INTERVIEW: The Smoking Hearts (UK), January 2012

So this is a weird one. I interviewed this guy, we followed each other on Twitter and he said he’d get me into Soundwave 2012. You’ll be pleased to know, reader, that I did not get in to Soundwave 2012. So that was fun. Never heard from the dude again, and I think the band is long gone. Literally the only reason I remember them is because of this shit from eight years ago. I’m a petty bitch, I am.


With nothing to lose and everything to prove, THE SMOKING HEARTS are set to be one of the more exciting young bands in punk and hardcore throughout 2012. On the eve of their Soundwave appearances and the release of their debut album, Victory!, vocalist BEN MILLS spoke to DAVID JAMES YOUNG about where the band has come from and where they intend to head.

With such an extensive list of names on the Soundwave bill for 2012, it’s quite easy to skim over and sometimes even ignore the names towards the bottom. Make no mistake, however: UK quintet The Smoking Hearts are in no mood to be ignored. They are the kind of band that will grab you by the scruff of your neck and essentially pound you into submission with their fiery, no-nonsense take on melodic hardcore punk. In other words, they don’t plan at being at the bottom of the pile for too long.

Although the band is just releasing their debut album now, entitled Victory!, the origins of the group trace back to 2007 – back when the band’s current frontman, Ben Mills, was not even a member. “I was performing with a band called Takeover,” he recalls, “and I’d actually played with The Smoking Hearts a couple of times. The guys liked my style, so when their vocalist and drummer left, we all decided to meet up at [UK festival] Sonisphere to see if we all got on, and were going to take it to a rehearsal if it all went well. Turns out within 25 minutes of being at the festival, I was in the band – and the rest, as they say, is history.”

The five-piece have refining their rough-and-tumble style ever since, but it’s only within the past twelve months or so in which it has started to really pay off in the band’s favour. Their touring schedule, which Mills himself describes as “relentless,” has lead to rave reviews and a very solid reputation in their native land. “It’s been a really exciting year for all of us,” says Mills. “The rest of the boys never thought that they would get anywhere close to this point after their singer left, but we’ve come together and we’ve done something much better than we’d imagined. I’ve been in bands since I was fourteen, and none of it has really paid off up until now.”

Victory!, the fruit of the band’s labour, is done and dusted within 35 minutes but will take far, far longer than that to get out of your head. It’s not only high-octane and aggressive, but it’s also a damn catchy affair, mixing throaty hooks with big choruses that aren’t quite pop, but have all of its lasting power. The album is also very much a product of its environment – for Mills, at least. Raised on a diet of The Clash and the Sex Pistols, it wasn’t long into his teens that he discovered hardcore music, subsequently making it a huge part of his own life.

“I’m a massive fan of hardcore music,” says Mills. “Sick of It All, Blood for Blood, Stamping Ground, Knuckleduster… I really do love loads of music styles, but hardcore was the first that really grabbed me. It’s what lead me into playing in bands to begin with – and, to me, for all intents and purposes, The Smoking Hearts are a hardcore band. Not necessarily the style of music, but with our work ethic. We love all kinds of music, though – our playlists can go from Bon Jovi to Cradle of Filth, Meatloaf, The Lonely Island, The Roots, Take That, Rihanna. Nothing gets excluded. Everything gets a chance.”

It’s rare that one finds a hardcore band, self-described or not, taking this very mentality. It’s this open-mindedness, however, that has brought such a broad palette of sounds into the band – and that has certainly worked in the band’s favour. It, too, has made the band exceptionally proud of Victory!, to the point where Ben himself honestly cannot choose his favourite song from it. “They’ve all got their pros and cons,” he reasons.

“There’s no song that I feel is out of place, or that I wouldn’t have on the album had we done it again. I think my favourite right now, just to be playing live, is Blue Nun. It’s a party anthem, dedicated to our friends stuck in vans for months on end. But yeah, I really do love all of the songs on the album.”

Upon the February release of Victory!, Australia will be one of the first places to hear the album live. This isn’t just the first Aussie trip for the band, either – “We’re actually going to be going trans-Atlantic for the first time,” says Ben, excitedly. The whole band are genuinely thrilled to be bringing their music to Australia, especially on what they feel is a world-class bill of acts. “It’s surreal to us that we’re even wanted over there,” Mills says. “To have our album coming out there alone feels ridiculous to us, so be playing what looks like the biggest festival in your country is just amazing. There’s no line-up like it. All of our favourite bands are playing…it’s just ridiculous.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you The Smoking Hearts. Get to Soundwave early and ditch the line for beer – you’re not going to want to miss this.