A Word with Sur Duda’s Cameron Smith

By Araya Alford

I understand you just came out with a new album titled Paper Knife under your solo project Sur Duda, in ten words or less how would you describe this album?

I think it’s a good record for a drive or train ride or something. It’s sort of about movement in a way.

That’s interesting, I never thought about that in that way!It does seem to have an easy going vibe to it!So you have ten tracks on the album and I would say out of all of them, my favorite track would be Royal Jelly. Do you have a favorite track? Or an abundance?

It’s kinda like picking a favorite child or something but I think maybe Rearrange the Room because I wrote it during the recording sessions and it’s this simple little song that turned out really beautiful and matured so quickly. Fort Night, too. Who doesn’t enjoy serving a long and detailed “fuck you” every now and then? But Rearrange cause  it really surprised and delighted me  and i think that is a clever little trick of romance

Haha Yeah I can see how this can be a tough one to answer. Haha I agree Fort Night is a great tirade. Rearrange definitely is a great choice, I quite enjoyed it and I’m surprised it started out during the recording sessions.Speaking of writing, did you have any influences during the process? Or any album that you were obsessed with during that period?

Some of the songs were written many, many years ago and I just never had a project that quite fit them. Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Lou Reed have always been big influences on me. The self-titled Velvet Underground album has so much attitude and its own sort of delicate tone. I was also listening to a lot of contemporary writers like Angel Olsen and Cass McCombs. Probably a bit of Teenage Fanclub as well. And Sartre. That’s where the title “Paper Knife” comes from. I was thinking a whole lot about the nature of bad faith and the freedoms we’d rather not afford ourselves. When it comes to influences, I could probably write a list about as long as the Hollywood walk of fame but I don’t think anyone wants to read that. But I feel like I should at least mention Jason Molina and Warren Zevon, too.

For sure. I can definitely hear a lot of Lou reed influences and Angel Olson’s “Phases” in the album. Very continuous and constant. If you could have anyone of these artists (or outside of your list) feature on this album, who would it be and how do you think their style  would correlate with yours?

That’s tough! The impossible fantasy would probably be to do an album that David Bowie produced and played on. I know it’s so retro but I’d love to make a record that sounds like Transformer or Iggy’s The Idiot. He really knew how to keep the danger and allure of punk while arranging these lush and cleverly orchestrated arrangements and he knew how to build a groove. As far as living folks, maybe John Cale or Brian Eno. It’d be incredible to collaborate with Angel too but I’d be terrified to sing in front of her.

Bowie would for sure be the dream! John Cale would be a great feature and a for sure honor to have. Returning to the basis of the album and analyzing your past work, how would this album contrast with your other works? Do you see a common theme? Or possibly phases?

When I was a teenager I fronted a hardcore punk band called Decades that broke up when I was about 19. I spent the next couple years teaching myself to play guitar and when I finally started performing out I met Peter and War Party started. Our first demo Year of the D-g is maybe closer to the way Paper Knife sounds, writing wise, than anything else War Party has ever done. Tomorrow’s A Drag, I was really just trying to make this garage punk, kinda doo-wop album and then with To Love and Fear It we started swerving into this kinda post-punk, synth pop vibe.  I’ve maybe always been a nostalgic when it comes to music music. I love new music just as much but I think I tend to romanticize the potency of things I heard as a child, for better or worse. I think that similarity between YOTD and Paper Knife is probably because it was mostly just me and Peter coming up with the arrangements and even though we didn’t exactly know what we were doing there was something of our own style together that was already kind of formed. We didn’t really approach it with a genre or scene in mind back then and that’s sort of what Sur Duda is for me now. I think as a songwriter there is a lot more freedom to explore, especially out in the left field.  Band’s have freedom to but after a certain point, a huge shift in direction could really break a fans heart. or a listener. I don’t like the word “fan”

That for sure makes sense about the freedom point for band’s compared to a songwriter. That’s very interesting that the beginning of War Party can correspond to Paper Knife. Okay, so straying away from the serious side, if this album were a cereal, what would it be?

I’d say Trixx cause everything’s for the kids but it’s more like KIX cause it’s probably more like kid tested and mother approved. Cease fire, Art and Commerce!

Haha great answer. So I’ve noticed you’ve been hosting  dreamy night at Lola’s Saloon, do you have a favorite venue you like to play at? Is it different between Sur Duda and War Party?

Yeah, those Lola’s nights are always sort of different. Sometimes I’m just by myself and other times we got a whole ensemble. I definitely like the homebase feel there. There’s almost nowhere in Fort Worth that doesn’t feel like home now, though. I love MASS and Shipping & Receiving and the little, noisy, tight bar shows at Chat and Boiled Owl. Every place has its own charm.  My favorite place to play in Dallas is Three Links, hands down. I haven’t performed there as Sur Duda yet but with the backing band I’m sure it won’t feel much different.

Awesome. I agree, Fort Worth’s music scene is definitely a tight community with a home like vibe. Speaking of playing shows, do you have any upcoming ones for the new year?

Yeah, War Party is playing the Armoury in Deep Ellum on January 4th with Bubble Boys and Talkie Walkie and I’ll be doing full band Sur Duda shows at Backyard on Bell in Denton on January 9th and then the Dreamy Life showcase at Spinster Records in Oak Cliff on January 13th with The Fibs and Sub-Sahara.

Sweet sweet! So one final question…Crunchy or creamy peanut butter?

Crunchy. I’m all about that crunch.

Thank goodness.

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day! I really appreciate it and you had great great answers!!

It was fun! Good questions. Thanks for the interview!

You can catch Sur Duda and War Party playing at your DFW clubs and bars along with your favorite local bands throughout this year!


Leave a Reply