Smile Ease has spent more than a dozen years quietly building a subtly powerful body of music, following its own quixotic creative path while remaining unaffected by the persistent noise of the mainstream pop music world. Led by enterprising songwriter-vocalist Paul Jacks, the group continues to evolve and change shape while making effortlessly arresting music.
Based in the largely pop-deprived hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, Smile Ease continues to dazzle on its most recent album The Lion Rampant, which features ten brilliant examples of the band's singular songcraft, giving Smile Ease a sonic and emotional resonance that echoes that of such beloved pop nonconformists as Radiohead, Broken Social Scene, and Bombay Bicycle Club.
The Lion Rampant embodies an unmistakably openhearted vision of playful, adventurous pop, with such intimate epics as "If I Was”, “How to Never Land On Your Feet" and “Where Were You When I"—all recorded at Jacks' own Tritone studio—combining sweeping melodies, dreamy psychedelic soundscapes and thoughtful lyrics into an effortlessly accessible whole.
Smile Ease's history stretches back to 2003, when Jacks released a solo indie single, "Cowboys and Indians." The single attracted the attention of Jacks' songwriter friend Travis Madden and Madden's frequent open-mic partner Ryan Bohac. The three formed Smile Ease in the spring of 2004, and began gigging locally that summer. Although the band had always been intended as a collective featuring multiple songwriters and musicians, the original lineup splintered when Madden was unable to continue in the group. At that point, Jacks stepped in as main frontman and songwriter.
Smile Ease began its first recording project in 2005, cutting tracks in a friend's garage studio. These would function as early demos for Smile Ease's eponymous debut album. Most of the album was recorded in a house that the band members shared in downtown Anchorage in 2006, which the band dubbed 10 and C studios. The self-titled album was released in late 2007, and Smile Ease supported it with a northwest club tour.
After several lineup changes and more touring, Smile Ease recorded The Lion Rampant, launching the release with a series of live shows in Anchorage. It was followed by another new album, Intimate, which was initially intended as the next Smile Ease album. But after another personnel shakeup, including the additions of drummer Ben Gauthier and keyboardist Colton Ciufo, it was decided to credit Intimate to a new band, Asteroid, which now maintains its own parallel recording career.
Meanwhile, Jacks promises that "2019 will reveal more new music from Smile Ease. Smile Ease is an easy way to put together an awesome lineup of musicians for touring, where we can cover the band's entire catalog plus do my solo stuff. Smile Ease is my collective indie band, and my goal is for it to continue to evolve and morph as time goes by, and for those changes to be reflected in the music." S