“The idea is for Starheadbody to be an open ended collective,” Evan Smith tells ASN. “Where everybody on the planet is in and there are no confines. That’s where the idea came about.” The Element pro skater is describing his band, a name he’s also designated for his Instagram handle (@starheadbody). “I didn’t want use my name in social media. And one night, I saw a light post that looked like a body with a star for a head.” From that moment forward, Smith’s conceptualization for Starheadbody (and its roots in vintage psychedelic rock) has become vibrantly evident.
“Back then, music and society were in a different place,” he says. “But today, it’s so much more expansive. You can take the origin of sound and do whatever you want.”
We all know Evan Smith, the whimsical drifter who also happens to be one skateboarding’s most free-flowing and extemporaneous pros. His fresh take on what can be done with a skateboard has led him to deliver some of our most favorite skate videos, Element’s latest effort, “PEACE”, being no exception.
However, the Smith that many people may not be familiar with, is one that dropped out of school in Florida, moved to Pittsburgh, and grew up working at his family’s music venue, Mr. Smalls Theatre. It was in this setting that Smith joined the family-based band, Drowning Clowns, on guitar and vocals in between his worldly skateboarding travels.
“We’re working on an album right now,” Smith tells ASN. “We have this old analog console we are tracking on. We just finished all the guitar tracks and overdubs and we’re going to have a little piece of music very soon.”
Drowning Clowns are a psychedelic rock orchestra that includes Smith’s aunt and uncle. “It’s family style,” says Smith. “My aunt Liz [Berlin] was also a vocalist in Rusted Root, so her attributes are really culturally advanced. She can play in so many different time signatures from her experiences playing all over the world. She brings that influence and expresses it in a psychedelic rock format.”
The elaborately orchestrated catharsis is the brainchild of Smith’s uncle and mentor, Mike Speranzo. And Smith’s contribution on guitar (as he puts it) is to create weird and atmospheric sounds. “It really feels like we’re coming right out of the ground when we play,” he says.
Smith first picked up the guitar at age fourteen, after moving in with Speranzo. “I was helping my uncle build the recording studios at Camp Woodward,” says Smith. “He gave me my first Epiphone acoustic guitar as sort of a bonus when we finished the job.”
Speranzo and Berlin run and operate Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale, where Smith was first exposed to the performing arts. The 800-capacity entertainment complex is located within a repurposed 19th Century church and, over the past 15 years, has hosted bands of all sorts, from GWAR and Hatebreed to Alt-J and Alkaline Trio, and everything in between.
“The music venue was really the catalyst for me,” Smith tells ASN. “I was in a blessed situation after moving in with my aunt and uncle. I got to watch bands perform for the first time and also see legends, like Muse and Smashing Pumpkins, play in our venue. Watching all of them perform really opened my eyes to that form of art.”
Smith is also keen to the messages being delivered from bands to their audiences. “Seeing bands shred in our place gets me so juiced,” says Smith. “But also, some of there views on things happening around the world right now are so on point. Like the balance of life itself: We are teetering on the lines between good and evil. It’s all sh*t that is right on par with what I see going on, so it all resonates with me.”
Smith says it was around this same time-frame when he started studying science and how vibrations make up everything.
“That’s why music makes sense and sounds good,” he says. “You hear the vibrations of music and it’s either good or it’s gotta change. But there’s also a place for all that uncanniness and dysfunction. If you can look at it in a healthy manner, you can take something from it – a way to see truth and move forward.”
And as if professional skater and guitarist/vocalist in two bands wasn’t enough, Smith recently launched – with his longtime skateboarding brethren – an outdoor brand called No Hotels.
“Selling the gear is supporting our pseudo non-society lifestyle and allowing us to get on our trips,” says Smith. “We’re not trying to do anything special other than get on our skateboards, hit the road, and get out under the stars.” No Hotels offers affordable outdoor essentials like canteens, hammocks, show kits and apparel.
So where does Smith find the time and energy to pursue all of his passions? “I’m at this youthful warrior stage in my life right now,” Smith says. “I’m 27 years old and I have the world and all of its freedoms in my hands. I want to just charge right now and run with the horses.”
Whether Smith is out filming his next contribution to skateboarding, recording and performing with Starheadbody or Drowning Clowns, or out seeking universal wisdom in the free wilderness provided by the Bureau of Land Management, one thing is certain: His stoke is real.
“Every day is different and a blessing,” says Smith. “I appreciate trying to stay in the present moment. In the midst of creating in skateboarding and music and the lifestyle I’m enjoying with my crew, I’m always trying to enjoy right here and right now.
“We are here on this planet to learn lessons and not to get ahead or behind of ourselves. Obviously, as humanity, we talk about the past and bring good light to it, but to stay right now and allow each moment to be fruitful. As soon as I open my eyes each morning, and I’m back in my body, I’m like, f*ck yeah, we are here.”
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