Have you ever wondered what local musicians do in their downtime? What inspires them beyond music? Does a songwriter do anything other then write? Well... We assure you these questions have quite nifty answers. Take a few minutes and listen to some insight into the life and business of Tyler Smilo of Smilo and the Ghost. In this second part to our feature, we will learn the origins of his new company: Angry Gnome Hair and Beard Pomade, learn about his podcast: Sink, Swim or Fly, and hear some fun stories from the road.
*We encourage you to follow along with the transcription below for more mischievous content.
The Heart of the Gnome
*On the Subject of Angry Gnome: Hair and Beard Pomade
Smilo Intro: I think when you take a creative person, and you take maybe their primary craft out of the picture... Their gonna come up with something... If I was a painter and there was no way I could ever get my hands on paint brushes again... I'm gonna start sculpting. I've gotta do something... I've always had a big love for cooking. It's what I've always done. If I'm not doing music I'm working in restaurants. So for me it was being creative. Something that I could formulate on my own and try different variations. I can do it on a stove top... Ingredients... It's been something that's been fitting. It's definitely a struggle trying to do all the art and everything myself and get it up and going. I'm working on it man...
Burdo: Angry Gnome! Why Angry Gnome?
Smilo: It came about... I've always had this fascination with gnomes. The very first jam project that I started when I was 18 or 19... or was played with buddies back in my hometown of Coshocton, Ohio... We called ourselves the garden gnomes. I don't know if they were into the idea as much as I was but I thought it was bad ass. We were all long haired, bearded hippy guys. Kinda short... We looked kinda like a bunch of gnomes. I thought it was pretty hilarious. But as of recently... I did a little New York City run with an Erie musician named Justin Moyar. I took this selfie, and how it was with this hat I had on, I looked like a very angry gnome. I posted the picture and had a few people saying that, and then... I think joking around to a buddy... Derek Hayes... He was the guy who helped me with my live streams when COVID hit. We did all my records straight through... Live streams. Every Friday night for the first 5 weeks of COVID lockdown. He took the picture, made it black and white and I'm like... "I'm gonna start a hair pomade company and I'm gonna call it Angry Gnome". It was kind of a joke... and then I actually did... or am in the process of doing... Speaking of Angry Gnome, I'm hoping by the wintertime I can have a site launched and have the products available for sale. A bunch of people have been hitting me up wanting some. I am working on the art. I'm working on locking in the perfect recipes. I'm going all natural, organic products. Using all natural beeswax... stuff like shay butter, mango butter, argon oil, jojoba oil, cocoa butter, vitamin E... A bunch of different stuff. I've been working hard to make it perfect. I have something right now that I could just send out into the world but it's not perfect... I'm hoping by the wintertime, it'll be fully up and launched and have a commerce site and everything where you can buy it.
Burdo: Why beard products?
Smilo: *Mischievous beard stroke.
Burdo: "Natural progression of needing to tame the beast or?"
Smilo: To be honest... I've been rocking the fade and the slicked back hair for a few years now... I've recently found out there are a bunch of companies that are doing it. But as far as locally, you go to the hair places or Walmart... It's really limited. Everything's super sticky or doesn't work... Doesn't hold.
You look at the ingredients list and it's just full of chemicals. I wanted to be able to make my own lotions... and just kind of being bored in quarantine. I started looking into how I can make my own hand lotion. Because at work, I use rubber gloves all the time, my hands get super dry... So I was like "I'm gonna make my own lotion". Then I realized... Here's a recipe for lip balm... Here's a recipe for pomade. I'm like... "Oh, that's cool". So I started doing research. Finding out what was really good for your hair, what helped with the thinning out, receding hair line. So, I started doing it for myself. Then
I'm like... "This is kind of cool, I'm gonna give it to a few friends." Then I had some friends who were like... "Dude this shit's awesome can you keep making it". So... We'll see what happens man.
I've gone on so many different ventures with so many things over the years that an official little business will be good for me and maybe make some money... But with a quality product that is good for you with no petroleum and bad shit in it.
With the Angry Gnome, I can see why, in the early stages of doing this why companies would use chemicals. Because I get to a point with consistency. Getting it naturally to the point of consistency that I want... How it feels in your hand, but with action you want it to have, is very difficult. I've gotten to point where I'm like "I could order this chemical and add water and it would have that strong hold like a gel but it would also be like a lotion in your hand." You can achieve all that stuff with chemicals, but it's been very difficult to look, smell, feel and act the way that I want it to with only using natural chemicals. So that's been the 3 month battle... "Research and development"... In trying 700 different formulas in my own hair and beard. So that's been the battle. But, it became apparent to me in why people would use chemicals in certain things. It's been a struggle, but I think it's gonna be worth it in the long run.
Burdo: Do you want to talk about your podcast a little bit since you're going to be getting back into it? What was the motivation for creating the podcast? What was the motivation for continuing the podcast?
Smilo: So Sink Swim, or Fly... If I can say it... Was started with a buddy of mine about a year ago named Luke Kuzmish and we did a few episodes together. He couldn't exactly find the time so I took on the project myself. I don't even remember how many episodes we have up right now but it's primarily been focused on recovery, music, local art... Anything under the sun really. With this summer working so much, I haven't really had the time to sit down and do it. But, I plan on doing a whole 'nother run of episodes very soon. It's on Apple Podcast, Spotify Podcast, TalkShoe is the base site that we use. You can find it on there. Sink, Swim or Fly. I think there is 20 some episodes... Which I thought was an accomplishment, really. I've heard a lot of ones come out of the region and do 2 or 3 and you never hear about them again. So, I would like to keep it going. Keep finding interesting guests like yourself, we should do one.
Burdo: I have to ask about your bike and your fascination with building and restoring bicycles?
Smilo: I grew up skateboarding and BMX'ing, that was like my jam when I was a kid. Then as I've gotten older, I've had a few... 60's, 70's type bikes that look like beach cruisers? I love the look of the old 40's 50's 60's bikes. I've had a few on and off over the years. If I had a lot of money, I'd probably have a lot more... I for sure would have a lot more. Then I got a 60's Monarch, I think it's a company out of Chicago. World's Fair era. I got one off marketplace and I told the guy, "I'm gonna put an engine on this". He kind of looked at me weird, and 6 months later I sent him pictures of it with an engine on it... I got a little Chinese kit off the internet, did a bunch of upgrades, a lot of customization and I got that thing ripping down the streets of Erie about 40MPH. I didn't restore this Motobecane, It's like a 70's French road bike. I did however have a local guy in Erie do it for me. I just got it back... That one I'm gonna use more for exercise. The 60's Monarch with the engine on it, that is because I have a love for vintage motorcycles like the early Harley's, the early Indians that look like their bicycle crossovers... I love that, but they are like what to get a working one that looks that good... 70 grand maybe. Lot's of money. So that's my little makeshift tribute... Riding that down the road, there are some people that look at me... and they've got the... "I don't like your life choices" written all over their face. It sounds like a dirt bike man.
I went to this vintage motorcycle festival, I think it was in Ohio. I went there with an old girlfriend, her and her dad. They were really into that stuff. They had some older Ducati's, older Yamaha... Different motorcycles. That festival blew my mind. I saw some Whizzers, you familiar with Whizzers?
Burdo: "Kind of..."
Smilo: They were like a bicycle kit from the 40's, 50's and 60's, then they actually had their own bikes.
That's what sparked the love for the motorized bicycle. That festival really. I like old shit man. I like the old antiques, I love American Pickers, I love that show man...
Burdo: So being on the road for 30 days at a time, do you have a best show you've ever played? Or what are your greatest road memories?
Smilo: I've played some really awesome venues up and down the coast... I remember Virginia, I played 3 or 4 breweries a couple times on my way down through the Carolina's. I absolutely loved those places and I can't even think of their names off the top of my head. The breweries have all started to kind of run together. But I really loved... Even being alone. The aspect of.. I'm in a car... I've got my gear... There's no one with me... Cause I'd travel alone for the most part. Listening to music, driving down the highway down south with the windows open, knowing I was on the way to a show. If the show didn't turn out amazing, or not... I was still... I felt like I was on a mission. Those are the moments.
I remember, I had gotten a hold of some Wu-Tang Clan tracks without the vocals on 'em and I remember flowing... Yah know doing some rap over top... driving through the mountains and no one was around dude, and something clicked and I was busting out some... sick flows that I could never do in front of people or probably ever again. That was one of the highlights of touring was that one time I was doing some wicked raping in the mountains to Wu-Tang Clan.
I loved that man. I went through a really bad break up on the road. It was almost like a coming of age yah know? I hung out with people along the way, I met a bunch of people. I stayed at peoples houses. I partied. Not in a horrible way, but... ended up at peoples houses afterword. Had some really great experiences. I really felt like I belonged out there. I wasn't on of those people dreading it and wanting to just go home. I was fine with kicking my feet up at a Walmart parking lot and sleeping. I felt alive.
I definitely am going to be doing more of that as soon as the world opens back up. I love it man and I miss it.
Smilo Outro: I like to try to outdo myself as much as possible. I'm excited for the future. I haven't been as busy musically as has been in the past but I feel it's all for good reason... If I could just do creative stuff and work on this company and take care of my kid and I can live out comfortably just doing that... Not reaching for too much money or whatever... If I could just do that I'd be a happy camper and that's the goal.
Dude if I could... When I say I want to do music for a life, I'm not looking for the cover of Rolling Stone, I'm looking to inspire people, even in a region and make good money doing it... There's nothing wrong with having other outlets. Kind of collectively... Getting by and doing it, yah know?
This is what local art, music and people are about. Stay true to your community, build a better life around you and support your local artists and businesses.
Tyler Smilo is a singer/songwriter, Owner of Angry Gnome: Hair and Beard Pomade, Host of Sink, Swim, or Fly podcast, and a father from Erie, PA
Or whichever variation you choose