WIL TO SUCCEED
The candid frontman of The Smith Street Band freely draws on his personal tribulations as a source of inspiration for his punk-rock creativity
IF you’re not familiar with The Smith Street Band, you need to be. Fronted by Wil Wagner, their songs are full of emotional truths, dark confessions and painful experiences presented in a way that is both relatable and uplifting – and you know what they say, a burden shared is a burden halved.
But with garage punk vibes and a strong, harsh Australian accent throughout every song, Wil admits they’re not everyone’s cup of tea.
“I feel like people either don’t get us at all or they have every album, and talking to people who really do ‘get’ the band feels very special,” he says.
“I can talk to someone for 10 seconds and it feels like we may as well have gone to high school together.
“You can pick up conversations with strangers so easily. It’s tough but it’s worth it.”
The reason it’s tough is because Wil’s songs are so personal and every show the band plays is an act of vulnerability.
“It is emotionally draining to play a show but it’s also the most incredible thing ever,” he says.
“There are times when we’re on tour overseas and we’re playing to eight people in Nashville, I’m like ‘yeah, I wish I didn’t have to tell these eight people about the five worst things that have ever happened to me’.
“So it can be tough but the rewards I’ve gotten out of it outweigh any negatives tenfold.”
Never shy about his battle with mental health and tough times, now that the band is such a success there’s a risk the musical inspiration could dry up.
But Wil doesn’t believe he’ll ever be totally OK.
“There is a slightly frustrating thing in me that says ‘come on, I’ve got everything I’ve ever wanted, why am I still such a miserable bastard?’,” he says with a laugh.
“I used to really buy into that tortured artist thing but now I’ve grown out of it a bit.
“Now I really try to go out there and find songs in happy things, mundane things, simple things.
“I have been working on new stuff lately that’s really positive and upbeat but because of the way the chemicals work in my brain, I’ll probably always have weeks where I’m not feeling so good, unfortunately.
“But you know I’d rather be happy and writing less good records than miserable and writing awesome records.”
Currently, Wil and The Smith Street Band are on tour, playing sold-out shows across Australia, but once the tour is done it’ll be into his home/ recording studio in the sticks where he can record new music essentially 24/7.
“We’re in the slow process of building a recording studio on this property we got about an hour and a bit outside of Melbourne,” he says.
“With me living here I can basically walk in and turn on a computer and record at an album-level quality at really any time of the day.
“That’ll be amazing for me because I write a lot and have lots of ideas. I can now really use that inspiration when it strikes and in 30 seconds be recording. So I think with that we’ll have a lot more music and a lot more albums in the future.”
The Smith Street Band play at the Coolangatta Hotel this Saturday. Go to oztix.com.au
Catch Aussie punk outfit The Smith Street Band at the Coolangatta Hotel on Saturday.