Smiley with a Knife has the ingredients of a New Orleans institution. Raised in Algiers, childhood friends Michael Volpi, Patrick Bailey, and Justin Vicknair have been romping around the Westbank as or with members of New Orleans’ punk/ska legends Fatter than Albert for years. During Fatter than Albert’s 2005 summer tour just one month before Katrina, the three agreed to an experimental project that for nearly two years hosted a rotating cast of temporary drummers. When the group recorded at Loyola University in the fall of 2007, they recruited the recording session engineer, native New Orleans drummer Jared Marcell, to permanently fill out their lineup. Marcell, a Loyola Music Industry Studies student at the time, graduated the following year with a management position at the Music Shed recording studio and rehearsal facility already in store. Smiley with a Knife as it is today was born, and since then the group has managed to successfully sear its own brand of quirky yet sleek instrumental indie-rock compositions with a uniquely New Orleans flair.
Smiley With A Knife's first full length, How A Reign Comes To An End, debuted in November 2008 and has garnered praise from local and regional press. On their behalf, there has been a tireless effort to unite the instrumental groups of the South East into an organized regional movement. With the beginnings of this instrumental armada, Smiley With A Knife initiated the first annual New Orleans Instrumental Fest in March 2009, a week before their performance at SXSW. Aside from their impressive local allies, SWAK has had the honor of sharing the stage with such traveling talent as Unwed Sailor, Tera Melos, Native, HEALTH, Maserati, Arms & Sleepers and Caspian.
While instrumental rock certainly is not a novelty by any means, it is indeed a refreshing medium that has taken a strong hold in New Orleans, and Smiley with a Knife has lead that charge in recent years. Sans singer, instrumental musicians cannot hide: they can't cheat or "pull a fast one." The sounds that radiate from bare, basic instrumentation will collapse if not buffed and buttressed by true musical ingenuity. Smiley with a Knife has pondered these tenets and faced these challenges head-on. They brew together the classic with the new, lithely striding along with sonic hooks and anchors to keep their fans and “to be” fans captivated. They blend the upbeat, joined-at-the-hip bass and drum combo mastered by bands like the Meters with the chilled demeanor of a definitive modernity established by bands like Explosions in the Sky and Maserati. The skills of Patrick Bailey (guitar), Justin Vicknair (guitar), Michael Volpi (bass), and Jared Marcell (drums) lie in their ability to pay homage to their influences and forbearers without reinventing the wheel. Their innovation stems from their ability to temper their more jocular, tickling tunes with other more eerily emotive numbers.
In August 2010, Smiley With a Knife released their new album, Long Now. People say it's awesome.