ABOUT THE BAND
Instant Smile - Greg Phoenix-guitar, vox / Erin Berry-drums
Is less really more? Well, Erin Berry and Greg Phoenix seem to think so.
After years of playing together in several bands in their current home base of Philadelphia, the drummer and guitarist have stripped their music down to the frame and formed a duo called Instant Smile. 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 rockabilly, swing, and psychobilly, Berry and Phoenix have taken a left turn into sounds that mix up garage rock, psychedelia, vintage prog rock, and flashes of surf guitar as they deliver spare but satisfying 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 January 2017, but Berry and Phoenix'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 40% of the nervy rock & roll quintet Bikini Spiders, with Erin taking over behind the drum kit and Greg on bass. After their bandmates left Philly for greener pastures, Berry and Phoenix started working as a duo under the name the Greg Phoenix Experience, with Greg back on six-string. A snowstorm led to the last-minute cancelation of a festival gig in North Carolina, and an unexpectedly long weekend under the influence of plenty of beer, a certain Twilight Zone re-run, and a few spins of Blue Cheer's Outsideinside led to the pair tackling some new musical ideas, and the result was Instant Smile.
For Berry and Phoenix, playing in a two-piece band not only makes sense musically, but has made it easy for them to expand their creative boundaries. Berry and Phoenix are a couple, and the third floor of their house has been turned into their combination practice space and production studio they call the Penthouse. Whenever inspiration strikes, Instant Smile can head up to the Penthouse, work out new songs, and document them on their home recording rig (not having to wait for other folks to show up can make a big difference, folks). They've also learned the art of making videos, and the result has been a series of homebrewed digital singles accompanied by clever yet cost-effective YouTube clips for the chunky but atmospheric "Tiltawhirl," the rollicking lament of adult responsibilities of "Give Me Time," the echoey, hard charging "Vanish," and the sly and slinky philosophical musings of "Spectacular Time." Clever and uncompromising, each tune makes the most of Phoenix's surf-meets-psych guitar runs and Berry's drumming that splits the difference between cool sophistication and rock & roll energy.
While recording and writing has been Instant Smile's main focus so far, the group knows how to deliver a satisfying live show and plan to spend more time on the road in the near future so more folks can see them in action. 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.