Ihr neues Album „Throw Me in the River“ hat The Smith Street Band endgültig in die deutsche Musik-Presselandschaft befördert. Wir trafen ihren Frontmann Wil Wagner vor der Veröffentlichung zu einem kleinen Gespräch im kuscheligen Hinterhof des Cassopeias, wo am Abend der zweite Deutschland-Gig Ihrer Europa-Tour mit The Menzingers und The Holy Mess stattfand und Wil uns Rede und Antwort stand. Zu lesen nun hier im Folgenden:
LT: What’s the story behind the title of the new album “Throw me in the river“?
Wil: „Throw me in the River“ is a song on the album and it’s about a relationship breakup. That is quite a desperate emotion to trying to put across. „Throw me in the River“ could be positive could be negative. It’s like the feeling when you just really really want something to happen or something to change and you just get cold water in your face so you get that kind of thing like big black changing moment where you realize something or suddenly something goes off in your brain and you go: „oh that’s how it’s supposed to be“, that sort of one. But I guess what it’s trying to be. But also it is like the life we lead on being on tour all the time and sometimes you do just get like thrown into the river and you sort of have to float along and see what happens. It`s about a lot of things. But I like that it’s a bit vague so people can take it as happy thing, or take it as a sad thing, (you know) or take for what they think it means.
LT: Themewise, does “Surrender“ link to an album concept, or are there various themes?
Wil: There are various themes. A few (…) I guess, it’s sort with all of my stuff there is like loss runs through everything. Losing people, missing people, being away from places and trying to find a sense of home, and I guess yes, “Surrender” is sort of about just like watching your girlfriend… I have bad habits and things that I do that I wish didn’t and I’m sure everyone does. Watching my girlfriend take on those things and start the shittier sides of my personality and I start seeing them in her (…) I felt very guilty about that.
And it’s also like doing this again. Like so many people think that you’re drunk all the time and come up and are like “Come and get fuckin drunk with me!”. (laugs) And I’m like „No, it’s like a Tuesday or so (…) I can’t. I have to play 30 shows in a row after today.“ (…) It’s about you don’t have to give up do what you wanna do and have to give in to drinking every night and don’t have to (…) if someone is doing something you don’t like you don’t have to join in and do the same thing. You don’t have to surrender. It’s about lot of different things too.
LT: On „No One Gets Lost Anymore“, the acoustic song „My Little Sinking Ship“ shows a very personal and intimate side of your music. Are there any acoustic songs on the new album?
Wil: There’s not fully acoustic like that, but there’s two songs that are definitely slower and more personal. There is a song called „Calgary Girls“ (…) that’s a song about a breakup again, but that’s very specific and personal and quite hard to play I guess. It still upsets me a bit playing that song and „Throw Me in the River“ is the same. „Throw Me in the River“ is very quiet than very loud and very quiet. But that’s again very like the person knows that song is about her (and) knows what every line means. Very very personal to me and very honest. A lot more songs of the new album I tried to be more honest and some of the songs some of the lines I don’t wanna tell people that about myself. But they are often the ones that people relate to so it’s a few lines I still think „Aw fuck. Why did I say that?“ but I am glad that they are on there.
LT: But people find personal stories in that lines…
Wil: Yeah totally, because everyone goes through the same thing. Everyone gets broken up with and everyone has no money and everyone gets too drunk or whatever. If you trying to write these big songs about everyone all the time and „everyone does this…“ you just end of writing like kind of nothing. If you write things very specific more people will be like „oh yeah that exact thing is happening to me or that reminds me of this happening“.
LT: Will there be another Wil Wagner album in the near future?
Wil: Yeah, I’ve got 7 or 8 songs recorded, that I did with Jeff Rosenstock ,who produced our record, when we had a day off in New York, and its done, its ready. It’s just like our new album comes out on 4 different labels around the world and there’s always things happening. So it’s kind of hard to find the time to put it out or even I have to do the cover art and that kind of stuff. I am so busy with Smith Street stuff at the moment. I think what I do with it I’ll just sometime in the next month or so I just put in online for free. I am not saying anything but „Here you go, this is the new solo thing. Enjoy it!“ It will come out soon. It’s done. I’ve just to finish things.
LT: Can you imagine to have guest musicians on a record? Who would you like to work with?
Wil: Jeff Rosenstock would have been my number one until now and he plays on the new record and he is in the band „Bomb The Music Industry“ who I fucking adore. He is like my guy. (…) We are all good friends with him now and he did lots of stuff on the record. He plays his little guitar on our record and we all just stare and sit while he was doing this with a big smile on our face. We are such good friends but still every now and then it’s like „Oh my god its Jeff Rosenstock“. Sometimes he sings something and I „oh that’s right, that’s the guy who I love“, he was great. Bruce Springsteen I’d like to do something with. I’d like to be in the same room with, I don’t care (laughs). There are lots of people, I like to do stuff with some hip-hop people maybe. I have done a song with a rapper in Australia, where I sing and he raps. Guy called Joelistics. It’s on his new album “Blue Volume” which is really really good and I really like to do more that stuff. Me and him were being talking about maybe doing an EP together, where he raps and I sing verses and do kind of different things. I listen to lots of hip hop.
LT: Hiltop Hoods?
Wil: No. No. No. No… Wait… Yes this an interview, I love Hilltop Hoods. (laughs) There is lots of good stuff in Australia. I really like in hip hop that it’s just like lyrics lyrics lyrics and so many ideas. I think it’s so clever and a lot of my songs start as hip hop Songs in my head. So I like to try a bit of that stuff.
Wil: No. We played crazier. We played in a drain, like a storm drain where water runs of when it rains. It’s in a big cement thing where if it rains we have to pack up and run away because a big wave would come. We toured in china which was fucking incredible and I still think my favorite show that we’ve ever played was somewhere in China we played in a university. (…) It was this big room, big lecture room where normally the professor stands and we played in there and we drove to the place and got there and there was like a 100 people all lined up, like school kids, standing next to their partner all holding big signs that said like “I love Smith Street Band” and stuff but like had never heard of us it was like the school told them to do it. And we all pulled up in this shitty little van where we were sitting on the floor with gear on top of us. Just like two driver seats and “the back” where amps are falling on you and stuff and the four us fall out of this van and just a 100 people start screaming and going crazy, it was like “Oh my god, Smith Street Band like Green Day” and we “Yeah, totally, exactly like Green Day” and then yes we did that and then the venue half way through the set all the electricity went out, like everything pitch black, just bang, whole university just pitch black. And everything slowly starts coming back on and I was like “the show has to stop. What the fuck we’re gonna do?“ So I grabbed an acoustic guitar of the first band and started walking up and down through all the seats just playing “Young Drunk”. It was one of the first times I’ve played it I think. I just walked up and down through the seats playing this song and I still get tingles as I’m thinking about it. It was the weirdest fucking thing. All this students were standing, they threw balloons and clapped. It was so exciting for everyone. That was probably my favorite and weirdest show we’ve ever played.
LT: As far as we know, this is your third time in Europe, where you already played amazing shows as a support act. Will there be a headline-tour in the near future?
Wil: Yeah, we’re trying to come back again in the middle of next year. We’re touring Australia in February then America in March. So probably after that, April/May and think there will be some support shows, we’re gonna come and try to do like 50/60 shows. We wanna play in Sweden and Norway, there’s a bunch of places that we’ve never played before that we’re gonna get to. We haven’t played in Ireland yet, haven’t played in Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal we wanna try to fucking tour Europe. So that will be a lot of the headline stuff and some other little tours we’re doing in the middle of that. But yeah, we’ll try…
LT: Germany, like Australia, is very famous when it comes to music festivals. Are you going to play any German festivals next summer?
Wil: We’d love to. Any festivals that will have us on, anywhere in Europe we’re trying to do. We did Groezrock and that was like best thing I’ve ever done. That was so fun. That was insane. I walked out on stage and just said “nope, that’s too many people” (laughs). That was really really beautiful. We’re gonna try like Leeds and Reading. I don’t know much about the German Festivals, but we will try to do more. I’d love to come over here and play a proper summer tour. We always come here this time at year on the way on Fest or on the way back from Fest. So I like to come and do a summer time European tour. We’ll do fucking anything, we play in Uzbekistan as you get us a show (laughs).
LT: We’re doing this interview for a website called „Lieblingstape.de“. In English that means „Favorite Mix-tape“. Which songs would make your Lieblingstape?
Wil: Oh, this is good. I’ve been doing some for my girlfriend back home, little Spotify mixes which is none at all near as nice as a mixtape. Oh shit, favourite song for mix tapes First song would be “Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen because it has to be and “Measure the Globe” by Astronautalis, beautiful song. What else? “Covered in Chrome” by Violent Soho, band from Australia, which everyone should check out. Probably put “Party Smashers” by The Bennies which is another great band from Australia and the song is called “Party Smashers” which is a pretty great name for a song. “The Quark” by Hard Girls, actually that have to be first. They are a band from America and their song is just like the coolest intro just “dedededede” it starts and then first line just goes “space” and then the song kicks in probably and it’s like the best opening to a record ever. It’s really quiet for a bit and then someone just yells “space”. That probably has to be number one if I think about it. I would put “Coffee” by Aesop Rock and John Darnielle, which is John Darnielle from „The Mountain Goats“ and that’s a song with a rapper and then a singer at the end and they kind of swop parts and do different things and that song first inspired me to think that maybe I could do something with a rapper. So that song means a lot to me. I don’t know, there are so many songs. I know as soon as you are gone that I forgot a million of them.
LT: If there was an All-Australian mix-tape, which bands would the smith street band choose?
Wil: Luca Brasi, any song of the new album, Violent Soho “Covered in Chrome”, (The) Bennies “Party Smashers”, any Georgia Maq-Song, she is awesome. Who else? Postblue, Apart From This, White Walls. Again, any song of any of those bands. I’m so bad at knowing song names. (They are) all good bands. Lincoln LaFevre, his cover of “Kinetic” by Osker is one my favorite things ever and then Paul Kelly who is like the Australian Bob Dylan. (…) He’s like an Australian icon. “Leaps and Bounds” by Paul Kelly I would put on. It’s a song about Melbourne, it’s beautiful.
LT: What’s the tour life like? Do you spend most time in the van or are you able to visit places?
Wil: Nope. (laughs) We are seeing places like this, we see car parks and we see backstage rooms and we see the van.
LT: So this is your image of Germany?
Wil: This is what Germany is like to me. Ah Germany, that’s the one with the whole crates. (laughs). We do every now and then but so much of the time it’s like we got to the venue, emptied the van and sound checked, then I’ve done an hour of interviews and when this is done „Holy Mess“ start and I warm up and then we’re on and then I’m all sweaty and gross and I don’t wanna do anything. So a lot of the time you don’t get to see stuff. But whenever we have short drives or most of the time we’re driving between 4 and 6 hours a day, and the first few shows you do see stuff and then every day you get out of bed half an hour later and the van leaves half an hour later, you get to the show half an hour later and then later and then later until it gets to the point where you get into show and you’re supposed to start sound checking so you can sleep in until 9am. A lot of the time tourism comes second to sleep but tomorrow we have day off in Berlin. We’re gonna go to Spree Park, Ramones Museum and a couple other things to do. But that’s our day off so we’ll try to do everything possible in Berlin which is cool. I’m glad we’re get to hang out here.
LT: Is this your first time in Berlin?
Wil: First time ever in Berlin. 19th show in Germany I think but never played in Berlin before.
LT: But you have played Bremen
Wil: Yeah, that’s ridiculous. We’ve played Bielefeld twice (laughs). Never Berlin.
LT: You know there is a joke about Bielefeld…
Wil: …that it doesn’t exist, I know. I wrote a song. Someone said that it was Germany’s first internet joke someone described it. So I wrote a song “Germany’s first internet joke”.
LT: You went on a huge US-Tour with Mr. Frank Turner. How did that happen?
Wil: Someone gave Frank our first album and we did shows in Australia (together), we just became friends. Me and him get on really well. He’s a really nice dude and we’ve became friends couple of years ago. He asked us if we wanna do that tour and we did because it’s amazing. It was amazing because we played 42 shows in America and Canada. The whole tour all together was like 87 shows with Australia and Europe as well. It was just the best. He is so good to us and other bands like us to take us on those kinds of tours. He’s amazing. (…)
LT: What’s after the tour? Are you continuing to promote the album or can you spend some time down under and relax?
Wil: Nope. (laughs) We go from here to America and we’re doing The Fest and few shows with Restorations, little east coast tour and then we go home for 3 days and then we do two and half weeks around Australia with Front Bottoms and Apologies, I Have None, which is our album-launch-tour with two bands supporting which is gonna be amazing and then we have a few weeks off and then we do some stuff over new year’s eve and then February we’re touring Australia again, March we are touring America, April, May and June it looks like we will be here and then we’ll go home to tour Australia in August, trying to get back to America for Fest in October and try to put out another release at some point next year. That’s the plan.
LT: Is it going to be an EP?
Wil: I think yes. That’s what we are trying to do like with “Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams” recorded live in three days while the album took like six and a half weeks. So I think we’re trying to do like album one year, like 5-song-ep that’s live the next year. Album, EP, Album, EP, so we can put out something every year but I don’t know. Who knows? We just gonna keep doing everything what people ask us to do until people stop asking us to do stuff (laughs).
Allright. Thank you very much.
Das Interview führte Oliver Stock.
Fotos: Jan Schipper