Newcastle, Australia is almost 8,000 miles from Southern California.
A full 19 hour plane ride from the streets of Los Angeles and the Bay areas, the streets that shaped bands like Lagwagon and No Use For A Name. 19 hours from the place where The Offspring, Pennywise, Green Day, and Blink-182 rocketed skate punk into the mainstream.
But the physical distance meant nothing for Kye Smith.
Who Is Kye Smith?
Smith grew up in a small town called Seaham, about a 40 minute drive from Newcastle. In 2002, he started playing the drum set in the back of the music room in his high school. With little else to do in Seaham, Kye ended up playing drums in his spare time. After getting a kit, he quit drum lessons six months in, determined to create his own path.
Kye honed his skills by listening to his idols, sitting behind the kit and playing along to punk rock CDs. Frenzal Rhomb was at the forefront from early on for Kye, as they were and still are one of Australia’s most successful punk bands.
Smith put his skills to the test in 2007 when he joined Local Resident Failure, a Newcastle-based skate punk band. After gaining fans in the Newcastle area, they produced a handful of EPs and toured Australia extensively. On the side, Kye started his own YouTube channel, packed with his drum covers. Quickly after, his cover of Blink-182’s “Hearts All Gone” went viral, complete with stick flips, keeping up with Travis Barker almost effortlessly.
One main key to Kye’s continued success on YouTube is his “5 Minute Drum Chronologies,” where he runs through a band’s catalog in five minutes, playing snippets of as many songs as he can fit. He has showcased Nirvana, NOFX, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, AC/DC, and more. Another popular feature is his “Overplayed Drum Cover” series, where he puts his own drum tracks into well-known songs. Some projects in this series include “Misery Business” by Paramore, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey, and “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin, which he covered with Lagwagon drummer Dave Raun.
Smith’s devotion to punk rock is like no other, and is exemplified in two videos. A 14 minute showing that covers Fat Wreck Chords’ first 20 years of releases, and a 20 minute video that does the same for Epitaph Records.
In addition to his successful YouTube channel, Kye is often brought on by touring punk bands. He has even sat in for Frenzal Rhomb on a few occasions. As he continued to share his skills online, to a subscribed audience of 115,000, Kye started to miss working with other musicians. He knew he had the talent, and now the reach, to make it all happen.
Kye told the Pier: “I had an idea to do a fast version of The Ramones’ ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ for a while, and coincidentally Teenage Bottlerocket, who are a Ramones influenced band, had just announced an Australian tour and would be passing through Newcastle. I hit up Ray to see if he would be interested in being a part of the video and it all started from there.”
The Wyoming-based Teenage Bottlerocket agreed to make the cover with Kye, and the process began. A process that would span thousands of miles, involve 5 artists from 3 different bands, and even one father-son duo, all crafting a new take on a 42-year-old anthem.
The success of his double-time “Blitzkrieg Bop” cover gave Kye his most recent idea: the “Mates Series”
Watch: Ramones – “Blitzkrieg Bop” (Double Time Cover)
The “Mates Series”
Named after its reliance on collaborations, this product is Kye’s way to pay homage to his musical heroes and play with other musicians simultaneously. The “Mates Series” features Kye Smith behind the kit, and friends and touring musicians alike on all other instruments and vocals. His second episode was recorded with members of Jacksonville, Florida ska-punk band Less Than Jake.
After noticing they would be coming through Newcastle, Kye contacted Roger Lima, vocals and bass for Less Than Jake. Lima’s recent stand in with NOFX, in Eric Melvin’s absence, made the choice easy: they would cover a classic tune from Fat Mike and the boys. They chose “Stickin In My Eye,” from their 1992 release White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean (Epitaph). The track features Lima on vocals, bass, and guitar, Less Than Jake members JR Wasilewski and Buddy Schaub on horns, members of Australian band Chris Duke and the Royals on backing vocals, and Kye on drums.
Their version adds a new flavor to the pounding punk song, with the choruses and outro handled with upstrokes in true ska fashion. Lima’s voice fits well over the song, Kye commands from the throne, and JR and Buddy, clad in NOFX tee-shirts, add their definitive sound. “Stickin In My Eye” was tracked similarly as “Blitzkrieg Bop,” with Kye on the drums and Roger on vocals from Kye’s Australia studio, and the instrumental tracks done post-tour in Less Than Jake’s home studio in Florida.
Kye said this of his Mates Series: “Everyone who has been on board for the videos so far have been awesome to work with. It has been a real treat for me to get to collaborate and track with dudes from some of my favourite bands. The fact that they are all really cool guys has made for it to be a really fun process.”
Just recently, Kye hosted the guys from Santa Cruz punk quartet Good Riddance for the third installment of his Mates Series. Russ Rankin (vocals), Luke Pabich (guitar), and Chuck Platt (bass) joined Kye at his Australia recording studio and laid the tracks for a punk rock cover of “Detroit Rock City” by 1970s glam metal band KISS. The cover also features the guys from Hack the Mainframe, a Newcastle-based melodic punk band.
As for future collaborations, Kye couldn’t divulge his plans just yet, but he assured us that several artists will be through Newcastle soon. Although maybe a stretch, his wish-list includes a collaboration with Green Day.
“They were the band that got me into music and were the gateway to punk rock when I was growing up, so it will always be one of those dreams to work towards,” Smith said of his childhood heroes. Although a jam session with Green Day, debatably the most popular punk band of all time, may seem unlikely, Kye can dream and we’ll continue to believe.
Watch: NOFX – “Stickin’ in My Eye”(Ska-Punk Cover) – Mates Series
Article By: Aidan Leddy
Watch: “Detroit Rock City” (KISS Cover) – Good Riddance feat. Kye Smith
Watch: Kye Smith – Green Day: A 5 Minute Drum Chronology