Smith Street Band_More Scared Of You Than You Are Of MeWe shot some questions to The Smith Street Band’s Wil Wagner, ahead of the release of the group’s fourth album More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me.

Did you all expect Death To The Lads to hit it off with the triple j public so hard? The hottest 100 entry was an amazing result.

Not at all! We believed in the song and thought people would like it but none of us expected for it to catch fire the way it did. Love playing it live now as well, people get very into it!

The organ at the end is gorgeous; is it a real one, and if you could have the chance would you play this at the Melbourne Town Hall and use the pipe organ?

Thank you! Yeah it is, we recorded in an amazing studio that had all kinds of organs and synths and other beautiful gear. I was actually walking past the town hall yesterday and thought of how fun it would be to play on that enormous organ!

Jeff Rosenstock’s album WORRY. was one of my favourites from last year – what do you admire about Jeff and his approach to music?

Everything! Jeff’s been my hero since I was about 15, so to be able to call him a friend now is pretty special. His energy and passion for music is infectious and we have different writing styles that complement each other well. He’s a fantastic producer!

One of the major thematic similarities between your own and his outputs is, I think, the acknowledgement of ill mental health and anxiety. Do those themes come out in your music because you are deliberately trying to address them, or is it just chance that the way you find catharsis – through creating music – also brings people who suffer together?

A bit of both. I try and be as natural as possible with my lyrics, if I set out to try to write a certain kind of song it always sounds forced so I try and let the songs write themselves as much as I can. But whenever I write a song that’s about these kind of issues I always try and make it a good song, it’s very important to me to talk about this stuff and I love that it emboldens other people to talk about it too!

In Run Into The World there’s a line that goes “I don’t think it’s cool that you started because it’s what I sing about, I’m learning not to romanticise destroying tissue with self-doubt.” We all know censorship is wrong, but do you have a real worry that bringing something up might trigger a listener into a destructive action?

Yeah, absolutely! I’ll never censor myself because I think that if music isn’t honest it’s a bit of a waste of time. But that means I sing about being self destructive, about my faults and mistakes. I like the fact that I can empower people and maybe voice some of their darker thoughts, but with that comes the responsibility of knowing people could take what I see in all different directions, some of them negative. I’ve sung a lot about partying, about getting f-cked up – when I was younger, ‘cause it’s what I was doing. But I was doing it because I didn’t understand why life felt so hard sometimes. I don’t like the idea of encouraging people to make destructive decisions but everything I’ve said has been true at the time I’ve said it so I have to stand by it.

Did Max the robot (from the Birthdays clip) come from the brain of director Neal Walters? How did Neal come into your world?

It came completely out of his very cool brain! He’s a great person. He’s hard working, passionate and very talented, but also super easy to be around and get along with. We just found each other through mutual friends. We have a similar ethos and work ethic so as soon as we entered one another’s worlds it was a match made in heaven!

Which choir did you use for Shine? Was the song completely tracked before they recorded (I mean, were they listening to the finished song when they sang)?

We got in touch with David Hartney, our guitarist Lee’s brother. He’s a singer and a big part of that world, so he basically assembled the choir for us and we just sent the mix of the song to him and they recorded it! I initially wanted to use a proper gospel choir; I was all excited to fly down to Tennessee or somewhere and go to a few churches and try find one. But the line just before the choir comes in has a big old “f-ck” in it, so we couldn’t convince any religious choirs to come on board.

There are several unusual sounds in It Kills Me To Be Alive. I think there’s lapsteel, synthed strings, and something that could be a euphonium in a bucket. How much time did you spend experimenting with where these sorts of sounds fit across the album?

It’s lapsteel, pedal steel and the Lee [Hartney] doing guitar volume swells. We did heaps of pre-production and then had about a month to record, so we experimented a lot. There’re definitely a lot more interesting sounds and ideas on this album than on our previous work.

Why did you mess with the end of Laughing (Or Pretending To Laugh)? That huge warped sound scared the shit out of me!

Haha, sorry! That version is the first time we ever played the song; it was the end of a long day at our rehearsal studio and I’d just taught everyone the chords. The idea was to just get a version of it down so we wouldn’t forget it and then get stuck into it the next day. But there’s a really nice fragility to this demo version that worked perfectly with the song, so we thought f-ck it, let’s just use that!

And that big crazy glitch noise thing at the end? No one knows what it is or why it happened – like literally none of the people who worked on the album could figure out what it was!

More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me is out April 7 via Pool House Records.

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