If you weren’t already aware, we’re kinda fans of James Knoerl around these parts. From inside tour jokes while he was out with Native Construct to his work with The Omega Experiment, Knoerl is something of a gem on drums, crafting thoughtful drum passages and using engaging rhythm patterns to keep you coming back for more.
Enter With A Smile, Knoerl’s brand new side project where he mainlines the drums right into you, but personally crafted everything on the EP, save for the single guitar solo. That’s right, Knoerl wrote every single note on this EP, offering something really personal in the process.
The Never Listen EP opens up with a manic piano line, underlaid by equally peculiar drums, in the aptly-titled “Never Listen.” Something akin to a child’s near-methodic tantrum when they don’t get their way, both items complement one another in this swelling, anxiety-ridden festival of the unusual only to abruptly come to an end and transition into the much more laid back “Whisper.” As the title implies, “Whisper” is far more reserved, being a kinder track overall, even going so far as to feature a quote from the beloved Winnie the Pooh offering his neverending companionship.
“Whisper” transitions into a cover of “Paper Hearts,” originally by Tori Kelly. The extended, instrumental version of the song carries the same lighthearted feeling of “Whisper” that preceded it, the lilting keyboard melodies taking you to a comforting place of coziness. It even comes alive in a grander texture with huge drum crashes and bells resonating in the background to really give it some “oomph” to close out with the aforementioned guitar solo by Josh Williams.
The EP ends with “Take the Wheel,” a near return to the beginning as the track picks up where “Never Listen” initially brought us. This high energy, piano-driven song features the same frenzied nature from earlier, with its staccato notations on both keys and drums, each building one another up into crescendos of panic and suspense. Probably the strongest track on the EP, “Take the Wheel” does as its name implies, the song taking control of the situation as you become arrested with its overwhelming nature.
You would think that a project led by a drummer would be focused on the drumming aspect almost entirely, but Knoerl manages to find alluring methods of songwriting across all instruments in this jazzy, experimental endeavor. Certainly something to enjoy now with this EP and to keenly look forward to in the future with a potential full length.
You can stream the Never Listen EP right now via Bandcamp and YouTube. The EP is available via Bandcamp at the Name Your Price option, too!