heavy metal

Smoking Popes Bio

Smoking Popes
Band members
Josh Caterer - Vocals / Guitar Eli Caterer - Guitar Matt Caterer - Bass Rob Kellenberger - Drums


Occasionally a band comes along that inadvertently casts a shadow on music fans and fellow musicians that lingers long after they have played their last show. Smoking Popes are that band, possessing a legion of fans (many of whom are too young to have seen them live) and the outspoken praise of music luminaries like Morrissey, Fall Out Boy and Alkaline Trio. Wielding such musical influence after almost a decade of obscurity is remarkable, and their live reunion CD/DVD is perfect proof that their sparkling lyricism and ineffable charm is still intact.

Smoking Popes have been a staple in the punk and indie rock scenes since the 1990’s, helping shape an entire generation of music fans and writing the book for Chicago’s indie rock scene. “After Naked Raygun, Chicago was the Smoking Popes,” says Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy. “They were Alkaline Trio before Alkaline Trio, they were Fall Out Boy before Fall Out Boy. This band is one of the reasons that Fall Out Boy even exists.”

Smoking Popes first burst onto the scene in 1991 and released several albums on various local labels. They signed to Capitol Records in 1995 and re-released Born To Quit¸ one of Smoking Popes landmark albums, to an even larger fan base gained by touring with bands like Green Day, Jimmy Eat World, and Goo Goo Dolls. Devoted fans and newcomers welcomed the record with open arms: their first single, “Need You Around,” quickly became a favorite on Chicago’s Q101 and Los Angeles’ KROQ, with both stations putting it in heavy rotation. Praise from SPIN, Alternative Press, Rolling Stone and Billboard arrived with the re-release and later that year, “Need You Around” was also featured in the hit movie Clueless. Musical icon Morrissey raved: “Did you ever hear Born To Quit? It’s by the Smoking Popes. I thought that album was extraordinary, the most lovable thing I’d heard in years”.

In 1997, the Smoking Popes released Destination Failure, which many consider to be their defining masterpiece. This album challenged the idea of what a pop punk band could do, with songwriting that didn’t always adhere to verse-chorus-verse progression and lyrics that told tales of love and longing with heartbreaking details. Smoking Popes were one of the first artists to wrap love—both its fragile beginnings and devastating endings—in a comforting blanket of bouncy drumbeats and bombastic power chords.

To the shock of many, Smoking Popes decided to throw in the towel on December 19, 1998, and go on an indefinite hiatus, but their die-hard fan base and underground popularity never faltered. And although the band, whose original lineup included brothers Eli, Josh and Matt Caterer and drummer Mike Felumlee, released the last of their three full-length albums over seven years ago, their sound is alive and well in music today because of the people and bands that they touched. Matt Skiba, vocalist of Alkaline Trio, said: “The Smoking Popes were a good band that only wrote good songs. They have always been a big influence on Alkaline Trio and are a huge reason a lot of us started bands in the first place.”

After years passing by with little or no mention of another official Smoking Popes show, rumors started flying around Chicago in the Fall of 2005 that the band would be performing at the Flower 15 Festival. Sure enough, a once–in-a-lifetime sold out reunion show at Chicago’s Metro on November 11, 2005 took place and sparked a resurgence of Smoking Popes fans, leaving the crowd yearning for new material. This highly anticipated performance (featuring the unveiling of new drummer Rob Kellenberger alongside the Caterer brothers) was videotaped and recorded and will be released as a CD/DVD on February 28th. Vocalist Josh Caterer is thrilled with the release plans, saying, “We’re so excited to be working with Victory. Since they’re based in Chicago, we’ll really be able to work closely with them. I think it’s a great situation for the band.”

With the release of their new live CD/DVD, Smoking Popes At Metro, the Smoking Popes announce a North American headlining tour with support from Bayside, who’s Acoustic CD/DVD is in stores the same day. The tour runs from February 22nd to March 12 kicking off in St. Louis and closing out with two nights at the esteemed Metro in Chicago. This is the Smoking Popes first US tour in over seven years.

The resurrection of the Smoking Popes is now complete, with tour dates and a new album. Welcome back, guys.

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