Story by Katie Whitman. Published 5/24/2008 12:00:00 AM
Kalani Punani – lead guitar
Brennen Widget – drums
Andy Creeper – bass
Jonny Random – rhythm guitar, lead vocals
SMITZ. How did you guys come up with your name?
Brennen, Kalani, Andy: [pointing fingers] Jon
Jon: It was a pretty stupid name I came up with. But I was at this thing called After School Care in seventh grade and I was trying to start a band. I was brainstorming a whole bunch of different ideas. I came up with a whole list and I made the name “Stupid Monkeys in the Zoo.” Then I combined “John Jacob Jingleheimer Smitz”… well, I think it was really Smith or something… but that’s how I got SMITZ (Stupid Monkeys in the Zoo). I asked a bunch of people if they liked it and that was the one that was most accepted.
So it was chosen by a democratic group of seventh graders?
J: Yeah. Well, I asked a bunch of people when I got to high school, too. We actually started the band sophomore year.
Was that you guys?
You are all original members?
K: All except Andy, yeah?
J: He didn’t even know how to play bass, so he wasn’t really in the band.
You’ve been around for three years?
J: Almost 3 years. Freshman year we recorded, so that would make three years.
That’s a pretty old band for this scene.
J: We’ve kind of got seniority.
How do you get treated in the scene? There are a lot of older bands.
B: We get treated fine.
J: Some people don’t really take us seriously, I think. There’s a whole bunch of new bands that have so much hype and we don’t get too many shows… I think people just haven’t really caught on to us yet.
The 808 Scene Zine thought you were really good when we saw you play at Kainoa’s last year.
B: I think that when we play, people are impressed. We get a lot of comments. “That was good shit!” Or whatever.
K: We could have had a lot more shows than we did, but we all were working, dude. We were getting a lot of show offers, but half of them, we just couldn’t play.
J: We usually have one show every two months, or once a month.
[To Jon] You wanted to start a band, it sounds like for forever. Did you know how to play when you started the band?
J: Yes. I learned how to play guitar in sixth grade.
B: He was writing songs already.
J: Yeah, I was writing songs in sixth grade.
K: I met you in eighth grade.
J: Yeah, that’s pretty much how that started. I met Kalani in eighth grade and then we started playing guitar a little bit. Then I met up with Brennan, who knew Kalani. Then we had a guitar player and another guitar player. We started recording our music. We were like, “We need a bass player.” We couldn’t find one.
B: Then we found Jordan.
J: We found this other guy named Jordan. He played like, one show, at our school with us. We played after this marathon and we had two guitars and one drum. We played “Walk Don’t Run” and “Yelling in My Ear” by Operation Ivy. There was mostly Polynesian people and they liked Jawaiian and rap and stuff like that. They weren’t really digging it.
B: They were just booing us.
They were booing you? That was your first show?You got booed out on your first show?
J: Yeah. I was just screaming at them. I was screaming all the lyrics because I wanted to piss them off. Pretty much after that, we recorded originals. That summer, our freshman year, we got Andy to play bass for us. Then we started writing more originals. Sophomore year, we played our actual first show. We played at Coffee Talk at a show called the Virgins of Punk.
So your next shows were better.
All: Yeah, a lot better.
How did you not get discouraged?
J: I knew that they weren’t our type of crowd. None of them liked punk music. We didn’t have a bass player. I didn’t have a distortion pedal. Everything was off.
How did the rest of you guys start playing? Did you all know how to play when you joined the band?
B: I got a drum set when I was in sixth grade. I started playing music with just a couple of my friends. I met Kalani in eighth grade. We kind of shared ideas. He played guitar and I played guitar, too. When Kalani met Jon, we all kind of met up.
A: I didn’t even play music. [I saw their first show with Jordan.] But then I really wanted to learn to play bass. Then Jordan quite to give me a chance and it turned out that it worked out really well.
He quit on purpose for you? B: I think he was losing interest.
A: He wasn’t really that into it and he saw that I was, so he quit and I hopped on.
B: At first, you weren’t really interested in playing music at all.
A: Yeah. That’s because I wasn’t even good at it. But then Kalani lent me his bass. Then it felt right.
K: Yeah, dude. I remember you trying.
A: We were in your room and you taught me that blues riff. After that, I was like “Bass is sweet!”
B: Kalani’s story, is like, epic.
K: I was playing percussion since I was 3 or 4. Then, at family reunions, we had like a family band. My grandpa, others, and me. We used to play old Hawaiian songs. I don’t know. I just always jammed guitar and drums. I pretty much played music my whole life, but I didn’t really jam [with other people.] I used to just play in my room. Then I met other people who played music and I was all stoked.
B: We’d exchange ideas.
So everybody was pretty much a musician for a long time, except Andy?
K: Andy got super good. I consider him as having played bass for a really long time. It’s more like the chemistry.
How’s the songwriting? You guys come up with songs often?
K: SMITZ is Jon. The creative, lyrical, melody content.
B: Then we kind of put our own input into the songs.
K: It changes a lot from when he shows it to us to the final song.
J: They bring in the reggae.
K: Jon usually has one genre in mind. Then we add our creative input.
J: I’m usually all [cranky], then the song kind of grows on me. I usually hate it at first. “It’s not pure punk!”
Do you guys like one particular kind of music?
K: I honestly can say I’ve liked every kind of music, except country.
Have you had any major fights where you though the band was going to break up?
K: It’s mainly like a motivation thing for me. Where I get like “I don’t want to play anymore.”
B: A lot of times, our morale just goes down. Because we get kind of bored, then once something happens, like Jon writes a new song, then we get stoked. Or if we play a show.
K: If we haven’t had any shows, or we haven’t even practiced.
B: If we play a really good show, then we get stoked again.
A: Pretty much a bad show just throws a monkey wrench into the whole system and we don’t want to play for a while.
You feel like you’re not getting attention?
J: We just feel like nothing is going our way. We still haven’t recorded a CD though.
K: We recorded like two years ago.
J: We have to record everything again.
K: We recorded too fast.
B: We didn’t really understand.
K: We didn’t bathe in our songs.
What would you like to see for SMITZ in the future?Actually, how old are you and where are you now?
J, B, and A: I’m 18.
K: I’m 17.
J: We’re pretty much all legal.
You’ve been getting into bars underage for a while. How was that?
A: We just kind of go in and play. It’s just another venue.
Do you have to leave after you’re done?
A: Yeah. Sometimes you get kicked out.
J: Yeah, like for Millions of Dead . We didn’t even get to see them.
A: That show was nuts.
B: That show was crazy.
J: They were like right there, but we can’t even see it. Just seeing the guy. If you see live footage from the 80s and then you look at him now, he’s like a freaking legend. And you can’t even look at him. You have to look at him through a freaking window where people are all crowded around.
You guys are finishing high school. You have to decide what you want to do and where you want to go in life. Where do you see SMITZ going?
J: I haven’t really thought about that. Well, are we all going to stay on this island?
A, B, and K: Yeah.
B: I see us recording a CD this month and next month.
J: I would like to tour next year. Like Cali or something. I dunno. That would be pretty epic.
K: If it works out, why not?
B: That never even ever crossed my mind.
J: Golfcart [Rebellion] toured, Hell Caminos toured, Black Square toured. So many bands. We can even tour the Big Island or Maui. The Substitoots said they were going to tour Maui and the Big Island. We could jump on the bandwagon.
K: Andy toured. Andy’s already taking off with Pressure Drop.
A: We just went interisland.
K: You opened for Groundation!
A: Yeah, that was pretty mean.
What do you guys want people to know about SMITZ?
K: Please, don’t call us The Smitz.
J: If you say “The Smitz,” then people are all like “The Smiths?!” I’ve had a guy come up to me all “You’re in The Smiths?!”
K: No dude.
J: Smiths is like, if you hear that, everybody gets all excited. Then when you hear us, it’s just like a let down. It’s like expecting The Smiths reunion of one of the greatest alternative bands.
J: We want shows.
K: We like playing for whoever likes to see us.
J: And we want a distribution deal with a record company.
They have CDs from KTUH Monday Night Live available.www.myspace.com/SMITZ