To anyone that happens to stumble upon Derek Smith seemingly talking to himself, and maybe getting a little bit animated as he falls deeper and deeper into what appears to be a one-sided conversation, please don’t be alarmed, call for help, or try to intervene. He’s just out here talking to God.
And sometimes, the results of this divine discourse spread their sonic wings and find their way into song. That’s at the core of Smith’s ambitious new cinematic single, a hymnal-like dose of psychedelic alternative rock called “Black Angel,” which hits the streams on Friday, October 13. It finds the Boston singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and frontman of The Cosmic Vultures not only looking up, but also all around him as he engages in something that’s nothing short of a spiritual and celestial debate.
“I am talking directly to God in this song,” Smith says rather matter-of-factly. “Whatever the concept of God is. Real, fake, whatever. I am not flat-out saying what I believe. Though, I am sure people are smart enough to know what and how I feel.”
Smith has been telling listeners how he feels with an uncanny regularity over the course of the past year. He dropped his debut album Rubedo in December, and quickly followed that up in July with sophomore effort Obscura, racking up nearly six figures in digital streams through word-of-mouth, playlisting, and a DIY work ethic. And while his solo work has recently taken center stage, The Cosmic Vultures were just nominated for Rock Act of the Year in the 2023 New England Music Awards.
But on the soaring “Black Angel,” Smith encroaches on some new territory in his prolific songwriting landscape. While the sounds of his prior solo records employed a laid-back, casual chill, slotting a record like Obscura as a suitable summer lazy-day listen, “Black Angel” cranks up the intensity. It’s found within the music, which recalls the grandeur of ‘90s American alt-rock and Britpop, Southern classic rock, and even folk-rock as it sparkles out of the speakers with a cascading glow. And it also resides deep within the lyrics and the meaning behind the song. Beyond the conversations he’s having with a higher power are additional thematic layers that shape the core of perhaps his most ambitious work to date.
“I notice a lot of people blindly following things,” Smith admits. “Things that they don’t really understand. It’s like this whole fucking country has their blinders up and just do things because someone else did it. People need to do their own research and come up with their own conclusions. And when they are approached about their opinion, do their best to not drool while not making any valid points about anything. Now, keep in mind, there are a solid group of people I know who do not fall under this category. But I feel like the majority of this country is made up of mindless followers.”
Smith adds: “I have a bit of a problem with ‘traditions.’ People say, ‘Well we’ve always done it that way.’ But why? ‘It’s what my parents did.’ But why? It bothers me. But to be fair, I live by this motto: Do whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.”
That said, “Black Angel” finds its principle in aural pleasure. Smith had the chord progression for the track kicking around in his creative tank for a while, and then, spurred by something that got him riled up – and he won’t say what that was – the lyrics all came together quickly. “When I get upset,” he admits, “the words fly out of my pen.”
With its plugged-in, panoramic sound, “Black Angel” didn’t find a home on his two solo records. But it has become a bit of a staple of The Cosmic Vultures’ live sets, and because of its full-band sound, Smith knew the recorded version could be not only an extension of the Vultures, but the beginning of a process to merge the two entities together.
Written by Smith, “Black Angel” was mixed and produced by David Minehan at Woolly Mammoth Sound in Waltham, MA; and mastered by Dave Locke. Smith performs both lead and backing vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar and Hammond organ on the track, and he enlisted a trio of Vultures to round out the sound and give it a full-band feel.
Smith breaks it all down with genuine excitement: “Michael Strakus takes the role of lead guitar and absolutely plays his heart out in this song. I watched him lay down this solo and it was a pleasure. Truly, truly. Steve Constantino plays bass, and nobody else will ever play bass on my songs except for Steve. Since we met in the 6th grade – some 25 years ago – we’ve had a strong friendship and a special music connection. And Dalton DeLima laid down the drums to perfection, which really tied the energy down in this song. And that’s what is so exciting about this track – having that full energetic drum sound.”
Smith is aware the perhaps controversial nature of “Black Angel” may turn off some folks, but he hopes the listeners who are uneasy with his higher-power conversations brush that aspect aside and dive deeper into the music.
“I just hope everyone enjoys this song and the production that went into making it,” he concludes. “There’s much more music coming.”
A second coming, if you will.
SOURCE: Official Bio