If you are a fan of Trailer Park Boys, you have to admit that Bubbles is one of the greatest characters in TV history. He is Sunnyvale’s most awkward and peculiar resident, but also perhaps the most heartwarming. You cannot help but get the feels for this shed dwelling, feline fanatic, mumble-mouth in thick Coke bottle glasses. Bubbles is also the perfect foil to Ricky and Julian’s endless parade of dumb schemes and shenanigans.
But life does not imitate art in, well, real life for Mike Smith, the actor who has portrayed Bubbles since the debut of Trailer Park Boys in 2001. Between his role on the show and his true persona, Smith is a bit of an expert at living a double life, seamlessly shifting between total nerd and cool guy.
Cool guy as in rock star cool.
Smith’s adventures in rock n’ roll predate Bubbles, Jim Lahey, and the rest of the gang at Sunnyvale Trailer Park. Hailing from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Smith began playing pretty early on. Around age 20, he formed a cover band called Sandbox Legacy in 1992. The band soon morphed into an alternative rock unit, writing and performing original songs.
In short order, the band dropped “legacy” from the title and became Sandbox, releasing the independent EP Maskman in 1993. It was a brilliant capture of the 90s rock sound, balancing ethereal acoustic numbers with crunchy, aggressive guitar driven songs.
With a lineup of Smith and Jason Archibald on guitars, Scott MacFarlane on bass, drummer Troy Shanks, and lead vocalist Paul Murray — a relative of iconic singer Anne Murray — Sandbox attracted major label attention early on. The band eventually signed with EMI in Canada and Nettwerk in the USA and dropped Bionic, their first full-length album in 1995.
The riff heavy, shimmery single “Curious” achieved regular airplay on a number of outlets including MuchMusic, propelling the song to #8 on the Canada Alternative chart. The album subsequently yielded the singles “Collide” and “Here and There” to positive critical and audience receptions, netting the band a nomination for Best New Group at the 1996 Juno Awards.
Sandbox followed up the success with the release of A Murder at the Glee Club in 1997, an ambitious concept album about a killer grappling with his actions. The band members decided to part ways in the years after A Murder at the Glee Club to pursue divergent interests, clearing the way for Smith to focus on his acting and join the Trailer Park Boys cast. The rest, as they say, is history.
But Smith has continued to keep one foot in music during his decade-and-a-half as Bubbles, often appearing as the beloved character. Case in point is the comedy rock group Bubbles & the Sh*t Rockers, which features Smith and none other than all-time guitar hero Alex Lifeson of Rush. Their music can be heard in the film Trailer Park Boys: The Movie.
Smith, once again as Bubbles, even shared the stage with Guns N’ Roses at tour stops in 2010 and 2011. It seems the proprietor of The Kittyland Love Center has a way of rubbing shoulders with rock royalty. The moral of the story, as demonstrated by Smith’s multiple talents, is to never pigeonhole the strange, cat-obsessed guy in the trailer park. Despite his nerdy appearance, he just might be a musical genius.
Main image: Wikimedia.