When Mickey Smith packed-up his inimitable years documenting surfing and joined Ben Howard's band it felt like the natural progression of a wayfaring life. And given that wasn't his first musical rodeo, perhaps his current adventure with A Blaze of Feather shouldn't be a surprise. However for us surfers it heralds a welcome return of trademark Mickey Smith visuals accompanied by sounds redolent of familiar wild coasts.
Released on Ben Howard's own Hell Up Records label this new collaboration between the primary characters in his band, and kinda led by Mickey, although he'd probably say not, suddenly started appearing in the headline slot on festival billboards. The internet caught fire with speculation, fanned by Ben's normally reluctant social media accounts. And when it dropped we were presented with something which isn't easily quantifiable – our old friends surf and music mixing the familiar and the new in mercurial fashion. Whatever your interpretation it's worth indulging in a press of the play button.
Tell us about A Blaze of Feather Mickey, who's in it and where did it spring from?
Thanks pard. Well, I guess we've been together as a unit a fair while now on the road with Ben's music. We're all pretty into experimenting and playing around with ideas and some of those sonic journeys began to shape-shift into songs. We ran with the spark while she was there and here we all are now. The band itself is made up of India Bourne, Nat Wason, Ben Howard, Kyle Keegan, Richie Thomas and myself.
And what's in the name, where did it come from?
My daughter originally I guess. We were talking about magical creatures like the Phoenix, both drawing one when she said something like,''it's just a blaze of feather papa''. Just one of those everyday moments where kids just stop you in your tracks so I wrote it down.
There was fierce speculation about it before the project launched, and now the EP has dropped with a couple of vids, how's it feeling now it is out there?
It's a trippy feeling, the support and belief people have shown so far has been pretty mind-blowing. I don't think any of us had any expectations really, but it's moved fast and has been pretty overwhelming at times. I feel real lucky to have any of this going on at all to be honest.
You've been playing with Ben Howard for a while. How does it feel having him as your guitarist?
Well 'A blaze' is very much a collective musically and Ben's also very much his own man. Those guys are all so uniquely talented it blows my mind. I'm lucky enough to hear Ben play most days and for me he's just next level, one of the most instinctive creative guitarists ever. He's a humble pard always evolving and challenging himself. There are not many people playing music these days who wear their heart on their sleeve so fearlessly, it's bloody inspiring.
In terms of creating in the studio is this a collaborative project? Or something you've had bubbling away personally over the last little while?
Musically, it's so collaborative, it wouldn't happen at all without everyone else. Lyrically I guess I'm just writing shit down all the time just to try and keep myself sane. I find it helps me deal with my own demons and sometimes clarifies things a little.
It's a pretty cathartic journey this kind of writing and I never imagined people would be listening one day so that's kind of scary. I do also remember feeling a similar way about Dark Side of the Lens when I wrote that down, so maybe dropping our guard and opening up a little is something we all don't do enough of. Especially when it comes to men and mental illness, we could all probably do with more of an outlet and a way of communicating these things we all bottle up. I find it's been really good for my own state of mind anyways, tough but positive.
It's been an age since we saw you in the surf world, but your visuals for A Blaze of Feather reference the ocean and its wild ways. Are you done with pure surf edits, it kinda feels like you've transitioned into some other place.
I feel like I'm more enraptured with the waves than I ever have been and appreciate my time in the sea so much more than I ever did.
A lot has changed in my life, some things are incredibly good, some things have been hard just like for everyone else, it's some rollercoaster we're all on lately. There ain't much time at the minute but I document the ocean whenever I can and if there's someone surfing at that time then great.
I'm more interested in the true feeing and spirit of things than oiling the mechanics of any machine though, to be honest. The last surf film I worked on was Spirit of Akasha for Andrew Kidman I guess which was an awesome experience.
I still help Lowey and the boys out with edits sometimes, when I can, just for fun. It's incredible what Lowey's achieved getting on the Big Wave Tour by the way, holy hell, mind-blowing that a kid from Cornwall can do that. Kinda shows anything is achievable.
I would definitely love to make more surf films one day again I feel like there's a lot more progression to make out there for films to communicate and translate the spirit of surfing like that effectively.
Tell us about The Decade Book, is it happening? Or is that the joke, it'll take another decade...
Think you cracked the nail on the head there mate. It could take me another decade easy or maybe I'll finish it next week. Inspiration comes and goes like the tide and I'm quite happy following blindly right now 'til she turns tail again.
You can catch A Blaze of Feather at the following venues. Go HERE for tickets.
2nd July – Princess Pavilion, Falmouth
3rd July – Guildhall, St Ives
4th July – Trinity, Bristol
5th July – Phoenix, Exeter
Cover shot, the familiar, by Mickey Smith