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Interview – Wil Wagner of The Smith Street Band

Be a bit hard having all these calls coming in?

Yeah,yeah, I have no idea which ones which, I just answer and talk until the person says we’ve gone too long. (laughs)

So, I suppose you’d be getting a pretty interesting morning, getting to just talk about yourself all day.

Oh, its my favourite thing

Yeah, I can imagine (laughs). So, you guys are just about to kick off on what is I suppose a farewell tour to your latest album. How are you feeling about the whole wrap up of the situation?

Yeah, it’s a weird one, a big part of me is like, we’ve been touring for this album for like maybe 400 shows now and its like I never wanna play any of these songs again (laughs). But at the same time its also like the complete opposite of that where, I really enjoy playing these songs and I’m just sort of you know, Throw Me In The River is the record im like most proud of or whatever of any of our stuff so, its been really cool to see peoples reactions to it, and yeah it is kind of nice. We’re working on new stuff at the moment, I just wanna be playing these new songs now. Theres a few new songs like, I cannot fucking wait, I really hope people sing along to this bit and this bit, and I really hope people like this hook I wrote (laughs). So yeah, it’s a bittersweet kind of feeling.

Yeah, I can only imagine, but you know as they say, when one door closes another one opens.

 

(laughs) hopefully yeah

Which leads me to the next question, the new music. How long have you guys been working on it I suppose, and do you have a tentative release date for us?

Yeah, well um I started working on the new stuff the second we finished Throw Me In The River basically. Yeah we’ve got about 30 songs to learn (?) and there are about 15 songs in that (?) so now we’ve been working on it for the last few months and yeah its all kind of coming together. Then we’re recording in September in the States and hopefully we’ll have a single out before the end of the year and the record will come out early 2017.

It must be very strange for you because usually you’d hear an album from Smith Street an then a couple of months later there might be an EP, you might do some solo stuff and there has always been in betweens. Theres been a couple of EPs since Throw Me In The River, but this is the longest, would be the longest gap between LPs for you guys?

Yeah definitely, uh yeah I think it would be. We sort of set out tryna record and then release something every year (?) But now its sort of, it almost takes 4 or 5 months or so to like write, rehearse properly and then record a record for us because we’re trying to, you know, every record we sort of wanna up our game, and have you know, more cool sounds and more cool music ideas and stuff. So I guess it does take a little bit longer, where as before it was like lets just record 6 songs or 7 songs, yeah so we kinds do sort of I guess put a bit more thought into it now. But it definitely builds up the tension a little bit where its like, I really hope these songs fucking work because we’ve been waiting for a while to hear them. So definitely builds up the tension, but it also gives us more time to really hone something and at the end of the day I think before like I’d just keep shit coming out, like try to make it as good as I can, doesn’t matter if its not perfect just keep releasing stuff. I think now I’m leaning more towards the Springsteen way of doing things which is like I just spent a year making this record, I’m gonna fire everyone in the band, I’m gonna fire 8 producers, I’m gonna lose my mind (laughs). And yeah I would love to make a record like that, I would love to do like a Beach Boys like Brian Wilson thing where its just like I’m locked in a studio with an orchestra for 6 months and I’m gonna fucking drive everyone insane but at the end of the day we’re gonna have something really big

That would be fantastic.

Yeah, dude, like I wish there was still money in making records, not because I want any of the money but just because I’d love someone to give me like a million dollars to just go insane with an orchestra (laughs).

Well, I’ve seen The Hilltop Hoods have done it, The Whitlams have done it, so maybe not recording with them but just heading to The Opera House for a couple of shows, I reckon I could see Wil Wags and The SSO up there.

That would be my dream! To do like Smith Street with the symphony orchestra. Something like Metallica.

Yeah! If Metallica and KISS can do it, its all over, you’ve got it set.

(laughs) we’re in the same (???) house as those bands.

Well, man fingers crossed. That’s a dream that I would definitely pay to see, so um, if you can make that happen. But as you said you’re heading to the States, are you allowed to tell me who you’re recording with, like producer wise?

Yeah, Jeff Rosenstock who produced Throw Me In The River is gonna produce it again. Yeah we spoke to a few other producers, like I dunno more big name producers I guess, but theres no one that I ever wanted to work with except Jeff. Hes like my best friend and my hero and hes just perfect for us, hes the perfect match for me. I’m such a fucking precious idiot about music as well, Jeff’s one of the few people that can be like “you should change that verse” and I wont be like “you should go fuck yourself” (laughs). I’m like “yeah, no you’re right people don’t need to hear another verse about how I’m walking around having a ciggie” (laughs). So yeah Jeff’s been phenomenal and yeah he’s gonna produce the next record, we’re already working together on it. And then think we’re gonna get a guy called, its like 90% we’re gonna get a guy called Jack Shirley to engineer it, hes a Californian engineer, he’s done heaps and heaps of great records, been working a lot the past few years. He did Jeff’s last record, he did this band Hard Girls who I really love, he did the last few Deafheaven records, who are like a shoegaze metal kind of band. Hes done heaps of cool stuff, and we’re trying to lock down someone to mix it at the moment, and if we get the person we’re going for I’m gonna fucking lose my shit, and spend a lot of money (laughs). But that won’t stop me.

Hey man sometimes, if you’ve got a little bit of that money to spend and you can get something that makes you shit yourself in a good way, as if you’re not gonna spend it.

(laughs) That’s kind of the thing yeah, we could just get someone really good to mix it for not much, but we’ve been talking about it a bit and its like how much money do we wanna spend on the record, and then its like well we’re not gonna make any money on it anyway so lets just find, if we find someone that we all agree we wanna spend X amount of money on and we can make something that we’re really fucking proud of, lets just spend that cash and make something that we, in 10 years that we’re like I’m so glad that we did that, I’m so glad that the drums sound like this, I’m so glad that this guitar part sounds like this, rather than like, you know what I mean.

I do, yeah

To even have that option, like none of us thought we would ever make a living off this band, let alone be able to you know go and record in the states, pay for it all ourselves and that kind of stuff. So yeah its kind of like, what can we justify spending too much money on, and having a record sound exactly how we want it to sound in our heads is definitely one of those things.

I suppose its better than living in a big mansion saying yes no that album was quite alright but I really wish we went with that. Like you’d rather be living in a cardboard box going fuck those drums are good.

Yeah, yeah, yeah exactly. Like listen to the hats on this song, they’re fucking awesome (laughs).

So, going from looking up to Jeff and as you said he’s a hero of yours to then like becoming friends and working with him, how did you find crossing that line.

Um, I mean he made it very easy, he’s just such an easy person to get along with and be around. But there have definitely been a few, I mean we’ve toured with a lot of my heroes, here and in America and in Europe too, we’ve been very lucky to. There have been a lot of people like I had their poster on my wall as a kid kind of thing, and now its like we work together and we’re I guess (???) for lack of a better word. And it is really cool and inspiring to feel like you’re part of some kind of bigger community, and like part of some big kind of music world that like from the outside looking in seems so hard to get in to, but its like oh its just a bunch of other weirdos (laughs). Who like all kind of have the same problems.

That’s basically what I’ve noticed, like playing in a band myself you open for a big band, you get so excited and you literally just see 4 guys that stink like shit, smoking cigarettes and wanting to go to bed. It’s like that’s just me! I could have done that at home (laughs). Yes the glorious life of rock stardom.

I know! It is so funny when people who have obviously never toured are like “oh you must be doing this and this and this all the time.” It’s like no dude, I’m tryna like find the best coffee within 20 minutes of the venue and like try and get some sleep on the floor. That’s what the party is for me.

Very glamorous. So with touring, you guys have been known to bring out some international acts as supports for you guys, like Joyce Manor comes to mind. I was having a chat with my girlfriend/ biggest Smith Street Band fan and if, obviously you did have the choice of Joyce Manor, but if there was the choice of an international act that you could bring out and do a tour with who would it be? And also could you bring Hop Along?

That’s who it is then yes. I mean that’s who it is like yeah, I mean that’s who I’m gunning for the next tour (laughs).

Well there you go, you’ve just made someones day. She’s just getting over her sickness

Yeah, they’re one of the best bands going around at the moment , and like Painted Shut is one of the most fucking incredible records, and yeah we’ve been lucky enough to hang out, I’ve hung out with Frances a few times, and got to know a couple of the other guys in the band and they seem really nice and we got on really well, and every time I see them I get drunk and I’m like “right, lets bring you to Australia.”

Yes that would be very fantastic.

Hopefully yeah, hopefully.

 

I only got into them probably about 7 months ago when my girlfriend introduced me to them and then like Get Disowned was the first album I heard and I haven’t turned back since man.

Aren’t they incredible. Theres a bunch of like older kind of solo, like more acoustic stuff of hers that’s fucking awesome.

Yeah I just saw that Georgia Maq got that on vinyl!

Yeah, yeah.

Well I think I’d be buying front row seats to the Smith Street/ Hop Along orchestra show for sure.

(laughs) Oh my god how good would that be!

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