The Smith Street Band On Running A Label, Playing Triple J’s One Night Stand & The “Corporate Greed” Of Ticket Resale Sites

The Smith Street Band have made a certain style of Aussie rock their own since they formed in 2010, and the growth of their fan base over the last few years proves it’s a winning look. Now they’ve released their fourth studio album More Scared Of Your Than You Are Of Me, and it’s being widely praised as their most mature and personal album to date.

They’re also gearing up to take the new record on the road with a tour that’s selling out fast, but they’ve found out firsthand the very real difficulties in dealing with the scourge of ticket scalping, and, more recently, the controversial, yet sanctioned, ticket resale sites.

We caught up with Smithies drummer Chris Cowburn to chat about running Pool House Records, triple j’s One Night Stand and the complex issue of ticket scalping.

Music Feeds: The album is done and ready to be released. Is the feeling of excitement for the release the same now it was for the release of the other three albums?

Chris Cowburn: It’s always a similar vibe. I will say that there’s a little bit of extra excitement with this one because we’ve started up Pool House Records which is our own record label. So I suppose that purely by virtue of the fact that we’ve put a hell of a lot more hard work behind the thing means there’s a little bit of extra spice behind it. Yeah it’s always a pretty special and anxious feeling, excitement mixed with nerves in terms of what people are going to think about it. Not that we should be too concerned with that, but I can’t wait for people to properly hear the thing.

MF: You guys are now leading the way for Pool House Records. How did that change the process of the creation and release of your new record?

CC: It doesn’t really change the process of the creation. The creative process for the band itself is still entirely the same and we work the same way we always have, nothing changes there. In terms of the release, it definitely changes things somewhat. Not that we weren’t invested in it and hands-on before, but now the ownership rests solely on us and our team of people, which is essentially just the band and two other people. It’s up to us to do all the work and make it a real thing, to put in the orders for the vinyl records and CDs and every aspect of it. It’s a learning process and it’s something that we’re super new at, and we’ve thrown ourselves in the deep end and we’re learning to swim very quickly.

MF: There are some killer singles on More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me, but it feels, more than your other albums, like a whole piece of work. What was it like writing something with such a strong narrative pushing through the entire record?

CC: Wil, obviously, writes all the lyrics, and it was really interesting to see how it fell together because when he was bringing the songs I don’t think he had that intention in mind at all. He’s a storyteller and a lot of the stories he tells in his songs are honest representations of things in his life, firsthand accounts of the way he views the world. So there’s always going to be that narrative involved, but I suppose these songs were a piece of catharsis around a relationship that he had that fell apart. It naturally became this set of 12 songs that told the story of that happening, not only the negative aspects of that but the positive ones as well, both before and after the relationship, and it just sort of happened. We actually recorded 16 songs for the album and it was cool to sit back and listen to them and say to ourselves, “If we pick out these ones and leave these four behind then it creates this linear story.” Some people have mentioned the words ‘concept album’ and I cringe at that thought, generally I think that’s not a positive thing, but for it to fall together naturally I think that’s pretty cool.

MF: Before your tour kicks off you’ve got the One Night Stand in Mt Isa. Why do you think that the One Night Stand is an important event to get behind?

CC: We’ve wanted to do the One Night Stand for a couple of years now, and we pushed really hard to get to do it this year. We were so stoked that we have the opportunity to do it and very heavily recognise that there’s only a handful of artists who ever get to partake in it which is really awesome. It’s a really special event and it’s one of the best things that triple j do among the heaps of things they put on. Purely because it’s in such an isolated space and it’s taking music to communities where these opportunities don’t come up.

When we announce tours people in Canberra and Bendigo and these places, still big cities, often comment that bands don’t get to them often enough. Perth is another example even though it’s a huge city. So if those people are commenting about not getting to experience live music often, imagine how the people of Mt. Isa feel. I’m assuming the music community there is based around local musicians. Being all ages is a massive thing as well, it’s something that we try to do as much of as we can but all ages shows, especially for a rock band, are really difficult to do properly as well.

MF: Obviously there’s been a bit in the media about ticket scalping recently, and tickets being available on resale sites like Ticketmaster have caught yours and the attention of other bands. The last we heard from you, Ticketmaster wrote back at told you to hike your prices if you didn’t want stuff like this to happen. Have you heard anything since then?

CC: That’s been the last we’ve heard on it, but to be honest I wouldn’t expect to hear much more. That wasn’t a direct response from Ticketmaster, it was just a press release they put out which didn’t actually have a name attached to it. I’m really hoping that something bigger is done about it. We didn’t comment on the whole thing and bring it up to get into a slanging match with Ticketmaster. We voiced our opinions to put it in the public eye and make people more aware of it, and that’s exactly what happened. The reason for that was to get a bit of publicity around it and to get some action take around it. Not just us the artists being ripped off, but the fans as well.

It’s great that Frontier Touring are submitting a report against Ticketmaster resale after the Midnight Oil scalping, but I’m just urging people to not sell their tickets on that site and also don’t buy scalped tickets. If you see something unjust like this you should complain. Unfortunately Ticketmaster in their response, it’s really evident there’s a lot of corporate greed, and they don’t care about the artists or the fans. They’re purely in it to make money. They basically said that themselves when they brought up the fact that the resale market alone is worth $8 billion. They’re taking a second bite of the cherry, and the corporate greed in the music industry, it’s really horrible to see.

‘More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me’ is out now. The Smith Street Band will head out on a national tour this May and June and play triple j’s One Night Stand in Mt Isa on April 22nd. 

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