The Smokes: Two-piece garage rock

by McKenna Cardwell & Halee Hastad

Without a second of hesitation or a single beat of silence, a strong, forceful voice erupts through the mic. From literally the very first breathe of their album, Backlash, The Smokes waste no time revealing their musical message. “Fight the man!”

A cold bucket of water to the face, there’s no ignoring the social and political influences behind their lyrics, particularly in the most recent music. As a listener, it’s impossible to not recognize it as a driving force behind the band.

Everything from the titles of their albums (Slave, Revolt, and now Backlash) to their headstrong lyrics hold fast to the idea that you have to stand up for what you believe to be right, even if that means facing adversaries every step of the way. Take a step forward, even if that means being pushed two steps back.

Based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, band members Matt and Himes use political injustices and the spirit of the punk rock genre to fuel the fire which burns through their tracks. The two are currently on the road for their latest album with a self-titled, Spark Tour, playing local on May 18 at The Firefly followed by May 19 at the Lo-fi in Seattle.

Focusing on a strong musical message has taken center stage in their creative process since the beginning, and their newest release, Backlash, is no exception. It was released in June 2018, and has a length of five tracks. The Smokes jam-pack every second of their recordings with music true to the heart and soul of grunge rock music.

Guitar strums come fully-equipped with a strong backbone, and the vocals have a cool, grimy style to match. The song “American Dream” starts with a meandering electric guitar solo and then explodes into a full-blown garage rock head banger.

Consistent with the early punk music, The Smokes allow their songs to express their discontent with the ebbs and flows of society today.

The band says that suppression can happen anywhere, not excluding the punk rock scene. The arena of music made famous by bands like Nirvana is generally viewed as welcoming to all walks of life. But The Smokes say the message to ‘come as you are,’ doesn’t always hold true in every grunge-rock venue.

But it was the current political climate that pushed them to create the album Backlash, invoking the minds of their listeners to stand up against injustice. Lying down is not an option, and neither is spineless music. Unbashful and unapologetic, The Smokes are as punk as it comes.

As long as there are smokes to be had, Matt and Himes will continue to ensure their voices be heard. No doubt their music will find a welcoming crowd here in the Pacific Northwest, one major hometown of punk.

For more about The Smokes, follow their Facebook page and listen in at