Can it really be 10 years since Smilex first burst forth on to an unsuspecting Oxford music scene?

Like Marmite, Lee Christian’s intelligent art-punk rockers are loved and misunderstood in equal measures, but – to our minds – remain one of the best bands to have emerged from this city.

Never ones to shy away from controversy, they have the power to challenge, shock and please.

Marked in the early days by the charismatic Lee’s athletic stagecraft, they have now calmed down a bit – while remaining a captivating live spectacle. The music is slower and epic, as befits a band of formidable instrumental talent.

Lee, who is also frontman of the ever-changing Prohibition Smokers Club collective, took his band’s name from the chemical used by Batman’s nemesis The Joker to kill people with a smile. Beware: the same fate awaits the unwary gig-goer.

He, guitarist Tom Sharp, drummer Pat Holmberg, and bassist Liv Luce, play the Jericho, Walton Street, Oxford, tomorrow (Friday), with support from The Cellar Family and Deer Chicago. And, if you can’t make that, they’ll be back in action at Fat Lil’s in Witney on April 25, with Half Decent, Moon Moth and Inspecta.

Lee tells us why this is an anniversary worth celebrating:

Who are Smilex and what you do?

We rock, unashamedly and better and harder than anyone else. We formed our ideas about music during an age of superb rock bands (the 90’s) so since we got together 10 years ago, we have had this one thing as our goal and raison d’etre. We were not all friends at school or mercenaries forming the perfect band to get a career, just some musicians who found a similar need to blow things to pieces in the name or rebellion and rock 'n' roll. Shockingly, (for us too) we are still at it! The landscape couldn’t really be much more different, with rock having dropped off the face of the mainstream and we see many of our so called peers changing their styles and sound to survive but we would prefer an honourable death and allow any evolution in our playing to be natural not determined by what’s in vogue. We started as primarily punky pop rock but now we have a far broader palette with many shades at our disposal as players and writers but it’s still primarily 'rock'.

How would you describe your music to those deluded souls who have never heard of you?

I can’t blame people for not having heard us, especially if they are young. But it still blows me away when someone who has been around the music scene for a few years or more says they have not seen us, because we feel like we have played to every single person in Oxford and their dog at some point or other in the last decade! Half the reason (other than finishing our record and writing new material that we went on live hiatus for a year is because we felt we had oversaturated our live demand! In the music press, we draw comparisons to the Stooges and Guns and Roses. But, while we love these bands, we think the live show (punky, energetic and confrontational as it is) tends to colour reviews and actually see ourselves more in the vein of the Smashing Pumpkins or Jane's Addiction, maybe... loud, melodic, hook-filled dynamic rock ranging from sweet caresses to violent assaults sonically!

what’s special about these anniversary shows:

Well, in a strange way, compared to others we have done with elaborate themes (dressing up as Batman villains, synchronized projections, the modern dance shows at the Pegasus last year) they are not going to be that ‘special’ but, being honest, we wanted to boil it down to basics for the shows this and next month to return to the basic 'what’s good about Smilex' factor, which is our live show and music, stripped of dressings and visual aids or props. We still pack a hefty punch and, while I’m sure we will be returning to a larger, more layered live approach when promoting our next album La Petite Mort, later in the year, for now we just wanted to do what we have always done best – rock hard and entertain people like only we can! This does not mean it won't be a night to remember, or that we have not re-learned some older songs, though. Plus, the other acts playing are our top recommendations from the current local crop. It just means that it’s not going to be a full costume KISS set or something... not that we are averse to this kind of thing, mind!

Tickets for the Jericho show are £5 from New album La Petite Mort is out soon.