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"Simple: Songs From a Broken Hip"

Simple is a guitar/bass/drums trio that hails from the historically rich and fertile pop stomping grounds of central North Carolina (The dBs, The Connells, Flat Duo Jets, Southerrn Culture on the Skids, etc). The band’s debut CD, the intriguingly titled Songs From A Broken Hip, however, seems to have more in common with a couple of bands from the Northeast (Haledon, N.J.’s The Feelies and Boston’s The Pixies) than any of its Tarheel brethren. Led by singer/guitarist Chip Smoak, the band establishes its sound from the leadoff track “In The Night” with its slightly distorted yet still decidedly melodic and rhythmic guitars, punctuated by the relentlessly stuttering drumming of Eric Herman and the solidly supportive bass playing of Rodney Merritt. The sound is eerie, hypnotic, and, at times, repetitively propulsive. Lyrics are difficult to distinguish as Smoak’s vocals are generally hidden in the mix even when they’re doubled as in the promisingly titled though not quite delivered upon “Harper Lee” (if the song has anything to do with the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, the listener would be hard-pressed to say exactly what). Short repeated phrases do come out occasionally, but Simple is clearly concerned with creating a mood and they do so brilliantly with a sort of slowed-down Feelies groove mixed with some cleverly inverted arrangement nods to The Pixies (dynamic verses followed by calm and quiet choruses). The band also keeps it “simple” (sorry, too tempting) by maintaining a basically “live” sound with only a few endearingly amateurish guitar solos (and a bowed saw by guest Sean Parker on the CD’s creepiest track, the 3/4 time “Song For Sleep”) thrown in for color. Songs From A Broken Lip is a very impressive debut from a band well worth watching. (Factor IX Records)
- Performer Magazine

"Introducing: Simple"

23 Jan. 2008:

The leisurely ringing melody of Simple’s ‘Harper Lee’ picks up steam gradually, climaxing into a tangle of drone and chewy rhythms reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr. The catchy ode borrows from Boo Radley and cadges a line from Hamlet, which isn’t entirely surprising when you discover frontman Chip Smoak (ex-North Elementary) just finished his Ph.D. in American Literature. It’s from their forth-coming album, Songs From a Broken Hip. “I was on a walker so there weren’t any rock practices for a while,” says Smoak. “We had to practice acoustic.”
The trio—rounded out by drummer Eric Hermann (Pleasant/Chest Pains) and bassist Rodney Merritt (Casting Company)—has been practicing for two years, but they’ll finally get Songs out in March. Expect big hook-lined hum backed by a dynamic backbeat, pulsing beneath woozy waves of distortion, and you’ll enjoy tonight.
- The Independent (Triangle, NC)

"Record Review: Simple's 'Songs From a Broken Hip'"

Like the tide, Chapel Hill trio Simple is unrelenting. A sturdy thrum of distortion rises and crashes in undulating waves, suggesting ‘90s dream pop acts like Luna and the Swirlies for different reasons: Luna for the shapely, glistening hooks that dangle from the soft-hued hum, an azure sky above a waiting sunset; The Swirlies for an undertow of chewy rhythm that tugs at the guitar, reining it in, turning it back on itself. With its shambling, moody grooves, flickering riffs and singer Chip Smoak’s willowy tenor, Simple isn’t in a hurry. Surrender to its buzz-shrouded entreaties and be pulled downstream.
Smoak wrote the album’s songs, as the title Songs From a Broken Hip suggests, while recovering from a broken hip that necessitated his departure from North Elementary. Taking that band’s pop sensibility and plugging it into textured guitar roar, Smoak’s music with Simple carries you with its melodies. The most irresistible track on this nine-song debut is “Make Out,” whose heightened pulse echoes the lyrical excitement, a certain innocence shining over a lithe, churning hook that refuses to let go. […]. There’s the shuffling ode to Boo Radley, “Harper Lee,” and the harmonica-aided “Bad Idea,” featuring a keening rootsy jangle. Again, almost innocently, Smoak sings, “It’s a bad idea, not to let go.”
While Smoak’s guitar washes and melancholy croon are center stage here, Simple wouldn’t move at all if not for the back-bone drummer Eric Hermann provides. With the guitar involved in long, tracking shots, Hermann’s steady structure and syncopation provide importance nuance and color, making this better than most atmospheric fluff.
- The Independent (Triangle, NC)


Simple c/o Chip Smoak
104 Marlowe Court
Carrboro, NC 27510

Chip Smoak—Vocals/guitar
Eric Herman—Drums
Rodney Merritt—Bass

Chip Smoak (North Elementary, Casting Company, Emily’s Porch)
Eric Hermann (Pleasant, The Chest Pains)
Rodney Merritt (Casting Company, Soil)

Jan. 2007. “The Heart is a Tissue”—Single on Pure Talent Maybelline New York & Jane
Magazine Reader-Produced CD#5.
March 2008. Songs From a Broken Hip—Full Length released on independent label
Factor IX Records.

23 Jan. 2008. The Independent Weekly (Triangle, NC). “Introducing: Simple.”
--“The leisurely ringing melody of Simple’s ‘Harper Lee’ picks up steam
gradually, climaxing into a tangle of drone and chewy rhythms reminiscent of
Dinosaur Jr.”
--“Expect big, hook-lined hum backed by a dynamic backbeat, pulsing beneath
woozy waves of distortion”

27 Feb. 2008. The Independent Weekly (Triangle, NC). “Record Review: Simple’s ‘Songs From a Broken Hip’.”
“Like the tide, […] Simple is unrelenting.”
Their music “carries you with its melodies.”
“The most irresistible track […] is ‘Make Out,’ whose heightened pulse echoes
the lyrical excitement, a certain innocence shining over a lithe, churning hook that
refuses to let go.”
- Simple

"Record Review: 'Songs From a Broken Hip'"

Unrefined melodies and hollow vocals are lent superbly to Songs from a Broken Hip, a nine track album from Carrboro, N.C.’s Simple. Sounding as if Weezer mated with Marcy Playground during their Shapeshifter period, Simple stews in its own cacophony of artful and non-linear sound. The result is dodgy and fun, slippery and sincere. Singer-guitarist Chip Smoak mixes subdued nasal vocals with delightful melodies, like the oft-muted and deep throated singer Pete Shelley, electrified. Smoak shifts in and out on the album’s tongue-in-cheek ‘Make Out’ and serves as narrator on ‘Fragile Moment’, a song that builds then deconstructs as it progresses.
Songs from a Broken Hip is akin to something that sits idle and burns hard, a fiery meditation sitting. The album is not spectacle, not over the top or high-flying – it merely blisters in its own energy, whether moody or perfunctory. ‘Pretending’ is a singular example in which Smoak’s haunting vocals soar around scratchy, fuzzed-out guitar. Or, ‘Song for Sleep’, which takes its time, smoldering and teasing with drum playing that crafts a soundtrack to some foreboding outcome. The album moves like free-jazz, taking unexpected directions, lacking expected form. It works wonderfully, specifically on ‘AD’ in which descending guitars riffs work like a surf guitar number on strong doses of Percocet.
The songs echo nineties rock, mixing pop forms with waves of distorted guitar and noodling guitar. The album’s final tracks, a fun but gloomy sounding ‘Bad Idea’ and the subtle grinding of ‘The Weeds’ really sound like the first tracks on the band’s next album, in which they continue to nurture their sound.

- Brian Tucker
Bootleg Magazine

"A Simple Band"

A Simple band

While Jim Bianco is playing upstairs at the Soapbox on Friday (8 p.m. doors, cover TBA), another good show will be going on downstairs. Jangly as heck Chapel Hill rock band Simple will be playing along with excellent local act Doly Toro. Simple, a power trio led by former Wilmingtonian Chip Smoak (longtimers may remember his local '90s band Emily's Porch), Simple has some great, pulsing little rock songs on their album Songs from a Broken Hip, many of which were composed by Smoak while he was recovering from a year of health problems. Even so, Smoak's songs, most of which feature gently rockin' guitar lines and his pleasant, high-pitched warble, are anything but depressing. Rather, Make Out is an exuberant ode to hookin' up. The ambling Harper Lee rings with the empathetic request to "step inside my skin/And walk around/ Walk inside my skin/ And see how you feel keeping up the grin." Like the band's name suggests, the songs' structures may be simple, but their subjects are deceptively so.

Listen to Simple's song Fragile Moment on our Web site or go to or
- Wilmington, NC Star News


"The Heart is a Tissue" Single; Maybeline/Jane Magazine compilation (Dec. 2007)
'Songs From a Broken Hip' (March 2008)



Simple began as a Chapel Hill, NC recording project, but has progressed into a strong live band as well. It pulls members from North Elementary, Pleasant, and Casting Company--all great Chapel Hill bands.
Facing an ailing hip which was originally due to a tragic bicycle accident in college (Chip was thrown from his bike and his foot caught in the bike spokes and the result was a torn-out and crushed hip), Simple's founding member, Chip Smoak, was forced to leave his bass playing in the heavy-touring North Elementary in order to have surgery. At that time, Chip returned to the guitar and wrote the majority of the songs that now appear on "Songs From a Broken Hip." He recruited friends he'd met in the local scene and Simple had their first practice a few weeks before Chip's surgery. After surgery, when Chip was still recovering on a walker, they would meet and hold acoustic practices in Chip's den. And when Chip could finally stand again, despite an inability to do scissorkicks and stage dives b/c of his new orthopedic hip, Simple began playing locally and throughout NC. These songs were then tracked live in Carrboro's Track&Field studios and were then released as "Songs From a Broken Hip" on Chapel Hill's upstart label Factor IX, which, incidentally, is also run out of Chip's den.