Airship Rocketship
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Airship Rocketship

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"California Beauties, Miami Faves"

Airship Rocketship has its priorities in order. The Miami five-piece is building on a salable product, they have a cool sound and look, and they’ve created an official band shot.

The Airship Shot, born after the group changed its name earlier this year, is tequila and chili garlic sauce, which perfectly represents the band. Tequila creates an eyebrow-raising first impression, goes down smooth, and leaves an addictive, puzzling aftertaste. Chili garlic sauce adds some very Miami heat.

Airship got its start in 2005, when lead singer/songwriter Devin Smith moved from California to Florida to study music at the University of Miami. Later that year, under the name Cassette, he cut and released Beautiful California, a 36-minute long, 35-song solo project on Atomisk Records.

This debut drew enough interest that opportunities arose to play live, and Smith and Atomisk co-founder Patrick Hart formed a band. What they thought would be one show turned into a couple of shows. Then, in 2007, Miami’s Honor Roll Music, where both Smith and Hart work, re-released Beautiful California with a national push.

The album charted 14 in the CMJ Top 20 added albums for its release week, and peaked at 119 on the CMJ Top 200. Smith took Cassette on the road for two tours of the eastern U.S. and a couple of tunes caught the ear of ad agencies. The songs “Fashion” and “Invincible Sunshine Machine” were placed on “CSI: NY” and in a Visa ad, respectively.

Honor Roll Music thought that if one-minute songs attracted that much attention,
full-length tunes would create an even bigger buzz. That started the process
of fattening Cassette’s songs into a more traditional structure.
But first, the band’s name had to go. There were about a zillion other bands named Cassette, so in February the moniker went the way of the eight-track in favor of Airship Rocketship.

“The name change was a lengthy process,” Hart says a little wearily. “For some reason, no one liked any of my ideas. We wanted something fun and totally awesome, plus [bassist] Joe [Rehmer] really wanted the word “rocket” in it. We took about a month before finally deciding.”

“The hardest thing was putting these songs into a regular structure,” Hart says of the transition from one-minute tunes. “It’s been a long, progressive learning process and a lot of the material just did not work out.”

“These songs have a lot more going on,” Smith says about the Airship tunes. “They’re kind of poppy and avant garde with a lot of electronics mixed with live elements.”

Smith writes the songs and places them in loose arrangements that are refined with the rest of the band, whose lineup has changed over time. The constants have been vocalist/guitarist Smith, keyboardist Hart and drummer Richard Hargett. About a year ago, bassist Rehmer and guitarist Rainer Davies completed the team, who are now
sorting out material for Avarice and Fear, a disc due in October.

The band members also share an affinity with Smith’s Atomisk label, which is
basically a collective consisting of Miami area musicians with many styles and
various projects.

Airship tunes are generally just as diverse as Atomisk’s library. There are lush,
electronically orchestrated pop songs like “The Numbers Demo,” with Smith’s vocals dancing lightly over the musical layers. There are noisier tunes, with deep guitar and bass grooves, like “Spring Break” or “Fashion.”

The latter tune, a critical look at Miami’s style victims, “was originally written
for the Hot Lesbian Kissing Contest [an Airship alter ego],” Smith explains. “It was for inclusion on a compilation disc, Misery Never Looked so Stylish,” which was released in a limited pressing (with faux-suede CD cases) on Atomisk in 2006.

Asked if the song is a full-on satire, the band chuckles. “It’s hard to avoid fashion in Miami,” Smith says cautiously. “We like fashion, we get dressed up for shows, but let’s just say…” he finishes quickly, “that we’ve succumbed to the sleaze of the 305.”

The group actually ain’t that sleazy. For a recent gig at Vagabond in Miami they were pretty well hipstered out, with either collared shirts and/or jackets. And they do bust out slick, matching white tuxedoes for special occasions.

But Airship is just as much about dollar beers, tequila and tunes as it is about outfits. And their loose swagger on stage as they roll through genre-defying sets shows they’re comfortable in their skins.

They’ll be showing that skin off soon, after the new disc drops. There’s an east coast tour in the works, probably no earlier than February, but until then, keep an eye out for the white tuxes and tequila.

MySpace.com/AirShipRocketShip
MySpace.com/AtomiskRecords
HonorrollMusic.com

- Closer Magazine


"Album Review: Beautiful California"

So this week I bring your attention to quite an unusual album. The artist is Cassette aka Devin Smith, and the album is called Beautiful California. We all knew that California was beautiful and full of beautiful things. It’s nice to be reminded though, especially when you’ve just walked up Sixth Street between Folsom and Market, and have absorbed the full, rich bounty of this urban wonderland. Yeah.

Anyways, back to this captivating album by Mr. Smith. There are thirty-five tracks in all, on one disc. This means that most of the songs are under a minute in duration, with the longest tune clocking in at two minutes and fourteen seconds.

I can sense a collective “pah” out there in my readership, but please don’t be so dismissive. This album is texturally, musically and lyrically involving, it’s just that Devin Smith doesn’t waste time beating around the bush. He finds a melodic strain and a good beat and then fastens his lyrical ideas to them. The music swings from strummy acoustic numbers, to driving punky things and also touches on danceable electronic beats and sounds. Track thirty-four is thirty eight seconds of ocean sounds and is called “Ocean Sounds.” The closing track, and the longest one on this opus is called “Streetlights” and is beautiful, sweeping, lush and romantic; a perfect fusion of rich electronic sounds, Smith’s wistful vocalizing and captivating melodic touches.

It’s easy to think that Smith is taking an easy way out in writing and producing tracks that are so short, but fifty six seconds into the opening track, “Fingernails,” and you’ll be thinking different, like an Apple ad. Its driving bassline, bouncy electronic beats, raspy guitar and “I bite my fingernails when I’m waiting for you to call” lyrics say all that needs to be said about waiting for that call from that person you’ve been waiting to call you. Why complicate the issue? Smith certainly doesn’t. Some might call his approach frivolous, but I think playful is a much better appraisal of this genuinely interesting album.

With thirty-five tracks in all it’s difficult to give a blow-by-blow assessment, but who needs my assessment anyway. Simply put, this album kinda rules. It’s unpretentious, immediate, involving and punches right to the heart of the subjects it deals with. Check out track five, “Swingin’ Hips,” and you’ll be sucked in by its grooving bassline, you’ll hope that it never finishes and you’ll hope that the DJ has two copies so you can get down to it for more than one minute and thirteen seconds. But like a killer break in hip-hop, Smith keeps it going just enough for you to want more of it. There’s a certain modest ingenuity to that, especially when the cd jumps to the seventeen second long, “Hooray For Everything,” with its cheering and applause sounds.

While listening to this album you might feel that maybe Smith was always the class smart ass, but he’s probably just smart, and very smart at that. This is a great album, an awesome artistic statement and a lot of fun. Go and get it and bask in the whole thirty-five tracks.

Kick back to it, dance to it, and bite your nails to it.

I’m out.

Orr

www.cassettemiami.com

www.devinsmithmusic.com

www.honorrollmusic.com

www.atomisk.com

www.myspace.com/devinsmith - Nightwise Magazine, SF


Discography

as "Cassette" : Beautiful California
Newer Airship Rocketship material can be found:
myspace.com/AirshipRocketship
AirshipRocketship.com

Photos

Bio

Airship Rocketship started life as the band "Cassette". Back then the live band was formed to support the release of the album "Beautiful California" (Honor Roll Music, honorrollmusic.com), which was written and recorded entirely by Devin in the summer of 2006.

The album did decently on college radio, and a couple of modest & sweaty tours later, the songs and sound of the group had become drastically different, and it became apparent a new identity was required.

Thus, Airship Rocketship was launched in 2008, and recording for the new album was begun. The new songs featured a delicate melding of progressive rhythmic and harmonic elements into pop forms, but now with the inclusion of more tongue-in-cheek dance tunes a la Steely Dan.

Airship have become a standout among Miami live bands, which are usually polarized into purely dance groups or strictly experimental acts; Airship is creating a strange balance between wink-and-smile entertainment, and brutal technicality.

Near the end of 2008, recording progress slowed to a halt as drummer Richard was diagnosed and, thankfully, survived a tumor the size of an eyeball jammed right into the center of his brain. Months of intense treatment, slow recovery, and patient progress have followed, as the rest of the crew is busy trying out new things, finishing the recordings that started way back when, and preparing for the eventual departure of keyboardist & variety man Patrick.

To date, the debut album "Avarice & Fear" is about halfway finished, with new tracks and completed mixes popping up online every now and again. More recently Devin has been creating custom web and standalone software which allow listeners to engage with Airship's music in fantastic new ways.

The Future is a strange place.
And Airship Rocketship is planning on being strange enough to fight it.