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Reuben Vaun Smith hadn't intended to be a musician. He was supposed to be on the football pitch.
As a young football prodigy, he was signed to the Leeds United youth team as a rising talent. By 16 he'd been spotted and signed by Sevilla in Spain, and a professional sports career beckoned. But the dream was over before it really began.
At 18 years old he suffered a life-changing knee injury, catastrophically stopping his career in its tracks for good. With no back-up plan, Smith moved back to Yorkshire and contemplated what to do next.
Not long after, his grandfather bought him a MIDI keyboard - and despite never having had a music lesson or touched a keyboard in his life, Smith retreated to the shed at the end of his garden and started to teach himself music production.
His parents had a pub in Yorkshire which regularly featured live music and DJs, so he found himself exposed to and inspired by a wide range of music - including nights that his dad put on at a local art studio in Leeds called The Midnight Club. He recalls all the old boys he new from back in the day were still collecting rare bits and I’d never heard anything like it.. Andy Pye of Balearic Social played the track ‘Howls’ by Nu Guinea to start one of his sets off and it totally blew my head off.”
From that moment on he turned his dedication and rigid discipline for playing football into an obsession to learn and play music. For a solid year he spent every day in his studio at the end of the garden, and twiddled, dabbled, fiddled, experimented, explored and delved into music.
Slowly he figured it out, poring over hours and hours of music. As he says: The music I make really depends on what I’m listening to on the day before I go into my shed but whatever it ends up like, it always seems to have a summer vibe to it, maybe influenced by my time playing football in Spain. When I wake up before I go in I’ll lay and listen to music and then when a certain tempo or beat or just vibe will get stuck and I’ll have to run down and start on something.”
In a world full of sonic musical snobbery, a world full of the hierarchy of expensive analogue synthesisers and vintage equipment that takes a small fortune to amass - Smith delivers a unique raw, live and improvised style using an inexpensive keyboard and a downloaded computer program given to him on a memory stick by one of the punters in his dad's pub.
He joins a long list of musicians that were somehow detached from the rule-bound world of the music industry - making music as much for themselves as for anyone else. With no formal musical education and not over influenced by mixing techniques that may have slowed his raw stream of musical consciousness, he started to record live takes that often lasted 10-20 minutes.
First off I hope people catch the rawness of these tracks as they are all 1-2 hour improvised jam sessions with myself,” says Reuben. “For this first release I hope people catch that, I could have gone back and tweaked things here and there but for this I preferred to leave them as they were in the moment.”
It was this raw energy that shines through the lo-fi recordings that landed in Soundway boss Miles Cleret's inbox one day and caught his attention. Obviously influenced by the Balearic sound of the late 1980s but also by contemporary artists that draw on that tradition has become incredibly prolific - sometimes recording a new track every day, all recorded live and all recorded in the shed.
Smith’s music is imbued with a sunny approach, despite the sometimes grey and wet nature of winter living in the North of England. It is the sound of a young musician that refused to lie down and give up on his passions: when one door closed another one opened.
So here we present some of his earliest musical sketches and heartfelt outpourings. The sound of warm nights, lapping oceans and a young man, in a Yorkshire shed, wrapping himself in layers of musical warmth and shimmering sonic landscapes. The wonderful world of Reuben Vaun Smith.