Smvt's Ale Campos on Writing Punk Taylor Swift Songs

Smvt Courtesy photo
click to enlarge Smvt - COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy photo
Why does Ale Campos pronounce her band's name, Smvt, as smut? "When I first started the band, it was me playing aggressive music by myself," she says. "It was really heavy. Smut was the most intense, gross word I could think of to describe those feelings," Campos explained.

Campos is Miami born and raised and had long been part of the local music scene. Not only had she worked the last four years at Sweat Records, but she also played in bands like Testokra and Wasteland. In 2012 she decided it was time to do her own thing. "I always played in bands but never got to write the songs," she says. "I had all these riffs in my head and didn't want to have the hassle of starting another band."

So she decided instead to be a one-woman band known as Smvt, singing and playing all the instruments — guitar, bass, and drums — herself. She practiced in her parents' living room. Those first songs were compiled as Matter That Soils or Blackens. It was heavy, loud punk rock that does not prepare you for her next two quieter though still distorted collections, Conveniently Broken and Some Things to Let Go.

"In the beginning I was pissed off, and then I just got sad" is how she explains the transition.

One of those sadder songs was a reworking of someone else's song that meant a lot to her, the Magnetic Fields' "I Think I Need a New Heart." "It was a really empty and jaded time when I first heard that song. I was like, This is exactly how I feel."

For years as a live band, Smvt was just Campos and any drummer she could find willing to join her onstage for the gig. Around a year ago, she took her fans' advice and started looking for some permanent accompaniment. It took trial and error to find Smvt's current lineup. "The first members were too busy with other bands, work, and school, but my good friend Johnny Love came in on bass and Emile Milgrim, who works with me at Sweat and has the best taste in music, plays drums."

The trio plans to head to Fuzz Baby Records' recording studio this April to rerecord the tracks Campos made at home. "It's kind of cool how we ended up reversing what a lot of indie bands do with girls on guitar and drums and a guy on bass," she notes.

The progressive status of Smvt is a far cry from Campos' first band. Years later, she laughs about her early musical efforts. "I got my first guitar that my dad gave me at 12," she says. "I always played by myself. At 15 I wanted to join a band, but they already had two guitarists, so I taught myself drums."

But all that work led to a disappointing result. After she joined a band, "we were playing indie pop, which was terrible enough, but then I learned all the songs the singer was writing were low-key about Jesus." She had gone to Catholic school but thought the teaching was "crap" and that the band members were hypocrites. "These girls were self-proclaimed Christians, but not acting Christian-like at all. I decided right then not to have my music have anything to do with religion."

Instead the basis of her lyrics is mostly love and loss. "I never intended to release the songs because they're so personal," she says. "I was afraid to put them out there because they're about relationships and breakups. I always had a lot of love to give, but people made me feel like it was too much or not enough. I guess I was a punk Taylor Swift."

Smvt. 9 p.m. Friday, March 30, at Las Rosas, 2898 NW Seventh Ave., Miami; 786-780-2700; Admission is free.
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland