Tom Smith can’t help it. In almost every situation, the film buff reverts to thinking cinematically — which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
“I get on a plane and look around, and my mind goes to work,” says the Birmingham-bred Brit. “And you know those terrible old disaster movies, where there are all these different characters on the jet? There’s a family with a small child, a nun, a young professional, a newly married couple, all these groups of people on this plane that’s obviously going to crash, ’cause it’s a disaster movie. So whenever I board a plane, I look around and imagine being part of some terrible movie like that.”
Luckily, Smith, 26, has a perfect release for such thoughts, in the lyrics he writes for his Joy Division-ish outfit, Editors, who play the Fillmore in San Francisco on Thursday.
For example, there’s the creepy chorus from “Racing Rats,” on the new album “An End Has a Start”: “If a plane were to fall from the sky/ How big a hole would it leave in the surface of the Earth?”
Or the “Say goodbye to everyone you have ever known” elegy from “Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors,” inspired by director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s “Intacto.”
Smith has achieved an act of alchemy — transforming morbid musings (aided by the crystalline textures of guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, the Page to his Plant) into some of the most majestic anthems in modern rock.
“But I just love movies, love them to bits,” Smith says. “And ‘Intacto’ is something that’s stuck with me, to the point where if I’m feeling confused and can’t work things out, I’ll say I’m ‘Going Intacto.’ And another song, ‘Spiders’ — if you remove the lyrics from it, we wanted it to feel like the eerie entrance to some film, as well.”
Certain key words repeatedly flicker on the sophomore “Start” — like “bones,” “flesh” and “death.”
For good reason, Smith says: “A lot of the new songs have me mulling over, or thinking about, things coming to an end. My grandmother passed away, and somebody I was at school with was tragically killed in the last couple of years. And now people in my parents’ friendship groups — only 50 or 60 — have started to get ill. And it just felt like all these things were adding up, giving me this increased awareness of mortality.And I can’t stop these thoughts from coming through into the songs.”
The scholarly Editors members met in college, while studying music technology. Soon, they were sharing a house and crafting the hooks of early hits like “Munich,” “Blood” and “Bullets.” Outside of the equally moody Interpol, the band sounded like nothing else on the English charts, allowing its “The Back Room” debut to rocket up to No. 2.
Now Smith’s grave approach has made him the darling of America’s Goth set, making the band’s show at the Fillmore a sold-out affair — black garb optional.
“We just try to make rock music that’s exciting, but also makes people think,” Smith says.
Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Thursday
Contact: Call (415) 346-6000; www.thefillmore.com