The Smith Street Band
The Smith Street Band are a Melbourne 5-piece that channel Against Me!, The Weakerthans and Billy Bragg into their distinctly-Australian and distinctly-fantastic brand of folky punk-rock.
Interview: 20 August 2012
Tell us about your music - how did you develop your sound?
The Smith Street Band started out as a 16 year old kid (Wil) playing folk punk songs on an acoustic guitar. I guess it has developed pretty organically from there. Wil flirted with one band that didn't really work out, then in 2009 we started jamming in my lounge room and playing shows as "Wil Wagner & the Smith Street Band." Right away it became apparent that it was more of a collaborative effort and less of a backing band, so we dropped the "Wil Wagner" from the name. Our first album, "No One Gets Lost Anymore" was still a collection of Wil's solo songs that we're morphed into full band songs. However, the new album, "Sunshine & Technology" is far more of a full band effort. While all the lyrics and basic chords we're still written by Wil, the songs we're developed and changed (and developed again) by all five of us. The result is unintentionally, a bit heavier and a bit less folk punk, but still very much "us".
What’s the Smith Street Band live show like?
Our live show is generally just a party! I think we're all happiest when we're on stage playing. It's the best part about being in a band and the whole reason we do it! When we play I suppose we just try to bring some of that excitement and energy to the stage.
Tell us about the bands, producers and people in the Australian music community that inspire you.
We are so lucky and have such a big and incredible community of people wherever we are in Australia. Perhaps it has come from the amount of touring we've done, but we've made some best friends and met some incredible bands from all over Australia – whether it's Milhouse in Sydney, the Grim Fandango family in Perth, Luca Brasi and pretty much the entire state of Tasmania, Ben David in Adelaide, El Alamein in Brisbane or countless bands in Melbourne – I could and would go on for quite a while, but it'd take up silly amounts of space!
Production-wise, the two guys we just worked with to record our new album, Sam Johnson and Matt Voigt, are two of the best out there in my opinion. They both know how do get the best performance out of you and keep you from tearing your hair out, as well as having completely amazing brains/ears from sound, which made our record sound about as good as it possibly could. We couldn't have done it without them.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given and who was it from?
This is a really tough question to answer. We get given so many different pieces of advice from so many different people that sometimes it feels like we're being pulled in all directions at once. A prime example was when we were trying to decide who to release our new album with. We had some great offers from a few different labels and got to have some great talks with people who we greatly respect (all who had very differing opinions). When all was said and done, I think it was important not to take anything too much to heart, but to all sit down and decide what was the best and most important thing for us – so maybe we listened to our own advice?
What’s coming up in 2012?
We're currently touring Australia for the release of our second album, "Sunshine & Technology." As soon as that's finished we head back to Melbourne to play the Poison City Weekender festival. The week after that we fly out for a six week tour of China & the US! ...Then we're back home for another Australian tour with Lagwagon! All incredibly exciting things that we can't wait for!
Australian music is...
...whatever you want to make it! We're so lucky and have so much talent and strong music communities in this country that anyone who wants to play any style/genre/whatever you want to call it, can find a place to belong. The most important thing for me is that we keep banding together as a whole to fight against our great live music venues being shut down. Australia music would be nothing if there was nowhere to play it.