Lewis Budd is one of the most known names in the DIY circuit, known for his blog and promotions company, Smile End. Initially a side project set up to focus on new bands. Lewis has grown his brand into a promotions company and website, whereby he interviews and reviews bands, as well as putting on showcase gigs in some of the best grassroots venues up and down the country
We first met Lewis last year, when he ran a wonderfully raucous and energetic gig here at Werkhaus, with sets from Web, The Green Brothers, The Rills, and Glossii. A deep rooted love for left-field, subculture influenced music is as the heart of Smile End, and we sat down for an in-depth with Lewis about the work he does. He has also curated our seventh instalment of our on-going Isolation Tapes series, so read on to find out more about Smile End, and Lewis’ eclectic music taste
Can you give us an insight into Smile End; how has the blog changed since establishment, and when did you set your live nights up?
Smile End began as (and still is) a side project where I’d mostly write about the bands I’d go and see at the time, and use it as an excuse to get press access to artists I really admired – I remember my first go at music photography in late 2018 was shooting Wolf Alice at O2 Academy Brixton, I had no idea about blogging, journalism or photography at the start because I genuinely had no idea what I was going to do with Smile End. I was also doing a Geography degree at the time that I wasn’t 100% sold on, so in the back of my mind I was considering a few other options of where to go after the first year, with music journalism really standing out for me.
It’s changed quite a lot since I started, I’m now beginning to use the Smile End name as a way to build a reputation with projects that I want to learn more about in the music industry, whether that be booking new bands in London, recording video interviews, creating god-awful music memes or hosting radio shows. Smile End mostly is a bastion for me to trial and error projects, as well as a way for me to help artists around me along the way.
Strangely, the live side of Smile End came about in Summer 2019 where I jumped into the deep end and took it upon myself to organise a tour for my mates’ band, booking venues in Barnstaple, Exeter and Plymouth, as well as calling a few favours and getting The Rills a show in Oxford and Bristol along the way. From there, I felt comfortable enough to organise my own shows in London, which is where my passion for booking and curating line-ups came from I guess.
You tend to focus on post punk music. How did you get into this genre?
It’s interesting that you mention post-punk, as I feel it’s definitely become the buzzword for music journalists recently, and some would go as far as using it to describe any indie band that has gone a bit left-field, wears a bit of leather and stereotypically sports a mullet.
My favourite bands growing up were The Smiths, Public Image, Slaves, Two Door Cinema Club, Wolf Alice… the list goes on. So I guess if you mash all of them up, and listen to the bands that are coming through in London’s underground scene, you’re bound to find elements of each of those artists in any new band. There’s a rich tapestry of sub-genres surrounding some of those bands which makes it easy to drift into brit-pop, grunge, punk, no-wave, indie and psych, which are the styles I like best.
What project to date has been your proudest to work on, and do you have any exciting new projects in the works?
There’s been a few so far that I’m really proud of, recently I conducted a series of articles for Gigwise that interviewed musicians from across the globe asking how Covid-19 had impacted their careers. It was amazing to talk to people from all over about how they were coping with isolation. I’d also say that the on-going role Smile End plays in featuring new artists, as both a journal and live, is something to be proud of too.
And new projects? Smile End were about to announce a partnership with some uni students and a venue in Eindhoven, Holland, to curate a new one-dayer featuring a host of Dutch and English bands, which ironically would have been named Handshake Festival. So gutted we couldn’t go ahead with that, and I’m really not sure how it’s going to go ahead in the future considering Brexit will mess up any chance of small artists being able to afford playing abroad, but we’ll see. It’s hard to gauge what’s going to happen in the future, especially with Corona putting many projects on ice.
In the future I’m definitely planning to start releasing singles and working with artists through the Smile End name, whether that be as a label, promoter or PR guy. Drop me a message if that’s something you’re looking into at the minute!
A current discussion taking place is the importance of small grassroots venues to the overall music industry. On a personal and professional level, how important to you are these venues?
Grassroots venues are SO important, they’re literal breeding grounds for creativity and have developed a place to call home for DIY promoters, new artists, label owners, producers and music journalists alike. There’s nothing I’d like to do more right now than drink a Guinness whilst watching a 5-band line-up at a tiny venue that is more than willing to give them a chance. I remember reading somewhere that currently, there are 556 grassroots venues at risk in the UK; without those, we’d lack a place for people at all points of their careers in music to have somewhere to go, and for artists to really sharpen their teeth at. They’re so essential.
You ran an incredible gig with us last year, featuring Glossii as your headliner. What was it to you that made that gig the success that it was?
Definitely how enthusiastic everyone who came was! The crowd being up for it makes it easier for the acts and makes the vibe so much bigger!
Lewis has curated a snazzy Spotify playlist, for our Isolation Tapes series, which you can listen to below
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