The Smile is a project by Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood together with Tom Skinner, a jazz drummer who played in some tracks in The Master (2012) and Spencer (2022).
The trio's first public appearance was on the Live from Worthy Farm stream in 2021. Their slot was announced hours before the online event.
In an interview with Uncut Magazine (Jan 2023), Thom Yorke stated the trio played together for the first time in 2018, and the band worked also online.
In January 2022, they played their first concerts with an audience in Magazine, London on Jan 29th. The concerts (three in total, in the space of 12hrs) were streamed online and served later as the input for the TV special Forget Everything You Knew. Tracks from this concert were also released as bonus tracks or bsides to the singles.
A Light For Attracting Attention is the name of their first studio record, released in April 2022. The album's 13 tracks were premiered live both in the Glastonbury streamed event in 2021 and the band's streamed concerts in 2022. The record includes studio versions of two tracks played by Radiohead or Thom Yorke before - "Open the Floodgates" and "Skrting on the Surface" - as well as "Thin Thing", loosely based on "Loop", a song Jonny Greenwood played live with the London Community Orchestra in 2014.
Lyrics to all the songs
For the cover art, Stanley Donwood commented he had the idea of using maps and legends. He asked Thom to show him the lyrics to find phrases he could represent with symbols, and ended up using rubber stamps to create a landscape using the symbols - e.g. to create a forest, he repeated a tree symbol.
Finally, Thom found old maps in a library in Oxford and they used that as a model for the final product. The cover art is loosely based on the Mediterranean Sea.
Listen to the interview with Stanley
The band released mostly digital singles in the build-up to the release, between January and April. The singles were "You Will Never Work In Television Again", "The Smoke" - which was also remixed by Denis Bovell -, "Pana-vision" - which was also used in the final episode of the TV series Peaky Blinders. These singles can still be bought on the band's Bandcamp site.
"Free in the Knowledge" and "Thin Thing" were also shared as singles to coincide with the release of the videos.
The Smile only released two limited edition physical singles. In March, a very limited release of a 7'' was announced, including "You Will Never Work in Television Again" and "The Smoke". The single could only be acquired entering a raffle online with tickets given away for free in indie record shops around the world.
In November, live versions of "Open the Floodgates" and "A Hairdryer" were released on a limited edition 10'' vinyl sold exclusively by Rough Trade Records, both online and in-store. The single included a reading of the poem "The Smile" by Blake, by Cillian Murphy, which the band used as the music to come onto the stage in their shows.
In December 2022, the band released a digital live EP, with some tracks recordes in July 2022 in Montreux, Switzerland, at the Jazz Festival. The release was accompanied by a YouTube stream of the same songs — plus the unreleased "Bending Hectic" as a bonus track — only available for 48 hours. After that, the band shared some clips of the show.
Stream/buy the EP here
Some of the singles were accompanied by proper videos, whereas the first two were released by lyrics videos or visualisers. The band also shared visualisers for every song on the record for free on the album release day. The videos are animations of artwork by Stanley Donwood, made by Sabrina Nichols.
One of the videos was made for "Skrting on The Surface" and directed by Mark Jenkin. The video was shot in Rosevale Tin Mine, an abandoned mine in Cornwall.
Read an interview with the director
Then, the band released a video for "Thin Thing", directed by the Chilean directors Cristobal León y Joaquín Cociña.
“Hearing the song for the first time, we imagined a frenetic fluid that carries machines, pieces of human bodies and carnivorous plants,” said the directors. “When presenting the idea to the band, Thom told us about a dream that made him write the song. We believe the video is the conjunction of these two things.”
and finally, "Free in the Knowledge" was paired with a video directed by Leo Leigh
Read an interview with the director
The band has stated several times during their shows that they're working on a second studio album already. They've premiered several new tracks in their live shows already. In an interview with Uncut Magazine (Jan 2023), Tom Skinner stated the new songs are the result of jamming together, as opposed to the material on the debut album which — according to Jonny on the same interview — was partly written before the sessions.
In early December 2022, the band recorded a Tiny Desk Concert performance for NPR. The set is available to watch since January 3rd, 2023.
Watch the Smile's playing for NPR