INTERVIEW: Stephen Smith

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I sat down with the eponymous Stephen Smith at 4 Walls Festival, right after their performance on the Main Stage.  They were still coming down from a gig that wasn’t quite problem free.  The first thing drummer Josh Iselin tells me is that by the end of the set he still hadn’t fixed his self-lowering drum stool.  Woes aside, it’s not long before we start discussing the bands formation earlier this year.

“I started playing with Sam last year,” Stephen Smith explains, “I think we both felt there were parts in my songs where you could just hear a band.”  But finding the right line-up wasn’t a simple thing.  “We actually had another drummer for most of year…but then we found this guy!” Stephen laughs as he claps Josh on the back.  “When we got the right line-up, we just knew it was working.”

Stephen Smith 3

Photo courtesy of Dean Swindell.

The song-writing in the band is very fluid, with each member contributing to Stephen’s original ideas. “I’ve only been playing for two weeks, and the amount the songs change in that time frame is crazy,” admits Mal Milham, the newest member.  “Stephen gets the skeleton down and then we’ll flesh it out,” explains guitarist Sam Ryan.  “It’s very much Stephen’s songs, but we’ll have our own contributions.”  Stephen affirms though that he’s not one to hold back anyone’s input.  “Other times I won’t even give them parts, I’ll just be like, just play whatever, and I think that’s really important.”

The band completed their EP with local producer Yanto Browning, whom Stephen met during his studies at Queensland University of Technology.  “I just knew that we should work with him, going off some of the bands he’s done, like Art of Sleeping,” comments Stephen. “They are one of my biggest influences.”  The Take Your Time EP was released two weeks ago, with a gig at Black Bear Lodge to celebrate.  Comparing Take Your Time, with Stephen’s solo work, you can definitely hear a fuller sound brought in by the band.

Some of the other band members give me a quick run through of their influences, over the noise of the green room.  Mal is also a fan of Art of Sleeping as well as City And Colour, whilst Stephen cites Stu Larson.  Bridgette tells me about UK artist Rachel Zeffira: “She’s from the UK and she just does really interesting piano work; it’s really inspiring.”

“There’s this band from the UK called This Town Needs Guns,” says Josh. “They’re all very creative musicians but the drummer especially.  He’s very out there with his ideas.”

We share a moment mourning our inability to afford Splendour in the Grass tickets.  “People had to take out a bank loan to, or put a second mortgage on the house,” jokes Josh.  “Something For Kate,” inputs Stephen, “I can’t believe I missed them as well, they’re a massive influence.”

As we all got a little depressed about missing Splendour, Stephen goes on to explain the band’s future and his desire to record another EP.  “We’ve just gotta write some more songs; we have been.  I think we love the writing process the most.” The quiet passion with which Stephen speaks about writing is a sure sign of good thing to come from this group.

You can catch Stephen Smith alongside Wolver at the Bowler Bar on August 15, and at Generate 2013 on August 24 with Hushka and Bandito Folk.  You can keep up with them on Facebook, or rate their songs on Triple J Unearthed.

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