Hometown tunes

Constant Smiles and friends take the stage at the Katharine Cornell Theater on Friday.


The MVRHS class of 2006 no doubt had a slew of talented students, but one group of friends is still solidly together, collaborating on music, staying in touch, and hanging out whenever they can. Some of them will take the stage at the Katharine Cornell Theater in Vineyard Haven on Friday, June 16, at 7 pm, when the indie band collective Constant Smiles will be joined by friends Adam Howell and the Queen of Cups, and singer-songwriter Lucy Mayhew. They’ve all known each other for years, and it’s fitting, then, that Friday marks the first performance at the theater in, according to Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande, approximately five years.

Leading Constant Smiles are two friends who have known each other since they were middle schoolers, Ben Jones and Spike Currier.

“We’re neighbors in Queens now. I can practically see him out the window,” Currier says about Jones. “It’s like we’re following each other around. I live closer to him here than I did on the Island.”

Jones does the songwriting — lyrics and music — and collaborates with his partner Mike Mackey, then he sends the songs out to a crew of other musicians to see if they think they hold water. They find the best fit among the members of the musical collective — up to around 50 members, Jones says, and they continue to work on the song together until it becomes something they can record. They’ve got several albums under their belt so far — “Kenneth Anger” was released this year, and their debut album was the highly acclaimed “Paragons,” both on Sacred Bones Records.

The collaborative nature of the band is one of the things that makes it special, and the music collective is made up of plenty of Island friends. Jones said they often send the music to Chris Liberato, former manager of the Island’s Aboveground Records, to Adam Lipsky, and to several other friends. “I write a lot, and the band is very honest … they’ll say, ‘No, this one’s not good, let’s move on to something better,’” Jones says. If they like what they hear, they’ll send it on to whichever musician can provide what the song might need — strings, piano, whatever it might be. “The band is big in that sense,” Jones says. “There’s a network of up to 50 people we have, and we see who fits best for the songs.”

The music has its own sound. As Jones put it, “It’s dream pop, a genre where it’s a little dreamy, hazy, all the elements aren’t crystal-clear … it gives you a sense of floating … like a landscape painting. The pop comes in because it’s still a pop-structured song.” I thought that was a spot-on description after I listened to a few of their songs on YouTube.

I had to ask, why “Kenneth Anger” for an album title?

“The new record is called ‘Kenneth Anger’ for a couple different reasons. I was obsessed with the director as a filmmaker, and as I’d watch a music video of his, I’d play guitar while watching,” Jones explains. “I like the word anger. It represents an emotion I was dealing with at the time. Anger was one of the first experimental filmmakers, and one of the first openly gay filmmakers. He was way ahead of his time. I just think that’s so inspiring. With this record, I tried not to shy away from anything … to come into myself and be as open as I can be.”

Jones and Currier talked about what an impact Aboveground Records had on them both as they were growing up on the Island. Aboveground gave the teenage musicians an outlet for processing their music, and helped them to build friendships that are still in place.

“I really feel like we grew up in the best time … there was a really special group of people in our grade and in our time, and having Aboveground as a central hub, and all those guys who came before us … so much good music, and everyone making it,” Jones says. “I feel really lucky we grew up in the time we did. It was really a microcosm of art.”

Currier is a data scientist for a company that makes games, and Jones works as production manager at a record label. Constant Smiles has been touring of late, just getting back from a music festival in Georgia. They’ll tour more this fall, covering the Midwest, the Northeast, and Canada, Currier says.

“The easiest shows are in front of people you don’t know,” Currier laughs. “When we play here, the pressure is on for me, because my friends and family are around, but then the reward is there too. Growing up, we were always playing for people we knew because it’s a small community. Going on the road playing to strangers, it’s kind of a relief.”

Jones and Currier are glad to be back this weekend, though, and looking forward to playing in the Katharine Cornell Theater.

“We’re psyched,; I’m just so happy anybody can be back in the building,” Currier says.

“It’s been awhile,” Jones says. “I think the last time we played here was at the Pit Stop, Nina Violet’s dad’s old auto shop in Oak Bluffs … I wanna say maybe 2012, even.”

It will be a homecoming for almost all of the musicians playing on Friday, and a time to celebrate the old days with some new music.

Constant Smiles, with Ben Jones on guitar, Spike Currier on bass, Eri King on keyboard, and Nora Knight on drums, plays Friday, June 16, at 7 pm at the Katharine Cornell Theater, 51 Spring St., Vineyard Haven.