18 March 2012 | 2:20 pm | Staff Writer

Perth instrumental band SMRTS describe their sound as “world music dying at the hands of garage rock”, writes Stephanie Liew.

Perth band SMRTS (it rhymes with hurts) began as a lone man. Predrag Delibasic made a solo EP, which he then passed on to his local radio station “just for the sake of it”. When they began playing his songs every day, he figured that he should get a band together and start playing gigs. So, he asked a few friends to join him and they decided to stick with playing instrumental music (“Probably because no one can sing in the band”). As Delibasic keeps repeating, almost as a mantra or motto, “It just happened that way.”

The first year that they started playing together, SMRTS' line-up went through several changes. One of these led to the band having two drummers. “We were not thinking, 'We should have two drummers.' Originally, we had one drummer and a percussionist, then the original drummer quit after the first gig because he was busy with his other band. We had to get another drummer, but then the original drummer changed his mind so I couldn't say no to him, so we're like, 'We'll just continue with two drummers and a percussionist!'” laughs Delibasic. At one stage, they even had four guitarists because nobody would play bass guitar.

SMRTS' positive make-do-with-what-we've-got attitude might be thanks in part to the fact that they're all good friends and find it easy to make music together. Delibasic comes up with a riff or melody, brings it to rehearsal and then it goes from there, with each member adding their own part. “Pretty much 99.9% of the time it sounds totally different from what I imagined originally,” he explains. “I'm more happy with the final result.”

Because their music is instrumental, it relies heavily on mood and feeling. When writing, Delibasic says SMRTS only have a vague idea of what the song should sound like. “We are thinking, 'This is gonna be a kind of rocky number' or 'This is going to be a little bit more dancey', but we don't have anything in particular in mind. Sometimes we might think, 'This is a bit gloomy, or melancholic, but still kind of uplifting at the same time'… but it's not like, 'We're gonna make a song that's gonna be like waking up on a Saturday!'” he teases.

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Commenting on the stigma associated with instrumental music, Delibasic says, “People think, you know, it's instrumental, it can't be popular, which I don't think is true. I mean, just look at bands like Dirty Three, Mogwai, Tortoise: they're all instrumental bands and did pretty well.”

SMRTS' sound stands out among other instrumental bands because it incorporates Delibasic's Serbian background, with melodies reminiscent of Eastern European music. One of the drummers once described it as “world music dying at the hands of garage rock”, which Delibasic thinks pretty much hits the nail on the head. “There is a kind of garage or rock or punk energy, but there's also unusual scales or melodies in there as well, and I think those scales come from Eastern European or I guess Oriental music. SMRTS' music is very rhythmic and melodic, and it is melancholic, but not in a kind of 'I'm going to kill myself' way. It's more upbeat and, you know, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

He goes on to explain that that was the feeling he also wanted to capture in the title of SMRTS' latest album, Have Friends & Visit Them At Night. “Like, when you feel lonely at 10pm, you just go and see your friend and have a chat and you feel better, but also because, maybe people who listen to our album late at night, they're our friend and we will visit them through the turntable.”