ABOUT THE BAND
Instant Smile - Greg Phoenix-guitar, vox / Erin Berry-drums, vox
Is less really more? Well, Greg Phoenix and Erin Berry seem to think so.
While the notion of a guitar-and-drum two piece usually conjures up images of detourned roots rock (thanks for nothing, Jack White), Instant Smile went the other direction. After playing music based in psychobilly, swing, rockabilly and straight up rock and roll, Phoenix and Berry have taken a left turn into sounds that mix up pop, classic rock, psychedelia, vintage prog rock, and flashes of surf guitar to create a sound they call Heavy Pop. The result is a spare but satisfying take on rock & roll that's smart without being pretentious, and literate but never too wordy. Instant Smile conjure a satisfying, darkly witty blend of noisy guitar and crazy rhythms suitable for dancing or pondering the state of the world over a cold beverage.
Instant Smile came into being in 2013, initially calling themselves Greg Phoenix Experience after months of struggling with a name, and finally grasping at a joke suggested by Erin's boss. However, Phoenix and Berry's history goes back much further than that. In 2008, they assembled the jazz/rockabilly combo Delco Nightingale, with Berry on lead vocals and Phoenix on guitar. In 2013, they became two-fifths of the nervy rock & roll quintet Bikini Spiders, with Erin taking over behind the drum kit and Greg on bass. They concurrently began playing as the duo Greg Phoenix Experience, with Greg back on six-string. A snowstorm led to the last-minute cancellation of a 2017 festival gig that GPE was booked to play in North Carolina. A high anxiety ride back up north with the storm in their rearview mirror led to an unexpectedly long weekend at home under the influence of plenty of beer, a certain Twilight Zone re-run, and more than a few spins of Blue Cheer's Outsideinside. These ingredients led to the pair tackling some new musical ideas, and the duo was rechristened Instant Smile.
For Phoenix and Berry, playing in a two-piece band not only makes sense musically, but the streamlined nature of a like-minded duo makes it easy for them to expand their creative boundaries as they see fit. The couple rebuilt their home studio (formerly known as The Penthouse, back in Philadelphia) in their new home in Athens, GA. While they continue to enjoy the flexibility and autonomy of recording and engineering themselves, they have enlisted the help of a few friends on their most recent release, 4 x 2. The EP was mastered by Athens local Joel Hatstat of High Jump Media, and the album artwork was created by John Squier (aka JonArt), and old friend of Berry's whose artwork outnumbers that of any other artist's hanging in their home. Instant Smile also continue to produce their own videos, the most recent being the first single from 4 x 2, "Thorazine Bender", which they released in December of 2022 as an early video teaser. 4 x 2 is the realization of a long sought-after goal of the band- the release of their first vinyl album. It's a fitting cap to a history of strictly digitally-released singles, as well as a signifier of the band's growth as they begin their next chapter.
Proving that smart music can be fun (or is it that fun music can be smart?), Instant Smile are a sharp dose of fresh musical energy that promises to keep listeners intrigued for a long time to come.