But the London native hit a stylistic snag when he was preparing to study cinema in college.
“I realized that it required a lot of effort to make film productions, and it takes a level of organization that I simply lack,” he admits. He went on to major in English, and then formed an initially-one-man-band called Bastille.
“With music, I could still create something tangible and have that creative outlet — that’s how I wound up with this weird job I’ve got,” he says.
But Smith was lucky. He seamlessly melded his favorite art genres into the quartet Bastille, which plays San Francisco this week. It’s obvious from the cover of the band’s hit debut, “Bad Blood” — a noirish movie poster with Smith and company credited beneath a shot of a man running down a road in car headlights, which was inspired by David Lynch’s sinister “Lost Highway.”
Lynch’s surreal TV series “Twin Peaks” also influenced the disc’s galloping neo-medieval madrigal “Laura Palmer,” and “Things We Lost in the Fire” sprang from the flick of the same name by the great Danish director Susanne Bier.
Then there’s Bastille’s breakthrough hit, the tribal, anvil-chorused stomper “Pompeii,” in which Smith lyrically imagines the Italian town’s volcanic end: “And the walls kept tumbling down in the city that we love/ Great clouds roll over the hills bringing darkness from above.”
The songwriter thinks cinematically when composing.
“Or I just imagine a certain scenario, which is why it’s always quite fun to do music videos,” he says. “I always get heavily involved in them, to make sure that the song is also visually authentic.”
“Fire’s” exotic clip, for instance, was shot in Lithuania.
In the beginning, Smith was broke. For one early Bastille clip, he says, “I took some liberties with a film called ‘Badlands’ by Terrence Malick, and it did work quite well. But inevitably, we got asked to take it down.”
Lynch, however, was a fan, and happily allowed Bastille to remix one of his songs.
“And I actually got to meet David Lynch in Los Angeles, which was really cool — he gave me his own brand of coffee, which blew my head off!” he says.
Smith even starred in a Beefeater-gin-sponsored “Alchemy Project” feature, in which Bastille traveled to Dublin, Naples, Italy, and Barcelona, Spain, to unearth local culture.
It taught him another lesson. “I’m much more comfortable thinking up ideas and being behind the camera than I am being in front of it,” he says. “The second a camera comes out? I feel awkward!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Warfield, 982 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Tickets: $25 to $27 (sold out)
Contact: (415) 345-0900, www.axs.com