(L-R: Jay Smith, Matt Mays, Andy Patil, Tim Jim Baker. Photo by Scott McIntyre.)
“Is it this Tuesday?” Jay Smith asked about the release of his band’s latest album. “Wow, I didn’t realize that … Guess I’m out of the loop.”
The guitarist for Matt Mays & El Torpedo had a laugh at his own expense before continuing to talk about the group’s upcoming record, Terminal Romance (Sonic/Warner), in stores – yes – this Tuesday, July 8. An 11-song collection of fuzzy, sweaty rockers and heartbreaking ballads that blends a bit of Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and some AC/DC-ish crunch.
Smith was at home in Cape Breton when he spoke to East Coast Noise about El Torpedo’s latest exploits. Like a good friend would, Smith was leaving the next morning at 6 a.m. for Toronto where he was to help bandmate Tim Jim Baker move from the big city back to Halifax.
This weekend, Mays & El Torpedo can be found playing Charlottetown’s annual Festival of Lights, which also features Billy Talent, Our Lady Peace, Nickelback, The Trews and others. Apart from that gig and a few other one-off shows, the band doesn’t have a proper East Coast tour happening until likely later this year.
“As far as a coast-to-coast tour goes, I don’t think we’re doing anything until fall,” Smith says.
That doesn’t mean the band isn’t working though. West coast dates (including 10 dates opening for Kid Rock) are planned over the next few weeks, and the recent recording of Terminal Romance took them across the Atlantic Ocean and from one end of Canada to the other.
Smith and his bandmates (Mays, Baker and Andy Patil) spent several weeks working in Kingsdown, England recording Terminal Romance with veteran producer Chris Tsangarides (Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest). They recorded more of it in Vancouver, B.C. as well as various Nova Scotia studios.
“It was great,” Smith says of recording in the U.K. with Tsangarides. “He’s worked with Thin Lizzy, which is like my favourite band. I walked into the studio and the first thing I saw was the plaque for Black Rose, which is my favourite Thin Lizzy album.”
The band actually tracked about 14 songs with Tsangarides and six of them made the album.
“Some of it was really heavy stuff, we were definitely feeling the British metal influence,” Smith says.
The tunes that didn’t fit the vibe of Terminal Romance may end up on another release in a few months time, he explains.
“Don’t hold me to that, but that’s the plan I think,” he says with a laugh.
It was three years between the group’s self-titled disc and Terminal Romance, a long gap they’d rather not repeat.
The album isn’t a departure from El Torpedo’s self-titled debut from 2005, but it does expand on the group’s sound, blending in a bit of punk and some sweet piano-led balladry to the band’s tried and tested brand of rock. Smith wasn’t in El Torpedo for the first album, he replaced original guitarist Jarrett Murphy in April of last year when Murphy left the group to work on other projects.
Asked if there is a particular theme on the record – after all, it’s called Terminal Romance and the cover art features a bleeding mechanical heart – Smith says it just happened that most of the tunes ending up being about heartbreak.
“Matt’s dad actually drew the cover,” he explains. “Anything you see with Matt Mays name on it, his father made the cover. He also made us this huge backdrop for the stage. It’s huge, I have no idea how he did it.”
Before anyone else asks, Smith says he was not the inspiration for the Ramones-esque punk track “Rock Ranger Record” on the album. Smith is a member of the sort-of defunct Sydney, N.S. rock group.
“No, I swear … I think it was just because of the alliteration – ‘Rock Ranger Record.’ It was going to be ‘Monoxides Record,’ but that just didn’t work,’” he says with a laugh. “It worked out though because I have a pile of Rock Ranger T-shirts that I can sell at shows.”
As for his other band, Smith says Rock Ranger never officially called it quits, but he doesn’t see the group playing together anytime soon with El Torpedo being so busy.
As El Torpedo prepares to hit the road again, Smith has mixed feelings.
“I don’t know … I’m married now with a little boy, it’s harder now than it ever was for me. Leaving is the hardest part. I’m sure for the other guys it’s the same.”
By the same token, he says getting paid to do what he loves is a wonderful thing.
“You know, I did this for like 10 years and I’d come home from playing with $20 in my pocket. I’m not making millions, but it’s nice to play and, you know, people come to see us.”
(Jay Smith suggested I pass this on … the group filmed it while in England. I’m not sure what it means, and Smith wasn’t saying, but if you’re looking for something goofy and fun to check out, go for it. I’ll leave the comments about the boys’ acting skills to you.)