By Cameron Lee
February 24, 2023
Photo: Blue Amber
The only words uttered in the new EP by Charlotte post-rock instrumental band Thousand Dollar Movie is “Give me a year and see what happens.” The quote, spoken by Mike Watt, famed bassist of the Minutemen, Firehose and The Stooges, reflects the thoughts of Thousand Dollar Movie’s Jeremy Ryan Smith when he first moved to Charlotte 20 years ago from Hartsville, South Carolina. The statement also serves as inspiration for the band’s first full-length project, Give Me A Year.
Thousand Dollar Movie was created without a vocalist in mind, to allow for more flexibility, and because of Smith’s admiration for instrumental rock bands like Explosions in the Sky and Unwed Sailor. The band started out of “comical necessity” as Smith put it: “I say all the time, if you want someone to leave Charlotte, have them start a band with me. They’ll probably move shortly after.” The current line-up consists of Leo Solis of the indie synth-pop group Solis (guitars/synths) and Jeremy Ryan Smith (bass) with guitarist Zach Luper and drummer Dominic Geralds (Jude Moses).
Give Me A Year’s six songs serve as a sonic ode to the Queen City, featuring tracks like “Central Ave,” which starts at a breakneck speed symbolizing the glory days of punk rock shows at places like Snug Harbor and the old Lunchbox Records before massive construction took over the city. The song slows at the end to an acoustic strum with street sounds representing the sorrow of this evolving part of town and fleeting memories of what once was.
“I kind of wanted to be aggressive and then have a little nostalgia…the neighborhood’s changing, you know, from how it used to be, but you can’t really stop it. So let’s just try to enjoy ourselves,” said Smith.
The music video for the track “Elizabeth” offers wistful shots of the places Smith most adores in the city like VisArt Video, Tommy’s Pub, and the fish fountain at The Green in Uptown, where he spent countless hours reading and pondering life. The visuals were shot and edited by Alex Thomas, a videographer and artist, who also directed the music video for “Keel Timing” by Atlanta indie rock band, Manchester Orchestra.
While the opening song and title track “Give Me A Year” represents the wide-eyed optimism of a new life in an unfamiliar city, the final track on the album conveys a more somber tone. “One More Year” is dedicated to guitarist Larry Tran, a longtime friend and former bandmate of Smith’s, who passed away from Covid complications in 2022. The track reminds us that, while our dreams are always ahead of us, time is unforgivable and it should be cherished with the ones we love.
Watt’s words remain the only speech in the EP, but sonically and emotionally Give Me A Year conveys a lot. In many ways it lets our minds create the imagery and reflect on our own journeys and evolution. Smith is no longer the new kid in the city, and he jokes about being the old guy at the end of the bar now telling stories. As a champion of the local music scene he hopes the project inspires the next generation of musicians to take bold steps to pursue their dreams and aspirations.
“My hope is that a lot of people can relate… Maybe you did a similar thing, you know, whether it was Chicago or New York or LA, taking that kind of leap to get out of your comfort zone, you know? And yeah, sometimes it works out,” said Smith.