It’s been nearly a year since Bowling Green alt rockers Sleeper Agent called it quits. Frontman Tony Smith returned this week with a song and video from new collaborative solo project, Teem.
“War Paint” is a departure from the sound that defined much of Sleeper Agent’s recordings, trading garage rock influences for an electronic vibe.
Lyrically, though, the song conjures Sleeper Agent at the band’s finest.
The song plays like a poignant letter of sorts to an estranged friend.
“War Paint,” could easily be a Top-40 hit, much thanks to catchy, sing-along lyrics.
“I feel we’re at war again, unholy war again,” Smith sings, with back-up vocals provided by Nashville musician Lauren Strange, over a beat that sounds like it could easily be on an unreleased Grimes song.
Over the brooding 3:48 track, Smith recalls a turbulent friendship, lamenting the pangs of letting go of a once strong bond with wisdom.
“Now only the ash of us remains / I wash my hands and walk away,” Smith confesses.
Check out a Q&A with Smith below.
Sonically, TEEM definitely seems to stray away from the sound that defined much of Sleeper Agent’s recordings, in the fact that it seems to be heavily influenced by electronic music. Can you talk about bands/artists you were influenced by for this project?
Honestly, the electronic vibe came out of necessity. When I first moved to Nashville become a songwriter for other artists, the only affordable apartment was about the size of a walk-in closet. I couldn’t plug up my guitar or track live percussion due to living in such cramped quarters with the other tenants. So, I got really familiar with my MicroKorg, building beats in Logic Pro and whisper singing. I’ve always been into electro-pop though. I’m a big fan of Grimes. I love the acidic sound of Kanye’s Yeezus. More recently, I loved the production on The Weeknd’s last album and tried to replicate some of the synth sounds from Miguel’s “Coffee”. Haha. But, Anohni’s album Hopelessness cemented the idea that Teem’s sound could be viable for me.
Lyrically though it seems to be reminiscent of Sleeper Agent, in my opinion, just because it paints a vivid and poignant emotional landscape like many of my favorite Sleeper Agent songs did. Is that a fair assessment or do you feel like lyrically you came from a different place for this project? (Or approached it differently that is)
I only know of one way to write lyrics and I guess that’s why I totally failed as a commercial Nashville songwriter. I’ve always been telling a continuation of the same story. I’ve been told that I’m too esoteric or clinical. But, I write from a vulnerable place that I don’t get to show on a daily basis. The lyrics in War Paint are a conclusion to a handful of other songs spanning from two older projects.
What was the inspiration behind “War Paint”?
It’s one part me trying to talk myself out of attempting to get back into writing, producing and performing music again. The other part is me addressing an old friend who refuses to speak to me.
How much material do you have for Teem? When can we expect more from this project?
I’d say 11 songs are fully written and there’s about 5 that are just hooks with gibberish verses. Half of the material is reworked leftovers from older projects. Some of it’s stuff I didn’t get around to, or, didn’t have the means to record was I was teenager. Only War Paint and a few others are actually brand new songs. But, I plan on having an official audio/video release every other month.