Smoking Popes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Smoking Popes
Left to right: Eli Caterer, Neil Hennessy, Josh Caterer, and Matt Caterer in 2012
Left to right: Eli Caterer, Neil Hennessy, Josh Caterer, and Matt Caterer in 2012
Background information
OriginLake in the Hills, Illinois
GenresPop punk, alternative rock, indie rock, punk rock, emo
Years active1991–1999, 2005–present
LabelsRadius, Johann's Face, Capitol, Double Zero, Victory, Curb Appeal, Asian Man
Associated actsDuvall, The Lawrence Arms, Treasure Fleet
MembersJosh Caterer
Eli Caterer
Matt Caterer
Mike Felumlee
Past membersDave Martens
Rob Kellenberger
Ryan Chavez
Neil Hennessy

The Smoking Popes is an American pop punk band from the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, formed in 1991. They play punk-influenced pop music with crooning vocals. The core of the group is composed of brothers Matt Caterer (born 1968), Josh Caterer (born 1972) and Eli Caterer (born 1975).


Early history[edit]

The Caterer brothers were raised on rock 'n' roll and crooners like Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. In 1980 Matt got a guitar, Josh a bass and Eli a drum set and they began to play together. Soon after, their eyes were opened to the world of the Ramones and punk rock. Other early musical influences included Mel Tormé, Tom Waits, The Replacements, The Smiths, early AC/DC, The Cars, Dinosaur Jr, Hall & Oates, Liberace, and many others.

In 1990, Matt, Josh, and Eli (then known as Speedstick) got a gig at a party and played approximately 10 original punk-style compositions based on their favorite bands. About this time, Matt switched to bass and Dave Martens joined as drummer. Josh became an Elvis Costello fan and his style, accordingly, became more pop influenced. Speedstick recorded 11 songs in their first studio session, including "Brand New Hairstyle", which would become a staple of the Smoking Popes repertoire.

They changed the band's name, taking "Smoking" from Matt and Josh's penchant for excessive cigarette smoking, and "Popes" from the movie The Pope of Greenwich Village.[1] Martens, disenchanted with the band's musical direction, stopped attending band practice and the Caterers recruited Mike Felumlee of Article One to replace him.

In 1991, the band released five tracks recorded during their Speedstick days as the Inoculator EP, with local indie label Radius Records. With the proceeds and what other funding they could scratch together, the Smoking Popes bankrolled the recording of the Break Up EP in 1992. In February Eli Caterer joined as a second guitarist and in October "Break Up" was released. They played as often as possible in the Chicago area and ventured occasionally to small venues in Indiana.

In 1993 the band recorded their compositions on the 2 EP. They also recorded a split 7" single with Groovy Love Vibes. GLV vocalist Erik Pertl guested on the Popes' track "Leather and Lace" and Josh guested on the GLV track "Goodtime Music".

The band got a break when pop punk icon Ben Weasel of Screeching Weasel became a fan and used his connections to recruit Mass Giorgini of Squirtgun to record the Smoking Popes' first LP, Get Fired.

That year also saw the release of one Popes track from the same sessions. "Let's Hear It for Love" appeared on the "It's a Punk Thing... You Wouldn't Understand" compilation on Shakefork Records.

For the follow-up to Get Fired the band worked with producer Phil Bonnet, who also produced much of their early material. "Need you Around", which would later launch Smoking Popes to a huge audience via the soundtrack to the film Clueless, was recorded in December.

Signing with Capitol[edit]

In early 1994, the band opened for Green Day, who extended the invitation after hearing Get Fired. In mid-1994 the Popes finished their new album, Born to Quit. After "Need You Around" took off on alternative radio they gained the attention of record label scouts. They signed with Capitol Records, which re-released Born to Quit. In a promotional blitz, they toured America with the Gummy Dolls and Tripping Daisy.

In 1996 the Clueless soundtrack was released in Finland and "Need You Around" was dropped as a single to capitalize on their newfound popularity there. It was promptly designated "Single of the Week" by the New Musical Express. They toured England and Scotland for a couple of weeks, then crossed back over the Pond to tour with Jawbreaker.

Despite the touring, album sales didn't meet Capitol's expectations and it became clear that the band had to deliver a hit. Producer Jerry Finn, who had added gloss to the sound of Green Day and Rancid, was brought in to do the same for Smoking Popes. In September they toured with label-mates The Figgs and Jimmy Eat World.

The start of 1997 brought dissatisfied label executives who insisted they didn't hear a single among the tracks Smoking Popes submitted for the new album. The band spent six days writing and demoing songs until Capitol was finally determined that new song "I Know You Love Me" had potential. However, the label fired the Popes' A&R representative and the new album was shelved.

After negotiations, Destination Failure was released in August. At this point Tom Counihan, a.k.a. Tom Daily, joined the band as a touring guitarist. In October they began to tour with Morrissey, who said of their earlier album Born To Quit, "[it's] extraordinary, the most lovable thing I'd heard in years."[2]

The band funded its own video for "I Know You Love Me", which was filmed as a single camera shot, in a rehearsal space at Metro using the creative talents of members of Defiant Theatre.

In 1998 the band toured with Triple Fast Action and Menthol. Afterward, the band decided to record a covers album called The Party's Over, which would fulfill their contract with Capitol.

Breakup - forming Duvall[edit]

Around this time Josh became very involved in Christianity and wanted to devote his work to his faith. The label rejected the new album but released Smoking Popes from their contract. The band played several large shows before Josh quit, effectively breaking up the band.

In a later interview, Josh commented about this time "I became a Christian in May 1998 and I quit the Popes in January 1999. I tried to incorporate my faith into what we were doing in the Popes, but it just didn't seem like a good fit."

Josh's side project Duvall was formed in August 2001, including members of the Smoking Popes, who had disbanded in 1998. Founding members were Josh Caterer, Tom McDougal, and Mike Felumlee. The band released one full-length album, Volume & Density in 2003.


In November 2005, the Smoking Popes reunited for a packed and much-anticipated show at the Chicago club The Metro with Rob Kellenberger of Colossal replacing Mike Felumlee on drums. The tickets sold out in a mere 36 minutes.

Due to Josh's conversion to Christianity and past stance on particular "non-christian" themes in a select few pre-1999 songs, many fans wondered what sort of setlist would be played at the Popes reunion show. In a Q and A on the band's website, Josh responded to such questions saying, "No. There are only a couple songs that we wouldn't consider playing, and those are songs we didn't used to play very often anyway, so no one will miss them. We've been practicing through most of the old Popes catalog, trying to pick the songs that are the strongest. And we don't yet know what the final song selection will be, but I don't think people will be disappointed. All the real favorites should be there." In that show – recorded on a DVD called At Metro, bundled with a CD of the performance – Josh, Matt and Eli were happy and energized. Eli remarked that he hadn't had that much fun in seven years.

In March 2006, Bayside released an acoustic album with a cover of "Megan" featuring Josh Caterer on the second verse of the song.

They embarked on a U.S. tour in early 2006 with Bayside. During that time, the Popes acquired a new drummer, Ryan Chavez, who replaced Kellenburger, who was unable to commit to the new, full-time touring schedule. During this tour, Josh introduced and played several new songs, including "If You Don't Care", "Stay Down" and "Welcome to Janesville", which he announced would be on the upcoming Smoking Popes album. The new album, the first original material since 1997's "Destination Failure", was originally scheduled for release in September 2007, but was delayed while the band decided on a label. On March 2, 2008, the title of the new album, Stay Down, was disclosed when the band played it in its entirety at Schuba's Tavern in Chicago. The album was released on the independent label Curb Appeal Records.

Smoking Popes at the 2008 Cusp Conference in Chicago

In April 2008, the Smoking Popes announced that Neil Hennessy of The Lawrence Arms would be playing drums for the band.

According to the Asian Man Records website, past issues of the Smoking Popes will be re-released in 2009.[needs update] In the Fall, their first three 7" releases, Inoculator, BreakUp, and 2, were reissued with additional material. Following in 2010 was a reissue of "Get Fired", remastered with new artwork, which was released on CD and Vinyl. The band also got to work on a new album, with fans having the ability to follow the progress on Josh's Twitter page. The album, titled This Is Only a Test was released on Asian Man Records.

In April 2015, Mike Felumlee re-joined the band as Neil Henessey was relocating to Los Angeles.

In 2016, the Smoking Popes released the EP "Simmer Down", which is the first record since 1998 to feature the original lineup. On the official Smoking Popes Twitter page, they stated it was released so fans would have new songs people could sing along with when they played at Riot Fest 2016.


Studio albums


  1. ^ Jones, J. R. (May 11, 2000). "The Pope Who Found Jesus". Chicago Reader.
  2. ^ Article, News (13 August 2010). "Morrissey picks his 13 favourite albums to mark 'Friday the 13th'" (Friday the 13th issue). NME. Time Inc. Limited UK. Retrieved 13 August 2010.

External links[edit]