VIC & NSW
If Roderick Smith, the brainchild of North Arm, didn’t discover an old, dusty guitar in his sister’s cupboard at age 11, his life may have taken a completely different turn.
Growing up in Newcastle, Smith spent most school holidays with his large family in the sleepy coastal town of North Arm Cove – and the old guitar soon became a regular addition to these family trips. Smith says, “I used to strum this shitty nylon string guitar all the time. Eventually, I learned how to play a few chords and figured out some stuff. I was a pretty dorky kid, so the guitar was a great way for me to handle being a late bloomer.”
It’s no surprise, then, that Smith’s guitar melodies, which combine dreamy, hazy soundscapes punctuated with deceptively irresistible grooves, truly define his trademark North Arm sound.
Smith put his first band together when he was 16, and later returned to Newcastle to co-found Firekites in 2005. Now permanently Sydney-based, Smith has spent the past few years focusing on North Arm, and under his project’s moniker, has already released two EPs and a critically acclaimed self-titled album in 2015, which was, “really contemplative, and a nostalgic glimpse of a time and place spending summer holidays in a sun-drenched place like North Arm Cove.”
North Arm’s prolific output is about to deepen with the 2017 release of a new record 'Let Love Through', which Smith says is “a blend of past influences and music I’ve been listening to more recently.” At times, North Arm conjures the dreamy likes of Wild Nothing or DIIV with a slight tinge of Boards of Canada. At others, North Arm sharpens the pencil with crisp sounds reminiscent of The Whitest Boy Alive or Broken Social Scene.
Overall, 'Let Love Through' is a little heavier, a little pacier, and whole lot more direct. “If the first record was a snapchat of an 8-year-old red-headed boy on a BMX,” he says, “this record is more mature, a bit more insistent…a little more stressed out than blissed out.”
Even better, the evolution of North Arm comes with greater sonic texture, and Smith says, “I consciously set out to make sure the instruments could breathe and the vocals were shining through a little more. As a result, there are definitely some more bombastic moments over here and a sense of heightened drama over there.”
Although Smith forms the backbone of North Arm, on ‘Let Love Through’ he has collaborated with Melbourne-based artist Robin Waters (originally from Brisbane band The Boat People, and wizard producer to the likes of Eves the Behaviour, Darling James, Ella Hooper, Wilding, S.J. Smith and Dan Parsons) and ARIA-nominated producer J. Walker (aka Machine Translations). Smith clearly embraces the collaborative process, and he says, “Collaboration introduces interruptive forces to shake you out of your mindset, and helps you and the music grow into a more truthful space. I’ve been really pushed to work harder and I think it shows.”
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