Band Interview: The Smith Street Band

We caught up with Wil Wagner of Australia’s The Smith Street Band in Leicester, before their show with Gnarwolves and Drug Church. We spoke to them about their hectic touring schedule, their new album and politics in Australia.

So how’s this tour going?

Yeah, it’s been awesome. We’ve just done six shows around the UK with these guys, but before that we toured Australia, and then did America and Canada so we’ve been out since the end of January. So we’re heading into the last two weeks now. It’s been really, really good, but it’s definitely the last two weeks now [laughs] if you know what I mean. We got to the venue really quite late today, and everyone’s just been like “let’s just be late.” It’s been really, really fun.

You must be exhausted now.

Yeah, pretty exhausted, but it’s been really fun. You’re always tired now, but then when the show starts you play like a million bucks again. Playing is really good to wake you up, for like an hour, and then an hour after it ends you’re like “well now I never wanna talk to anyone ever again in my life” [laughs].

How’s it been touring with bands like Drug Church and Gnarwolves?

Yeah, it’s been amazing. We don’t really get to play with bands like Drug Church, heavier bands like that, it just doesn’t really match us. But the first night it was like “oh wow.” Because they’re so good. Gnarwolves just toured with good friends of ours back home, Luca Brasi, and they just couldn’t say enough good things about them. We’re like good friends with Great Cynics, and Apologies, I Have None, and Bangers, and all these bands, and they said “you’ve just gotta meet Gnarwolves and you’ll have collected the whole set!” But yeah, it’s been great.

Everything’s been massive for you guys since Throw Me in the River came out, hasn’t it?

Yeah. It’s our first real release here and in Europe, it’s been amazing. The Australian response has been really cool, and then coming over here and hearing people with British accents singing along to the new songs has been amazing. We’ve been on tour the whole time and it’s been very rewarding. I’m almost a bit taken aback by it. I almost don’t understand it. I like playing in the band, but it surprises me when anyone’s heard of us or when anyone knows anything about us. Coming here now, and people are asking for photos. I’m just like “with me? I’m not the guy from Gnarwolves” [laughs]. It’s amazing, and very exciting.

Throw Me in the River came out on Side One Dummy. How’s it been working with a label like that?

Well, everyone met them at Fest but I actually had to go home early because I had a family thing happen. So everyone else had met them but I had only ever spoken to them over email, but the second I met Jamie it was like we’d been friends for fifteen years. We just get on so well and same with Joe. Everyone who works there, and Joe and Bill who run it, are just so down to earth and just so committed. That’s the best thing about independent labels. The success of the label is just down to the people who work there, it’s not down to some billionaire who has no idea what’s going on. It’s just a lovely hands on approach working with them, and we just went and stayed with them for three or four nights in LA in the offices, and they put us up and fed us. They took us around Hollywood, and coming from Australia and staying in Hollywood is so crazy. You don’t wanna be that guy who’s like “that’s the Hollywood sign!” but you totally are. It’s still LA, it’s crazy, it’s from the movies. We went and we were gonna get tickets to see like Jimmy Kimmel and we saw the Avengers people doing this red carpet thing. It was awesome.

You released a single earlier in the year,

Yeah, “Wipe That Shit-Eating Grin Off Your Punchable Face”,

Yeah, how’s the reception to that been? Obviously it was about Tony Abbott and his immigration policies,

Yeah. I think it was a slow news day, the day that was released. I did interviews with all these actual like publications which aren’t just in the music world. We got some angry emails. It’s a song which is protesting against racism, so if you disagree with it, and are then a kinda racist, we don’t want you listening to the band anyway. So all the negative stuff was kinda reassuring because we don’t want those people listening to the band anyway. But all the positive stuff was amazing, and we got to raise a lot of money for charity. I get to speak about it in every interview I do now and I’m happy because it’s really important to us. I’m happy with that we managed to do with that.

Following on with that, I was gonna ask, because we’ve got the election coming up next week,

You’re obviously voting UKIP [laughs].

Yeah, obviously. A lot of people here aren’t sure whether to even bother, whereas you guys have compulsory voting?

You do definitely walk in and still think you don’t wanna vote for those people, but because of compulsory voting, you are kinda forced to read all the info. You can still kinda “donkey vote” which is what we call it, or just draw something on your ballot. But, I guess it just means you have to put a bit more work into the independents. We have the Green Party in Australia who are a very environment, left-wing party, and they won the seat in Melbourne, and they’re winning a lot of seats. I guess a lot of people over here may be like “well we aren’t gonna vote” but at home I think a lot of people sorta think “well if I’m gonna have to vote for one of them, I’m obviously gonna vote for the environmental leaning one” or whatever. I guess they win a lot of votes from people who wouldn’t normally vote otherwise. There’s positives and negatives to compulsory voting. I think it’s good that everyone has a voice. Sometimes people still have to tick the box for the Liberal Party which sucks. The Liberal Party is the right-wing one, it’s confusing.

Are you holding out much hope for the next election?

Yeah. I think that in the long run, Tony Abbott is gonna be really good for Australia because he’s just been so bad. It’s been so bad, that even the right-wing people don’t like him. He’s just terrible, he’s not even incredibly right-wing or anything, he just comes across like a total idiot. He’s said all these sexist things and when we got voted in he got rid of the Minister for Women and made himself the Minister for Women and he doesn’t believe in feminism. He’s just a really dumb idiot. I feel like he’s just shooting himself in the foot. It has been really good because it’s made a lot of people to be a lot more involved. I feel like a lot more people are gonna be protesting and stuff now. He’s gonna set back the right by decades by being so embarrassing, so as much as it’s so horrible with him being the face of our country right now, hopefully it’s gonna lead to a better future. Although if we vote him in again, I’m out, I’m gonna move here [laughs].

It probably won’t be much better here! What else have you got coming up?

After this, we’re going to Europe and doing some festivals over there, and then we head home in a couple of weeks. Then we’re doing some festivals in Australia and then coming back and doing Reading & Leeds. Then we’re doing a bunch of European places we’ve never been before, playing in like Slovenia and Switzerland and Sweden and other places that don’t start with “s”. We’re trying to get to places we’ve never been. After that we’re touring Australia, and then we’re in the process of booking an American tour which will be October/November, and then it’s Christmas and I get to see my mum [laughs].

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Max Qayyum

Max Qayyum

Seeing Your Scene / DIY promoter / Cutting Room / Taco Hell

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