UTG TRACK-BY-TRACK: The Smith Street Band – ‘Throw Me In The River’

smith street band

Of recent years, Melbourne, Australia’s The Smith Street Band have evolved from beloved local act, plying their craft in dive bars around Melbourne, to full-fledged international touring folk-punk tour-de-force. One of the key components of this evolution has been vocalist and principle songwriter Will Wagner’s ability to forge a deeply emotional connection with the fan base via his unique and decidedly visual lyrical style. When coupled with his heavily accented but impassioned delivery, Wagner’s lyrics take you on an intimate journey through the many intricate workings of our human existence, evoking emotions of jubilation, despair, anger, defiance, love and everything in between as he documents the reality of a life not just survived, but truly lived on planet Earth.

Wagner’s rare ability is firmly on display on The Smith Street Band’s brilliant, UTG-approved, third full-length, Throw Me In The River, a record which provides stunning insight into the myriad of experiences that has been the band’s life over these past three years. Featuring songs written in places as disparate as Winnipeg, Salt Lake City, Calgary, London, New York and North Melbourne, the record is undoubtedly The Smith Street Band’s finest and most personal collection of songs yet.

In the lead-up to the record’s release, Wagner was kind enough to provide Under The Gun Review with a track-by-track insight into the meaning behind each song on Throw Me In The River.

1. “Something I Can Hold in my Hands”
This is one of the older songs on the record and I’d had the “all I ever needed is something I can hold in my hands” idea for a while. It’s about going out when I was younger and trying to find meaning in getting fucked up with my mates and kind of figuring out how to grow out of that and find meaning in other things. I’ve always wanted to be better with my hands, I’d love to be able to build stuff and fix stuff but I’ve always been clumsy and it’s kind of become a running theme through my life. I can talk about my feelings for hours but wouldn’t know how to screw together a bookcase. It’s also about the first time you hold something you’ve made which is a really special feeling, especially with a record.

2. “Surrender”
This song is about me having shitty habits and watching someone I was dating developing the same shitty habits and feeling shitty about it. I’m pretty sad and anxious most of the time and the worst thing about it is when it affects other people. It’s about trying to break that cycle and start feeling better. Another thing about being bummed out is not really wanting to party and trying to avoid getting too fucked up, and sometimes at shows people want to get drunk with me but I just want to sit down quietly by myself and I hope they don’t think I’m a jerk.

3. “Surrey Dive”
“Surrey Dive” is a shitty man-made lake in the shadows of an abandoned factory across the road from the street I grew up on. I wrote this song after going to my parents’ house and being reminded of the relative safety of the suburbs. It’s also about being yelled at and hit by people I’ve never met at shows and just generally feeling unsafe and unwelcome in places that used to feel like home.

4. “Calgary Girls”
This is a breakup song; the lyrics are all pretty obvious. It’s about feeling like nothing will ever be okay again unless you get back with the person you broke up with and sooking about it in Canada. The start bit about the actual Calgary girls is about playing on support tours when all the audience is thinking is “I wish you would fuck off,” and trying to win them over. Sometimes you feel like it went down okay and sometimes not so much. This is more about the times it doesn’t go well.

5. “East London Summer”
I wrote this song over a few walks on a really long US tour we did that went absolutely all over the place, it’s a pretty self explanatory tour song about being inspired by different places and people I never thought I’d be able see or meet. It’s also about this really desperate feeling I get when there’s someone back home that I want to see and know it’ll be a few weeks or months until I see them again.

6. “The Arrogance of the Drunk Pedestrian”
This is about feeling really uncomfortable being around sleazy guys and wanting to protect the person I was seeing at the time from that kind of nasty bullshit but also realising that the person I was seeing didn’t like me. One of the most sickening things I’ve witnessed is girls getting grabbed on by guys at shows, music is supposed to be a safe environment and an escape from the cruelty of others and I hate when people bring that fucking disgusting attitude to shows. I’ve had quite a few girls come up to me and say that dudes in the crowd grabbed on them while I was playing and it’s the most horrible feeling, it’s about the only thing that ever makes me want to quit music, I always feel so responsible and like I should be creating an environment where you just know that’s unacceptable. It’s all kind of a big metaphor for looking at something you really love, be it going to shows or a partner and losing it through what feels like no fault of your own.

7. “Get High, See No One”
Another song about missing people. This one is more specifically about being on tour in Perth while the person I was seeing was in Melbourne and then vice versa. It’s frustrating sometimes spending such little time at home. I’ll be home for a week and everyone’s at work and then my girlfriend has university and then I have to leave again and I don’t get to see anyone for another few months. But this time was even worse, I think we actually passed each other in the air when we swapped cities.

8. “I Don’t Want To Die Anymore”
This song is about how I don’t want to die anymore.

9. “It’s Alright, I Understand”
I wrote this song walking around San Francisco the first time we went to America and being overwhelmed and lonely but also just kind of marvelling in the sprawling chaos of everything. It’s easy to feel small and insignificant in big foreign cities which is equal parts terrifying and liberating I think. It’s also about how despite how hard and dejecting touring can be it’s still the only job I’ll ever have!

10. “Throw Me In The River”
This is about a breakup I went through basically as we left for an overseas tour and getting off the plane on the other side of the world wanting to just go home again and fix my life. It’s always the way that leading to the demise of a relationship you only notice the things that annoy or upset you about the other person and as soon as they’re gone all you remember is the great things you did together and how you used to feel. This is all compounded because no matter how badly I want to see someone or to sort out that relationship it was months ‘til I was home again and it’s easy to feel helpless.

11. “I Love Life”
Last year we did a 90-something date tour of Australia, Europe, America and Canada that culminated in us playing Meredith for the first time. It was the best welcome home present, not only to play a festival we’d all dreamed of playing forever but to get back home and immediately be involved in something that is so Australian (in a really great way) was just perfect. I really enjoyed yelling the “Am I enough, am I trying too much?” lines in the chorus; those two questions are never far from the forefront of my mind and it was so satisfying to just yell those insecurities over gang vocals and like 20 guitar tracks.

Throw Me In The River was released in the USA/Canada on October 28 via SideOneDummy Records and will be available October 31 in Australia, via Poison City Records.

The album is currently streaming in its entirety here and pre-order packages are available via the band’s website.

The Smith Street Band will be touring throughout Australia in support of the release in November. Tickets and other details can be found here.

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