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The Rock Star Shark

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
He hails from a small village called Eyebrow. He lists the Peruvian donkey jaw, the African xylophone or “balafon” and the Australian didgeridoo among his instrumental talents. He changes his hair color as often as he changes his mind. And he wears number sixteen for the San Jose Sharks.
 
Mark Smith isn’t your typical NHL hockey player. Sure he suits up, makes big hits and scores big goals. But when the seasons over, Smith becomes more of a rock star than an off-season athlete.
 
This summer, Smith and his band, The Vinyl Trees will showcase their talents, along with their eclectic set of instruments around the Bay Area and along the West Coast. Already on their itinerary is the Harmony Festival on June 9 in Santa Rosa, San Jose’s Music in the Park in August, and a couple of small shows in Los Gatos.
 
“The Harmony Festival is the largest show we’re doing this summer,” said Smith. “We’re trying to do a little tour through northern California, up through Portland and into Vancouver. But that is still in the makings.”
 
The Vinyl Trees play a mixture of rock and folk, comparable to the Dave Matthews Band. A little over a week ago, iTunes picked up The Vinyl Trees latest CD, Pura Vida, and fans now have the opportunity to purchase the album through Apple’s major online music store. Click here to sample Pura Vida on iTunes.
 
Unique to their band are the instruments they use to create their signature sound. One of Smith’s many instruments is the Peruvian donkey jaw, or “quijada” which is made from the jawbone of a donkey or mule and played by striking the lower jaw against the upper producing a sharp rattle effect.
 
“It’s like a wishbone and it’s got a bunch of teeth that are loosened so when you hit it, it makes a weird rattling noise,” explained Smith. “It’s pretty cool. It’s indigenous of Peru.”
 
Smith grew up in the Eyebrow, Saskatchewan, a far cry from Peru, Australia or Africa where many of his instruments come from. The farming community of 150 inhabitants was fittingly named after an arched shaped hill above the village’s lake. After starting his first band at 16, Smith traveled to shows in California and across Canada where he was first exposed to the sounds of the didgeridoo and the balafon by musicians like Xavier Rudd and RadioHead’s Jonny Greenwood.
 
“I saw Xavier Rudd playing the didgeridoo and I thought it was the best sound I ever heard in my life,” said Smith. “That kind of changed my whole outlook on music. I actually made one out of pvc pipe, and that was my first didgeridoo. That’s how I learned to play.
 
Album sales are steady for Smith’s one year old band. While engines such as CDBaby.com, iTunes, and the band’s own website, Thevinyltrees.com, promote Pura Vida, most of hype surrounding The Vinyl Trees came through word of mouth. Now that hockey season is over, Smith and his band will have more time to market their album through live shows and appearances.
 
“We’re going on KFOX to sit down and talk and maybe play a couple tunes,” Smith said.
 
Smith’s performance on KFOX will air on Friday, June 1 from 7:10 – 8:30 a.m. To learn more about Mark Smith, The Vinyl Trees, and upcoming tour dates, check out www.thevinyltrees.com.
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