An Interview with Josh Caterer of The Smoking Popes

If you don’t know Josh Caterer yet, now is the time to familiarize yourself with him. Not only is he a top-notch songwriter and musician, but he is a founder of the illustrious Pop Punk band, The Smoking Popes.

On top of that, Josh has started a solo career that has led to a couple of amazing live albums. Below, Josh and I discuss how the two “Sessions” (SPACE and Hideout) albums compare, Smoking Popes albums old and new, and what it is like playing in a band with his brothers, amongst other things.

If you want to learn more about Josh keep reading as well as going here and here.

Joe:
Let’s start by talking about The SPACE Sessions. What was the impetus for this album and its predecessor The Hideout Sessions? I’ve noticed you have several covers on both albums. How did you decide on the songs you covered for the album?

Josh:
In 2020, when all the venues shut down, the only shows you could play were virtual. I noticed that The Hideout was having virtual shows almost every week. I really wanted to do one, so I called my friends John Perrin and John San Juan. I asked if they wanted to get together and make some music. I also asked if either of them had a practice space that was big enough for social distancing. I wanted us to do it safely. I chose to reexplore an idea, from years ago, that got started with The Popes. The idea came from our album, The Party’s Over. The concept was to take old standards and play them in our own style. Golden era stuff, like Sinatra and Judy Garland used to do. I loved making that album and always wanted to try playing more of those songs. Also, now that I was doing it as a solo album, I could try reinventing a few songs from my catalog. That was the notion of The Hideout Sessions. We enjoyed that album so much, we instantly decided to do another one. The next one is what became The SPACE Sessions.

Joe:
How would you compare The SPACE Sessions to The Hideout Sessions? Will there be any future albums recorded in the vein of “The Sessions” albums?

Josh:
The albums are similar in that they’re both live recordings. All the songs are single takes with no overdubs. I think the first one, The Hideout Sessions, feels a bit rawer. We had only been playing together for about six weeks at that point. We were a bit nervous about pulling off a live-streamed event. By the time we did The SPACE Sessions, we’d been playing together for several months. We were more confident about the whole process, so I think that album is a little tighter. I think we’ll continue to record together. But now that clubs are open again, we might not do it the same way. It’s probably time for us to do some studio recordings.

Joe:
I’d love to talk a bit about The Smoking Popes. What is the experience of playing in a band with your brothers like?

Josh:
It’s been a great experience. My brothers and I grew up playing music together. We all get along very well so it was natural for us to eventually become a band. The way we play together is very intuitive and not much verbal communication is required. We just have similar instincts, and it all comes together.

Image credit: Live From The Rockroom

Joe:
The Smoking Popes have always delivered on their albums over the years, however, a lot of people’s favorite is Born To Quit. It’s one of those rare albums that can be listened to start to finish, and always sounds fresh. What is it about that album do you think has resonated with people? What do you think you guys got right as a band on that album?

Josh:
Born To Quit is the album where we really started listening to each other and exercising some restraint in our playing. Up to that point, we had been more concerned with energy than precision. It made our earlier recordings a bit chaotic at times. On Born To Quit, I think you hear a band that is trying to play together in a way that serves the song. Our earlier recordings sounded like a bunch of caffeine-fueled kids going nuts in the studio. Also, I was starting to develop some maturity as a songwriter. I remember around that time I was always listening to an oldies station called Magic 104. Magic 104 played hits from the 50s and 60s. You can hear a lot of that influence in the songwriting on Born To Quit.

Joe:
Into The Agony, is a really strong album. Part of the reason it was so great, in addition to the terrific songwriting, is the production style. The production is tight, but the raw, noisy guitar sound drenched in reverb contrasting with the infectious hooks is a wonderful contrasting pair. It seems to be the closest to the production style on Born To Quit. What is your opinion on the above statement?  

Josh:
Thanks, I’m glad you like that album. We weren’t trying to mimic Born To Quit, but I guess I can see the similarity of the sound. Jamie Woolford is the guy who mixed Into The Agony. He’s incredibly talented. I love the way he brought those mixes to life. He made them sound bright and full. Phil Bonnet did the same thing with Born To Quit.

Joe:
It has been a few years since Into The Agony came out. Any idea if or when we will see new music from The Smoking Popes in the future?

Josh:
We don’t have anything planned, but I wouldn’t rule out new Popes music in the future. We tend to operate in cycles. We’ll be very active for a few years, and then we’ll lay low for a while. Both my brothers just became fathers this year, so for now we’re laying low.

Joe:
Jackson Mud Band is a significant divergence from much of the other music you have made in the past. What got you started with making Blues music? How did this band come together?

Josh:
In a way, it’s like what I’m doing now…just something I wanted to try. I called up some talented friends of mine and asked if they wanted to do it. I’ve always loved Blues music. Something I picked up from my dad, I guess. He was a Blues fan and would listen to it a lot when I was growing up. It was really fun to start writing in that genre. Jackson Mud Band only plays a couple of times a year, but it’s something I really look forward to doing. I’d like to keep that project going.

Joe:
Are there any other projects, albums, or songs, that we haven’t yet discussed, that are coming out in the future?

Josh:
I’ve always got something brewing. Always a handful of half-written songs in the works. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do with them, but it’ll be something. Two years ago, I had no idea that I would be releasing two full-length solo albums. Albums that would be recorded live in different clubs around Chicago, but here we are. I’m excited to see what the future holds. I think the key is to keep being creative and to keep being passionate about doing new things. Just be open to what comes.

Interested in learning more about the work of Josh Caterer? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Records, Roots & Ramblings, by Joe O’Brien, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/records-roots-ramblings-archives/

About Post Author

Joe O'Brien

Joe has always been a huge music fan. Growing up on Long Island, NY, USA, Joe did chores and dumpster dove for bottles with his best friend Andrew to trade bottles for money to buy vinyl. Joe is a Registered Nurse in the ER by day, and a life-long music lover by night. Having been an avid consumer of all things music since he was a child, Joe’s diverse collection of over 3,000 vinyl albums, plus several hundred tapes and CDs, tells the story of a man who simply loves music. Joe’s goal is to write about what he is most passionate about and share new and exciting music. Joe lives on Long Island, NY with his beloved dog Scarlett.
Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %

Average Rating

5 Star
0%
4 Star
0%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: