The Kingdom of Sweden, land of Vikings, delicious meatballs, and Ikea, is also home to folk-pop duo Smith & Thell, whose music is on the same earworm-y plane as bands like The Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men. Members Maria Jane Smith and Victor Thell began their musical journey together when the stars aligned over Helsingborg (in southern Sweden), when Thell witnessed Smith playing her work acoustically at a local club.
“Victor saw me and immediately asked if I wanted to start a band together,” recalls Smith. “The next day we started writing songs together. Fast forward some years and we entered a time we call the ‘kitchen years’ where we literally just smoked a pack of cigarettes and wrote songs on the guitar all night (in the kitchen of course). During that time, we were mostly writing songs for other artists. Sometimes the songs we wrote were near and dear to us and we wanted to keep it, so we slowly started accumulating songs for our own project. A lot of the material we saved up, we are putting out as the current version of Smith & Thell you hear today.”
The pair released single “Statue (The Pills Song)” in 2015, and recently unleashed a seaside-set new video for latest single “Row”— both songs bear a distinct and anthemic quality, brimming with hand claps, foot stomps, and celestial vocals. “Maybe we’re all cinematic creatures by nature and music is our way of letting that out,” notes Smith. “In music you can release your emotions with no real repercussions. We need music to get these emotions out, otherwise we’d run down the street and scream out what we’re feeling and get locked away in the crazy house.”
Smith says the idea of rowing was an appropriate metaphor for facing life’s inevitable emotional struggles and difficulties; “The idea of rowing connects with many emotions we aimed to touch on in the concept… the loneliness, the physical and mental struggle and the idea of trying to make it to a safe new place,” she says of “Row.” “We both have had emotional struggles, like so many others, that we had to deal with growing up. It sometimes felt like you’re fighting so hard to only to keep your head above the surface your whole life. The song was written after our first single ‘Statue’, and our releases follow a timeline,” she continues. “There’s a ‘before the storm,’ ‘the actual storm,’ then ‘life after the storm.’ The storm for me was when both my parents passed away when I was only 14 years old. ‘Statue’ is about opening up to your true emotions, while ‘Row’ is about the fight once you encounter these emotions.”
The duo hints that an album is on the way early next year; until then, get acquainted with what’s sure to be your new favorite song: