Under the stage lights, April Smith is absentmindedly fluffing the ruffles of her big, white tutu mid-song. “If you ever wonder if I’m dreaming of you,” she belts, fluffing once more. Then the music stops, and she freezes. “Bitch, please, I’ve got better things to do.”
Smith and her cheeky blending of retro and modern pop with burlesque have gained her and her backing band, the Great Picture Show, quite the following in the past few years. Her song “Terrible Things” was featured in the Season Six promo for the television show Weeds, in addition to Showtime’s Californication. Lately, she’s added a Tide commercial, a Chico’s ad, and an indie film credit to her resume.
For a fairly young act, with only one full-length album under her belt, Smith has connected her music to the masses quickly. What’s more, she has done it by herself — booking shows; organizing tours; ordering merch; handling finances; promoting, recording and producing an album, all without the assistance of a record label. Despite the promises of management and cash, Smith has opted out of all the record deals the band has been offered.
“I think it’s just not right for me,” says Smith, who funded her last release on Kickstarter.com. “You really get the short end of the stick.”
Her biggest qualm with labels is that they may take care of too much. Especially when it comes to hiring record producers. Smith says she wants that to be up to her.
“[When independent], you can pick people who
are enthusiastic about your music and your art,” says Smith. “You’re hiring them, you’re their boss.”
While it’s easy to agree with Smith’s principles, not many people would actually have the industry savvy to back it up — you still gotta be able to play the game, even if you’re not on their team.
“I used to work in music licensing,” says Smith.
“I know how to pitch music to people.”
Her business skills (plus some good friends in advertising) have allowed Smith and her band the exposure they have now, but her ability to sell their music to a company doesn’t overshadow her ability to sell it onstage.
The tutu fluffing, the upbeat “retro-pop,” and Smith’s powerful voice have packed venues across the country — especially here. Her last stop in Spokane drew over 500 people to the Bing Crosby Theater the day after Thanksgiving. Given where her band is based, Smith says this is a refreshing experience.
“Especially when you’re a band from Brooklyn, people are like, ‘Oh, you’re from Brooklyn,’ … I guess they have some preconceived notions that a lot of bands from Brooklyn are sort of, like, reserved and quiet and just aloof,” says Smith. “And we’re just not like that at all.”
April Smith and the Great Picture Show • Thurs, Oct. 6 at 8 pm • All-ages • Panida Theater • $15 • Friday, Oct. 7 at 8 pm • All-ages • Bing Crosby Theater • $14-$17 • ticketswest.com • (800) 325-SEAT