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The Smith Street Band – Doing What They Want, When They Want

Written by Mike Hohnen on 16th August, 2012

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Youth and folk punk are two things that don’t normally work together. The life lessons, experiences, and other real world elements that make up the cornerstone of the deeply emotive and personal genre need to be real and lived. So when a 22-year-old kicks in the front door of the folk punk scene, rather than politely knocking, it was bound to gain attention. Then when Wil Wagner’s The Smith Street Band let their music do the talking, it became obvious to the world that a new era of folk punk had begun. Feeds caught up with Wagner to get the latest, during a rare moment of free time for the musician.

At the time of the call, Wil was en route to meet his bandmates to start planning for their American tour dates. Already such a young band being shipped off to the States to represent Australian music, we got talking about what this meant to them: “We’re heading at the end of September, and going around for a month. We won’t be headlining anything, like, I doubt anyone knows who we are there, but we’ve been given some help from bands that we’ve played with while they were touring here. And yeah, trying to jump on shows where we can, get on a few bills here and there.”

What blew me away was how calm Wil was about all the buzz surrounding their band, already hitting the overseas market with just a few years under their belt. To put things into context, we got chatting about how it all began, the genesis of TSSB: “I wasn’t really looking to start a band when the band started; we all met around the same time,” he explained. “It started on the back of my solo stuff; I started playing shows when I was about 17 and then released some EPs and an album with another band and then sort of found these guys; we sort of clicked very quickly as people. We started playing shows as Wil Wagner & The Smith Street Band but soon it became obvious that it was a bit more collaborative than that, a lot more of a group effort, so we made it The Smith Street Band, and yeah, been hanging out every day ever since.”

Their unique spin on the folk punk genre is sure to put the US in a similar trance as it did to Australians. The band’s sound attracted so much attention that there was essentially a bidding war between labels as to who gets their sophomore release: “Ha ha, it wasn’t really a bidding war, but it was weird. With the first album we were totally over the moon that Poison Records would put it out. We thought we’d sell 20 copies to our friends and mums, but then people started to like it. So when we started recording number 2, we spoke to a few different record labels, some big ones also. But by the time it all came down to it, it wasn’t that hard of a decision. I mean, as much as we respect all the people we were talking to, it’s not really the kind of band we are, we want to do what we what, when we want…options dry up a bit when you’re working within a label’s timeframe; we didn’t want that.”

The victor in the end was long-term label Poison Records who were quick to release Sunshine and Technology, the bands latest album. “Poison were brilliant. Andy who runs poison seems to appreciate hardworking bands, regardless of genre. He basically said to us ‘I just want you guys to play and play and play’, and that’s what we wanted to do. None of this would have been possible with out him.”

So how has Wagner managed to infiltrate the scene at such a young age? Writing such vivid music at a young age is a skill you surely can’t learn: “I guess at the age I am, every year feels like a lifetime. A lot of these songs were written when I was 21. I know that doesn’t seem like much, but it is a big difference in the way you’re perceived by people and the expectations put on you by society. That probably affected the writing: I wanted to come up as a bit more grown up, I’m not sure if I did though. I’m still angry about the same things. Everything comes from personal experiences. It’s way easier that way rather than trying to create scenarios.”

The success of The Smith Street Band highlights the importance of putting a personal emphasis on music. Rather than being what he wasn’t to get to where he wanted to be, he pushed on and got even further. This, my friends, is a band you want in on from the ground level, and it’s not too late. There are two releases for you to sink your teeth into, with Sunshine and Technology still fresh from the print and a string of live shows on the horizon.

SAT AUG 25th @ THE TOTE, Melbourne
Tickets from Poison City Records (www.poisoncityrecords.com/estore) & The Tote (www.thetotehotel.com) 67-71 Johnston St, Collingwood

SUN AUG 26 @ THE REVERENCE, Melbourne
Tickets on the door. 3pm. 28 Napier St, Footscray.

THU AUG 30th @ ENIGMA BAR, Adelaide
Tickets On The Door. 173 Hindley Street, Adelaide

FRI AUG 31st @ ROSEMOUNT, Perth
Tickets On The Door. 459 Fitzgerald St, North Perth

THU SEP 6th @ X & Y BAR, Brisbane **
Tickets On The Door. 648 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley/ Brisbane

FRI SEP 7th @ GREAT NORTHERN, Newcastle **
Tickets On The Door. 89 Scott Street, Newcastle

SAT SEP 8th @ ANNANDALE HOTEL, Sydney **
Tickets from www.annandalehotel.com 17 Parramatta Road, Annandale

SUN SEP 9th @ PHOENIX LOUNGE, Canberra **

Tickets On The Door. 21 East Row, Canberra

SUN SEP 16th @ POISON CITY WEEKENDER *Sold Out!

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