Chicago's Smith Westerns recorded their Nuggets- inspired 2009 debut on the cheap in a North Side basement while singer- guitarist Cullen Omori, 20, his bassist brother Cameron, 19, and guitarist Max Kakacek, 20, were still in high school. After graduating, they entered a real studio for the first time to capture the more polished, poppy sound of this year's Dye It Blonde. "[Our debut] was the type of music we could make when we were 17," says Cullen. "Now our playing ability allows us to listen and reinterpret a lot more."
From left: Cameron's sweatshirt by Gap; Cullen's jacket by Tommy Hilfiger.