Smooth Kiwi: Sexy psychedelic

by Bella Cole-Preciado

Photo by Alaina / @alayynay

Smooth Kiwi generates an experimental sound with a blend of heavy psychedelia and post rock. Formed in September of 2018, this four-piece sets out to create an atmospheric experience through their music.

The band is made up of Connor Kelly (guitar/vocals), Carly Gilliland (guitar/keyboard/vocals), Joey Vacca (bass), and Bobby Pelkey (drums).

They began when Kelly and Gilliland decided to jam after a day spent at the Skate Park. Needing a percussion section to back them, Kelly got ahold of Pelkey and asked if he wanted to join, who brought Vacca along as well.

The four-piece started by simply jamming, with no goals or expectations in mind. Loosely running through covers of songs by some of their biggest influences like Pink Floyd, Tame Impala, Radiohead, and David Bowie.

In this first jam session, Gilliland showed the others an original she wrote on keyboard. Kelly then wrote lyrics and a vocal melody to match. This tune would later become one of the band’s favorite songs to perform, called “Them Words.” The band recalls how it was instantaneously fun to get lost in their psychedelic sound.

Smooth Kiwi is a melting pot of musical backgrounds. The band members hold an array of musical tastes that have all been equally influential in the sound of their music. “We all come from slightly different musical backgrounds and have different music that we gravitate towards,” Vacca said

“Then it molds into that kiwi sound,” Gilliland added.

Vacca’s groovy style comes from his discovery of jamming, paired with his love for Motown and West-African Funk records. With this combination in mind, it’s easy to hear where his rhythmic control and style comes from.

Through Kelly’s post rock style, he provides the building blocks for the band’s music. His personal experience with blending melodic lyrics and trance-like guitar parts brings a dreamy feel to the band.

As a multi-instrumentalist, Gilliland has a deep love for prog rock. She was in bands before Smooth Kiwi that were far more instrumental and technical.

“I like playing with interesting time signatures while making real beautiful chord progressions and harmonies,” she said.

Pelkey got his start as a drummer after Kelly approached him asking him to play the drums in another band they formed years back.

“I wanted to play the guitar originally but decided to play the drums after my mom stole a drum set from Walmart.”

Regardless of how he got his start, Pelkey’s funk rock fusion roots ground Smooth Kiwi in their unique sound.

Each member’s vibrant personality reflects in the music they create. Most songs come from partially composed ideas from Kelly or Gilliland that are taught to the other members of the band. In the six or seven months that they’ve been jamming, however, the process has become more organic.

They each agree that their love for jamming makes their songs flexible and open for change, recalling that most of their songs have evolved greatly since the first time jamming.

“You can make something greater as a group than you ever could on your own,” Gilliland said.

When asked about their genre, the band described themselves as “sexy psychedelic.”

“It’s a mix between dream pop and psychedelic 70s rock,” Kelly stated.

Kelly and Gilliland’s songwriting background bring the building blocks for songs to the band. Kelly likes to write music that is a reflection of what he is listening to at that time. Kelly likes to pull from newer bands like Tame Impala or Connan Mockasin while also maintaining overarching influences like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and David Bowie.

Shows are often accompanied by liquid-light artists, Elixir Light or Noctiluca light, who intensify the psychedelic experience even more.

The group also cherishes the welcoming music scene they find themselves in and enjoy the inclusive nature of Bellingham’s music community.

This strong sense of being is present in their relationship with frequent collaborators and friends in Bird & Shooter.

“We played our first show with Bird & Shooter and have played about 75 percent of our shows with them since,” Gilliland chuckled.

“I remember being mesmerized by their music and really liked them all personally,” Kelly said.

The band is currently working on releasing three tracks recorded by Johnson and are excited to see it released across all platforms. After this release, they hope to start working immediately with local engineers on a full-length album. The band also hopes to get more merch for fans, perform new songs this winter, and “headline an arena show with their friends in Green Day.”

“Just kidding about that last part,” the band laughed.

Catch Smooth Kiwi Jan. 9 at the Firefly. Find their music on their website or Bandcamp. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.