Feb 17, 2023
Beyond Secret Smoker and Heavy Mantle
Being a native of South Louisiana and born and raised near Baton Rouge, which was always a short distance away from me, my late teens and early 20s were spent immersed in all the local music the various scenes had to offer. Over the years, though, adulthood would lead me to no longer be part of those scenes that molded and shaped me as a youth, and so, many local acts were lost to me over the years.
The recent discovery of the local projects associated with William Edward Thompson led me to want to know more about this man with the incredibly expressive lyrics and perfect screamo voice resembling Geoff Rickly from Thursday.
Involved in numerous projects throughout the years like Girl Scout Heroin and Jenaset, William is currently wrapped up in Secret Smoker and Heavy Mantle. His knack for writing poetic and insightful lyrics places him in the “need to know” category of musicians. Citing the skate culture that defined him as a child, William’s interest in music grew out of the environment around him.
As a multi-talented artist, William not only sings, but he also plays bass, guitar, and drums. When asked about his different talents, he modestly acknowledges his abilities. If I could describe William Edward Thompson in one word, it would be humble.
With his acoustic tunes, his voice turns away from the tone used in his other projects and instead is replaced with a softer, more genuine one. Truly, Thompson’s sound is both exceptional and classic—his colorful use of words creating an imaginary landscape full of symbolism. His thought-provoking lyrics on his upcoming new solo single make “On Your Way” a song you must listen to; it releases February 24 via Protagonist Music. A full-length LP is planned for release later in the year from Protagonist Music as well.
Soft-spoken, polite, and modest, William Edward Thompson, known to most as Billy, possesses a rare vibe mostly absent from the scene these days—a vibe evoking the nostalgia of the iconic James Dean. His music, vibe, and charisma will draw you right in.
MaM: Thank you for carving out some time for me. I appreciate it. What led to you wanting to make a solo record?
WT: I started playing acoustic more during the pandemic, and that’s what kind of prompted it. I was listening to a lot of acoustic stuff and solo artist stuff, and it influenced me in a way. Mark from Secret Smoker and I also did a cover of a ‘Small Brown Bike’ song for one of their compilations with some other artists. They are my favorite band. Mark recorded the acoustic with his cell phone and I sang over it, and I thought, “Hey, this doesn’t sound bad. This can be done.” I kind of looked around at the genre we focus on, and there are not a ton of people doing acoustic stuff in our community of hardcore and punk, and I just wanted to bring it out and do it.
MaM: What would you say the direction of the solo album is artistically?
WT: So, with all of my bands, the music has always been full of complex sounds and rhythms, and I wanted to make it as simple as possible. When I approached the acoustic material, I thought, ‘How can I make this simple and as straightforward as possible?’ Even more so, my most recent band Heavy Mantle, that’s the direction we have been going as well. I just wanted to make an album that anyone could say, ‘Hey, I can play that. I could do that.’
MaM: What inspired the songs on the upcoming album?
WT: I’ve been reading about Dharma Art for several years now, and I kind of take that approach with writing and with lyrics, too. I try to not make them overly complicated. A lot of it just comes to me. Sometimes I just sit down with a guitar and the lyrics come along with the chords. It goes back to serving the song. They’re just poems. That’s all they are. It’s not like I go, ‘This is going to be a poem, and I’m going to make it out into a song.’ It happens. It just happens in the moment. With cell phones, too, I can record anything, and it makes it much easier to retain what was written in that moment.
MaM: Have all of the songs been written for the upcoming album, or is it still a work in process?
WT: The album is done. I’m still writing more songs, though … always.
MaM: So, you’ve already decided on a set number of songs for the album and you’re not going to add anymore? I’ve heard you always seem to have a ton of songs written.
WT: Nope. This album is done. The A and B side is done. It’s going on vinyl. That’s probably going to come out in late summer/early fall depending on the pressing plant. The single ‘On Your Way,’ which I recorded on my cell phone … I wanted to keep it in its purest form … [it] came out really good, surprisingly, is being released on February 24th on all platforms.
MaM: How many songs are going to be on the new album?
WT: I think we ended up with ten or eleven. I can’t remember the number.
MaM: Which of your many guitars did you use to record this solo material?
WT: I’ve got a Gibson Acoustic that I used. I just like the tone of it. It sounds good.
MaM: Have you decided on a title yet for the upcoming LP?
WT: The LP will be called ‘Sleep Test,’ which is also the title track on the record.
MaM: We look forward to checking it out and good luck with all you currently have in the queue.
“On Your Way” is out February 24th on all streaming platforms. To learn more about William Edward Thompson, his music, and his bands, visit his social media platforms.
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