Over the weekend, Smith Westerns frontman Cullen Omori announced the band’s indefinite hiatus, noting that its two upcoming shows — Chicago on December 23rd and a “New’s Year Eve surprise” in New York — would be its last for the foreseeable future. Now, in a new interview with Chicago Reader, Omori confirms that the band has, in fact, officially split up.
In the lengthy and revealing Q&A, Omori details the specifics behind Smith Westerns’ dissolution, namely the sudden departure of guitarist Max Kakacek. Omori also touches on how their extensive touring impacted the group, the possibility of a solo career, and much more. Check out a few choice quotes from the interview below, and read the full piece here.
On why they’ve been quiet for a majority of 2014 and how it foreshadowed Kakacek’s decision to leave the band:
In 2014 we didn’t really do anything. In 2013 we released Soft Will, and the Sky [Ferreira] tour was the last tour we did. We kind of took it easy in 2014. We hadn’t really taken it easy or stopped since we started or since the ball started rolling on our band in 2009, when we were like 19. We just toured nonstop, or if we weren’t touring we were spending a lot of time working on music and writing. So we decided we were going to take some time off with the intention that we would possibly revisit putting out more Smith Westerns music. And as the year went on it become more apparent that to get us back in the studio, to get us all on the same page, was gonna be something that was not very possible. And then recently Max came to me and Cameron and said he didn’t want to be a part creatively of Smith Westerns anymore. He thought it would be a good time to stop since we hadn’t done anything this year. And Cameron and myself were down with it. We were fine. We weren’t angry or anything. But we wanted to do one last show because we never planned any of this. This was very unplanned. He just came to us and told us and we were like, “Cool, let’s just at least do a show before we stop.” He wasn’t into that idea.
On why Smith Westerns could not move forward without Kakacek:
The way we wrote would be Max and myself, we’d come up snippets of songs, of a chorus, of a verse. Usually I would come up with the structure or the vocal melodies and share it with Max and we would construct a song together and he would arrange it and put on the instrumentation. He was really interested in the pedals and tones and everything like that. For my new stuff I’ve been doing, now I can do the arrangements myself. But one of the things that made Smith Westerns unique to me and Max was it involved us both bringing songs and fusing them together. He very much loved to have guitar really interwoven in everything. And I’m not the greatest guitar player; I’ll be the first one to admit that. But without Max the guitar-rock aspect wasn’t going to be as strong.
On Omori’s career beyond Smith Westerns, including a possible solo record:
Yeah, I have a record. It’s written. I just need to go to a studio and record. I’ve been recording super lo-fi like we used to do in Smith Westerns, in basements. I haven’t really tried to get a bunch of people on board and try to monetize it. I think it’s really important after what happened with Smith Westerns, where we were really at the will of the label or we were being told to go with this person or that person, that I really assess who I work with in a personal way.