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No clouds, no sun for Pat DiNizio and the Smithereens

Pat DiNizio likes things real. He buys his music from Vintage Vinyl in Fords, N.J. He buys his meat from John's, a family-owned butcher in Scotch Plains. He likes the "ritual" walk from his Lower East Side apartment at Seventh and A to the nearby rehearsal studio Tu Casa. He drinks next door at Manitoba's, owned by the Dictators' Handsome Dick Manitoba. DiNizio likes to see, feel, smell, touch and hear for himself.

"I don't want to participate in any endeavor that exists in a cloud," says the man who has fronted garage-rock heroes the Smithereens for more than 35 years. "F--- the cloud. I want a stack of 45s on my f---ing desk!"

He then laughs the laugh of a man who doesn't care whether he gets the last laugh. Which is easier when things are fitting together so nicely for the band.

A phone call this week to his home in New Jersey interrupts DiNizio's research for a trip into the studio to record a new album, a follow-up to the critically lauded "2011." He is getting in the mood with an afternoon of inspiration, courtesy of his favorite singers and songwriters.

He answers the phone at the agreed upon time: "Hey, man, do you know the Marvelettes' 'The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game'? Here, listen." The 1966 Motown hit, written by Smokey Robinson, fills the phone.

"I am prepping for the new album by surrounding myself with nothing but well-written songs," DiNizio says. Other artists on his playlist: The Who and the Kinks, the Spinners, the Byrds, Sinatra and the Beatles. "Always the Beatles," he says of the band that inspired the Smithereens' unlikely hit remake of "Meet the Beatles."

To record the album, due out in the fall to early winter, DiNizio says the band is looking at a space that also has a tactile connection to a rich musical heritage created over decades by Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, as well as Steve Earle, the White Stripes and Radiohead.

"We're talking about doing it in Hendrix's Electric Lady Studio [on West Eighth Street in New York's Greenwich Village]," DiNizio says. "There's a certain energy and history… There's a touch of magic in that room."

The album will again be helmed by producer Don Dixon, who also handled "2011," the band's first album in 12 years. The wait was worth it. According to DiNizio, the album is directly responsible for the Smithereens just being added to several dates on a summer tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

"We don't know exactly how it happned, but I heard that [Petty] was in his car driving somewhere and put the ["2011"] CD in and right away called his agent to put us on the tour," DiNizio says. "God bless him for asking. It's a beautiful opportunity."

But first there is the matter of a free Smithereens concert on Sunday along the waterfront in West Palm Beach, taking the garage rocker out of the garage and into the light. While DiNizio spent his boyhood soaking up the sun on his bike and ballfields of New Jersey, he's been wary of it since a trip to Asbury Park as an adult left him with what he says was "sun poisoning."

"I have what Frank Zappa called a studio tan," DiNizio says. "Which means no tan at all."

bcrandell@southflorida.com

The Smithereens

When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Meyer Amphitheatre, 104 Datura St, West Palm Beach

Cost: Free

Contact: 561-822-1515, WPB.org

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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