Interview: Wil Wagner (The Smith Street Band)

The first Bomb The Music Industry! Australian tour kicks off tomorrow night in Wollongong and along for the ride are Melbourne outfit The Smith Street Band. The band saw a lot of success off the back of their 2011 release “No One Gets Lost Anymore” and to keep this momentum going the band plans to drop another full length before the end of 2012.  Their ethos to play any show that comes their way also ensures they are never too far from the minds of their fans.

We put their front man, Wil Wagner, in the firing line. We find out where Smith St is and how the closure of many notable venues has affected the music scene in Melbourne. He also admits to singing about Tasmania.  Check out the full interview here.

Dying Scene (Brittles):  Many of our readers won’t be familiar with The Smith Street Band. Can you give us a little bit of your history?

Wil (The Smith Street Band):  We formed around two years ago as an extension of my solo stuff, hence the name Wil Wagner and the Smith Street Band. Since then we’ve fallen in love with each other so go on tour all the time so we can share lounge room floors together. Now we are just called The Smith Street Band.

Can you point out Smith Street on Google Maps or is there some hidden underlying meaning to the name and can you tell us what that is?

The band is named after Smith Street in Collingwood. I lived above a pub there when I was 19/20 and the band started and it was where I wrote a lot of the songs we were playing at the time (also we are all massive Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band fans, so ripped that off). Since starting the band none of us can afford to live on Smith Street anymore and it’s becoming more and more gentrified every day… We may as well be called the Chapel Street Band!

You guys have seen a lot success around your release “No One Gets Lost Anymore,” and the 7” “South East Facing Wall.” What do think it is about these songs that people connect with?

I have no idea! I guess the music works well because the other guys in the band are actually talented… I just write about what I know and we try our best!

The Smith Street band is well established now but advice would you give about what NOT to do when starting a band?

Don’t write about anything you don’t know and try your best! Just play every single fucking show you get offered, don’t worry about an image or a sound or anything! I’m a fat, sweaty dude but it doesn’t matter if you’re honest and you’re having a great time!

Melbourne has lost some pretty iconic music venues in the past 24 months. Being from Melbourne have you noticed any flow on effects of these closures to the live music scene?

Losing the Birmingham, the Arthouse and the East Brunswick Club absolutely fucking sucks, obviously, they were all incredible venues and so good at what they did. But all it means is that bands have to work harder to get shows and have to do more warehouse/house/park shows which are always the funnest shows anyway! I don’t think any of us could understand how hard it would be on the owners and the families of these deservedly iconic venues, but you have to try and find a positive out of it and it will result in some pretty incredible shows.

How important is it for bands and people to support initiatives like “SLAM?”

I went to the rally they did in 2010 and as much as groups like this scare me a little bit, it was one of the most moving and inspiring days of my life. The amount of people there was absolutely fucking astounding and Paul Kelly saying that small pubs are your university… I had dropped out after something like a month of uni that year and couldn’t tell mum that quote quick enough!

A lot of your lyrical content is very Melbourne orientated. Is writing about your surroundings an important focus of your song-writing or is it just a reflection of the day-to-day lives you lead?

I just write about what I’m doing and what my friends are doing. I think people get very bogged down in song writing with making their songs accessible to anyone or all inclusive or whatever. Write about what you’re going through, what you’re doing, who you love. It’s all things everyone feels but you can’t sum it up for anyone but yourself! I write about Melbourne but its more generic home town stuff rather than Melbourne specific stuff but it is my home and I love it. Although I’ve started singing about Tasmania a lot more recently…

You say yourselves that you’ll play anywhere/anytime. Has this ethos ever resulted in a disastrous show? What is the worst “show” experience you’ve ever had?

Honestly, not really! We’ve played some weird places and we’ve played to some pretty small crowds (incredibly generous to even call it a crowd)… But what’s the worst case scenario, band practice is fun so just take it as band practice!

If you could collaborate with any musician, from any point in time, who would that be and why?

That is an incredibly hard question… A year ago I would have said Hawaiian Islands but then we stole two of their members (xoxo)… I reckon At The Drive-In would be the best band ever to be in… I wouldn’t have to do anything either, just dance around and be in At The Drive-In!

Outside of a whirlwind tour with Bomb The Music Industry, what’s on the cards for The Smith Street Band in 2012?

We have an album in the works we are going to record in May/June this year and release and tour it not long after that, we have a few other tours coming up which will be heaps exciting, trying to go overseas as well (come on Centerlink!)! I’m going to listen to a lot of Milhouse, Luca Brasi, Ben David and the Banned and Foxtrot (shameless plug). I also have a couple of acoustic splits I’m trying to find time to record.

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