, and big band to folksy cabaret and acoustic rock, inducing a modern sound with Smith's own distinctive treatments. Smith admits, "I've always loved swing and big band music. I think I was listening to the radio as a child at my grandparents' house and I just fell in love with the sound of the Andrews Sisters and Artie Shaw. It's vibrant, upbeat and it makes you want to move. I love performing with the guys and making a show really dramatic, and that's really the essence of cabaret. I've always been into musical theatre too so this is a way for me to perform my own stuff and get my fill of the dramatics, too."

Produced by Dan Romer, Songs For A Sinking Ship is a reflection of Smith's imagination as she reveals, "I usually don't think too hard about the details when I write. The most important thing for me is to really love the song and feel that it's strong enough. When I work out the song with the band, that's when I figure out which parts we can really bring out for the live performance. I never write consciously because I think that takes away the honesty. If it doesn't come to me naturally, it's probably not a song I'm going to be happy with." She shares about her experience [working] with Romer, "Dan and I worked together on the song 'Colors' a little over a year ago and I really loved what he brought to it. It just seemed like a natural fit for the sound that I wanted. So when the time came to record the album, he and I had been talking about working together for a long time. It was a really laid back process and we just recorded most parts, except for drums, piano and strings, in his basement. The whole thing was a lot of fun and I'm really happy with the album."

She continues, "For the most part, we recorded the album at Dan Romer's studio in Brooklyn, which is at his house. That's where Dan does most of his work and he gets a truly amazing sound out of his set-up. He just knows what he's doing and is so great at it. I prefer that laid back setting as opposed to a bigger studio because you're not locked into a schedule and you have a lot of freedom."

One track on the album that utilizes Smith's distinctive vocal punctuations and dramatics is "Drop Dead Gorgeous". She muses about the tune, "I think the line 'If you're just drop dead gorgeous, you should just drop dead' popped into my head one day. That's usually how a song will develop...I'll think of one line and then it will sort of snowball into a whole song. It all came to me pretty quickly. I kind of wish all songs were like that. I remember playing it with the band the first time and everyone just sort of followed along. After rehearsing it a few times, we played it live at the Highline Ballroom and it's been a crowd favorite ever since."

Smith paved the way for Songs For A Sinking Ship with her previous release Live From The Penthouse, a 5-track EP that was used as her calling card into music festivals like SXSW and Lollapalooza. She expresses about the two records, "I think the 2 recordings are very different. I wouldn't say that the EP helped me launch the album, but it did hold the fans over until we could get them a full recording of songs. We recorded the EP at Tainted Blue Studios a few years back but I think our sound has come a long way since then. I'd like to do another live album soon. Ideally, I would have liked to release Songs For A Sinking Ship a lot sooner, but it all worked out. I'm not a patient person so it was hard for me to understand that you need to give an album a bit of a runway to take off. It's good to have management to talk sense into me."

Funding for the EP was made possible through an innovative website called Kickstarter.com. Smith explains how she became involved with the site. "Stevens, my bassist, sent me a link to a Kickstarter project and I was immediately interested. I really love the way they run the site and I believe that they really try to nurture all projects equally. The platform is really perfect and I have recommended it to so many people already. I'd love to do another Kickstarter project in the future too. Maybe we'll have a fundraiser for our tour bus, Norman. He's always breaking down. He needs an extreme makeover, just not the cosmetic kind."

The EP launched April Smith And The Great Picture Show onto the music festival and rock club circuit which led to some memorable moments. She reflects about her experience at Lollapalooza, "I think the most memorable moment was seeing the lawn in front of us filled with people even though it was raining. We just couldn't believe that we got such a great turnout. We were really nervous being the first band of the entire festival, but it wound up being a real advantage. The lobster corndog stand was pretty amazing too."

Smith, who was born in Toms River, New Jersey, has reached international status in a relatively short period of time. She points out, "I have a lot of Danish fans, which is kind of surprising but really cool. I'd love to go to Denmark and tour so maybe we'll make that happen soon. It's pretty remarkable what the internet has done for music and art. As a kid, I never would have imagined that I'd have fans ordering my music from across the world. It's wild!"

April Smith And The Great Picture Show are unlike anyone else in mainstream pop, showing traces of big band jazz, vaudeville swing, and cabaret-pop along with features of folk and acoustic rock. Smith and her crew have a fresh sound cultivated from the fossils of vintage pop and colonnade with showtune arches. Smith is indeed the girl-next-door all grown up and ready to spice up the blandness of life's mundane existence.

-Susan Frances

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