UCR INTERVIEW: Tim Smith of The Lickerish Quartet

THE LICKERISH QUARTETex-Jellyfish members Roger Joseph Manning Jr.
(Beck, Air, Cheap Trick, Imperial Drag), Tim Smith (Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, The Finn Brothers, Sheryl Crow, Umajets) and Eric Dover (Imperial Drag, Slash’s Snakepit, Alice Cooper, Sextus)—is standing by their promise to their fans to release more new music before the end of 2020. They’re excited to announce their highly anticipated THREESOME VOL. 2 EP, which was released on January 8, 2021, via Stranger Danger Records and Tapes. The first single and video, “Snollygoster Goon,” can be seen now on the band’s official YouTube page and streamed on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon.

In addition to the new music, THE LICKERISH QUARTET is offering unprecedented access to the band thanks to a plethora of exciting “Experiences,” which will be available for purchase on their official website. These exclusive offers include: “Perform / Record On Your Song,” “Co-Write a Song With Us,” “Video Chat,” “Music Lesson,” and many others.

With song titles like “Snolllygoster Goon,” “The Dream That Took Me Over,” “Sovereignty Blues,” and “Do You Feel Better?” Manning, Smith, and Dover’s undeniable chemistry can once again be found throughout THREESOME VOL. 2. The songs formed from the same sessions that began in 2017 offer a slinky and feisty landscape of temptation, freedom of thought, hope, and dreams, and a shout out to all who game the systems. An edgy second round of soaring vocals, angular guitars, and pulsing drums, enveloped by timeless keyboard arrangements requires multiple listens to appreciate fully.

We had the opportunity to chat with bassist, Tim Smith. Tim has had an amazing career and we enjoyed discussing it with him along with all of the exciting things happening now with The Lickerish Quartet. Enjoy!

Interviewed By: Kevin Rolfe

Tim Smith of The Lickerish Quartet
Tim Smith of The Lickerish Quartet

Utah Concert Review: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me, Tim.  I honestly love talking to guys like you because you’ve had such an interesting career.  Some people in music start in a band when they’re 18 and are still in that band.  Which is great.  However, I’m very interested in your story and your history.  You’ve had a really cool career.  I don’t want to dwell too much into the past because you have some exciting things happening currently, but let’s dive into your history a little.  How did this all start for you to where you joined the band, Jellyfish, and then moving on?  

Tim Smith:  Out of high school, I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I found out that a band I liked called, The Producers, they were sort of an early MTV power pop band kind of like Cheap Trick. They were based in Atlanta and I found out they needed a new bass player.  So I auditioned and they wanted me to join.  I had to graduate high school then join this touring band in Atlanta.  So I did that for a good while.

In the process of living here in Atlanta, I met this sound engineer who did live sound named Shalom.  Who actually worked for Jellyfish.   So he moved to Atlanta and actually ended up withing with us in The Producers.  He told me that Jellyfish were looking for new musicians.  So through that connection, I found out about Jellyfish and went and auditioned for them in San Francisco in 1991.  Then I did the Spilt Milk record with them.  Jellyfish broke up at the end of ‘93 and I ended up joining Sheryl Crow’s band in ‘96 for about 14 years.  So yeah for a really long time.  

UCR:  So as I’m doing my research to prepare for this interview I learned that your current project The Lickerish Quartet are all former members of Jellyfish.  Now I don’t want to act like I was the president of the Jellyfish Fan Club but I do like them.  They were part of my formulate years in regards to music.  So it’s really cool to talk to someone who was part of that. A band that’s maybe been lost in modern times but was really a solid group.  

Tim Smith:  Yeah!  I remember at the time I was a fan of the first Jellyfish record and the band I got to see play.  Then when I got to join them the music we were making and touring with was right in the grunge era.  So what we were doing was not so stylistically as popular.  It’s just funny that there are so many people who know about us as time went on.  I think if we had stayed together who knows what would have happened. I’m proud of that time, I  wish more people would have known more about us at the time.  

UCR:  So what is that experience like?  You’ve auditioned for a band and you’re in the band and I would imagine you’d think, “Ok, I’m in this band, they’re signed, we’re touring. Hopefully, this is going to be what I do for a while?”  Then not long after, it’s over.  Is that kind of a scary thing?  Of do you just think, “I’ll land on my feet with something else.?” What is your mindset at that stage?   

Tim Smith:  There were definitely a couple of years where I wasn’t sure when Jellyfish split up.  I was a lot younger too but I had a young family and you worry about how you’re going to pay your bills. The emotional investment you make in music, it’s your soul.  So it’s tough.  I won’t say it was an easy thing when we weren’t going to play together anymore.  I tried to do a few different other things and I tried to stick with it. 

You gotta remember too is people still bought music back then.  So there was a way of making a living that just doesn’t exist anymore.  It was a different time.  So the opportunities when you’re younger and willing to go do things.  I just tried to stay positive about it and stay creative and writing.

Touring With Sheryl Crow

UCR:  How does the whole audition thing work?  I imagine you’ve been on a lot of albums with bands and played a lot of shows with artists, is it just a reputation thing?  Or do you just show up with a bunch of other bassists and try out?  Or is it like, “Hey, I know this guy, Thim. He’s great. Check him out.”  Then you go and you’re in?   How does it work in the industry?

Tim Smith:  It varies as much as there are artists.  I got the Sheryl Crow audition because living in Atlanta I was friends with all the guys in The Black Crowes. Mostly Johnny Colt who was their bassist at the time.  Sheryl had supported some of The Black Crowes shows.  So, Johnny knew her, The Black Crowes were big fans of Jellyfish as well as me knowing Johnny from Atlanta. He called me and said, “I don’t know if you’re interested but Sheryl Crow is looking for a bass player”.  I was not a Sheryl Crow fan.  I heard “All I Wanna Do Is Have Some Fun” on the radio one too many times on the radio.  

What was really funny is, her second record that has the songs, “If It Makes You Happy” and “Every day is a Winding Road”, were the first songs I was sent to audition with.  So I had to learn those.  But it came to be that those two songs are co-written by a guy named Jeff Trott.  I met him when he was playing guitar for Tears For Fears that Jellyfish had supported in ‘93.  So there’s a lot of this kind of who you know, where you know, you’re just sort of in there doing stuff. 

There was a lot of that kind of stuff.  I’ve also had other opportunities to audition for other bands that went on to great success where I showed up for an audition and I just didn’t’ really dig it or they didn’t dig me whatever.  You just do as much as you can.      

UCR: Obviously you’re an accomplished bassist, but it seems like a lot more needs to go into it.  For you, it needs to gel and same for them. I imagine it’s not just a style thing, which is obviously important, but personalities need to work, It just all really needs to mesh.  There’s a lot that has to go into it I would imagine.  

Tim Smith:  Yeah, and as an example of that, when Jellyfish split up, and I was really proud of our musicality and the songwriting that we did. But It was a tough group of guys to travel with and to tour with.  Everybody was pretty serious and everybody had their own hangups about stuff or maybe insecurities.  So it wasn’t always a great experience touring.

 When I got the chance to tour with Sheryl, I have to say, even though I wasn’t a huge fan of her first record so much, even though it’s a great sounding record.  I guess I overheard it too much.  But when I auditioned with her, and there was a shortlist of folks. I remember going into a studio in Los Angeles where you can tell that someone else just plugged into the amp and now they’ve walked out and here I am coming in with my stuff.  So after that, I think she just liked me. She had a barbeque at her house. 

We hung out.  Her, me, and some other musicians who were going to be playing.  Jeff was there.  And it was just a normal friendly hang.  It wasn’t weird or ostentatious or affected or anything.  So there was just something in my heart that was like “Wow, this is totally different from my Jellyfish experience.  In that artistry kind of way but also in just personally hanging out.”  And it was like a breath of fresh air for me to go, “Huh, this could be fun.”  

And you’ve probably heard this, but most touring is 95% about the hanging out.  Because you’re just traveling and in each other’s back pockets.  So you gotta be able to hang with people. The hour or two on stage is what you’re there for.  But the other time is where you develop your ability to hang. 

UCR:  I’ve had the opportunity to talk to bands backstage or sometimes the day before if they arrive in town early, and I’ll see their body language where I can tell that these guys are not getting along, or they’re over hanging out with each other.  But when they get on stage they look like they’re the best of friends or like family.   I think you’re right, when you’re up there that’s probably the easy part because it’s the most fun.  But I would imagine all those other hours you need to be able to enjoy the other people and that experience.   

Tim Smith:  I think you just have to be respectful of each other’s space and time.  Be aware of what you’ve signed up for.  You’re going to sit in a lot of airports and have a lot of downtime.  You gotta be happy with yourself.  A lot of artists and I’m sure I have plenty of this as well, if you have hangups about things if you’re going to wear them on your sleeve be prepared to be called out on it if it’s bugging people.  

UCR:   So after 14 years, what happens.  Does Sheryl Crow decide she wants a break from the road so you move on to other things?  Or do you decide you need to move on to something else?  How does that situation play out?

Tim Smith:  She wanted to try some other things.  She did a Soul record with some folks in Los Angeles.  There was a time she had two bands.  She had the Soul band and then our band that she called the Family band.  But then I think she just needed to try something new.  I used to try to think of us sort of her Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers like we were the Heartbreakers.  It sort of played itself out. 

I ended up getting another gig playing Noel Gallagher with his High Flying Birds thing.  There was a period where I was doing that and then she was like “You should come back and play!”  And I thought about doing that but it didn’t work out.  We still talk here and there.  She’s a gracious friend.  My father had some issues with a cancer scare and because of her connection to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, she connected me with some great doctors who are helping my father out.  So I’m grateful to her for that.  

Tim Smith on Noel Gallagher

UCR:  Wow, that’s so great! That’s awesome.  I apologize for diving so much into your history but before I move on to modern times, I just want to ask a little about the Noel Gallagher experience.  What was that like?  I’ve really enjoyed his solo career.  There’s all this reputation and media stuff, but what was your experience like working in that environment?

Tim Smith:  It was different.  I would tell people that I was about as big an anglophile music fan of British music as anybody in the world, but when I started playing with him I felt like I was one of the Archies in his band, like the American guy.  And my wife is British so it’s not like I don’t understand the culture.  But the northern thing, being from Manchester is a whole different thing.  There’s still this weird sort of class system of stuff.  He grew up in a way that I almost have to liken to friends of mine who grew up in Louisiana who were raised in the projects.  He grew up in an estate. 

Noel grew up in a different set of circumstances of not having much.  More power to him for coming out of that and becoming a great songwriter.  He’s got a level of bravado that is unique to him.  He’s very funny. 

My funny story with him is when I went to go audition in London, he was like, “Man that sounds amazing.”  Then he went off for a minute and talked to some guys who were friends of mine.  Then they came to me and said, “He really likes you, but he doesn’t like your shoes. He thinks your shoes look weird.”  And I think they were just like plimsolls, like the Ramones wear.  For better or worse, his life is about British football, clothes and shoes, and writing songs.  That’s literally what he spends his time on.  But he’s great!  He’s great. 

Over here Oasis was fairly big, but of the British bands, I was more of a Blur fan. So I just had no idea.  We were playing football stadiums with men on each other’s shoulders crying and singing.  I had no idea it was that big. And it was a shift for Noel to do the solo thing, with the High Flying Birds.  We were rehearsing somewhere getting ready for the tour to start.  And he was pointing out, “I remember the day when we had like five or six semi-trucks and now we have this one little truck for our solo tour.”  So he had done a lot.  But I think he was happier and felt more relaxed doing the solo stuff.  

UCR:  What is it like playing songs you’ve heard forever and now you’re learning them.  Is it a surreal experience thinking, “I’m learning to play ‘Wonderwall’ right now.”  What is your thought process with all that?

Tim Smith:  I didn’t know a lot of the Oasis songs.  I mean, I knew all the big hits and stuff.  But the guy has written so many songs that I had never heard that were massive hits in other places.  Playing “Don’t Look Back in Anger” was probably my favorite song to play.  It’s just such an amazing song.  Most of his songs are written in a way, and the parts are played in a way that it’s just classic.  It’s not super challenging as a player, but it’s just right.  The only other band that I would say did that was The Beatles.  And I’m not comparing them to the Beatles!  But as a guitar player and playing the parts that’s what it felt like.  

The Lickerish Quartet and Fan Experiences

Lickerish Quartet Threesome Vol. 2

UCR:  So speaking of British Rock and understanding that style, I kind of felt like The Lickerish Quartet had some British Rock elements.  I actually thought you were a British band when I first listened to you guys.  It wasn’t until I was reading up on you that I realized you were from America.  Hopefully, that’s taken as a compliment because I love British music and have really enjoyed listening to you guys.  Was that a conscious thing?  Or do you just write songs and they come out the way they come out?  

Tim Smith:  I think it’s just our sensibility and what records we’ve shared that we like.  The production values and the production style.  There are plenty of great American bands we like too, but it’s just where we’re coming from. 

UCR:  So how did this come back together?  Have you guys talked over the years and said, “Hopefully when the time is right we can get together and do stuff?”  

Tim Smith: We never really thought of it that way.  After Jellyfish split up Roger and Eric had a band called Imperial Drag and we all sort of ended up getting jobs as side musicians.  Roger has been playing with Beck now for 12 to 15 years.  Eric had toured with a bunch of folks.  He played with Slash when he first went solo and then he was with Alice Cooper for a while.  So we’ve all been doing stuff.  It was sort of just like an end of the year, 2016  into 2017.  I like to call January of every year “Black January” for musicians because there’s nothing going on.  Anybody going to call?  Are we going to play?  What’s happening?

UCR: It’s true! Covering concerts during January is always rough!  

Tim Smith: Black January! That’s what it’s called.  

UCR: I’m writing that down!

Tim Smith:  Roger called me then.  He had been on a break and said he had heard a song I had done years ago and thought of me.  He called and said, “What do you think about getting together and doing some writing?”.  So we started working in 2017.

UCR: So how has this whole pandemic gone for you?  Were you planning on being on the road right now?  Has this strange 2020 altered your plans?

Tim Smith:  I don’t think it’s really altered our plans much.  I don’t think we were planning on touring unless things got to a point where we could find a way where we could do it where we weren’t jumping in a van and playing the pub scene.   We always decided we wanted to put out multiple EPs of music.  It wasn’t a concept album, it’s more about smaller chunks of music that we can focus on and have a story to tell. Then just see how it goes.  

UCR:  So is this something you guys are doing while you’re hoping to get out on some other projects?  Or is this your main focus right now?

Tim Smith:  I think it’s our main focus.  I know Roger has some original music that he’s rereleased that wasn’t available for a long time.  But what’s been really taking our time though is not only have we been putting out music but we’ve been doing what we’re calling “Experiences”.  They’re just sort of fan things.  Whether we have conversations or people can Zoom us and they can ask us anything.  Or we do co-writing sessions with people or even music lessons.  We’ll play on their songs. I’ve basically been doing that all day today.  I’ve been playing bass on this gentleman’s song.  It’s basically like doing sessions, which is what we normally do as our jobs.  But doing it from home and collaborating with fans has been really cool.  

UCR:  I think that’s such a cool idea.  To have a band you like collaborating with you on one of your songs, or performing one of your songs, what an awesome idea!  

Tim Smith: We think so.  Every experience is different.  Getting to know people and their level of understanding of how we work.  Being able to do the vocal things we do on our own records for other people, or even explaining how we do the process with musicians or engineers.  These days since people don’t buy music anymore we’ve gotta find other ways to support ourselves!  

UCR: For my last question, and this might be difficult considering your extensive career, but is there a tour or show where you thought, “This has been my favorite experience”?

Tim Smith:  I played with Neil and Tim Finn in 2004-2005.  We did a small American tour, just the three of us.  Tim Finn played guitar and had a kick drum and a snare drum with a stick in it so he’d play sort of the drums.  And we’d just play small places but it was amazing.  That was probably my favorite thing I’ve ever done.  

UCR: Was it just the intimacy of it?  

Tim Smith:  Yeah, and just being creative with just the three of us.  There were limitations to what we could all do, but through that, we would just go for it. It was super musical and intimate and sparse, but also full of joy.  Trying things without it being a big production.  

The Lickerish Quartet’s latest EP, THREESOME VOL. 2 is available wherever you purchase or stream music.

Click here to take part in one of The Lickerish Quartet fan “Experiences”.

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