Though you may not yet have heard of The Smith Street Band, the Australian quartet recently released what is, without a shadow of a doubt, their magnum opus, in the form of the Jeff Rosenstock-produced More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me. Spanning twelve songs, the record describes a tumultuous relationship from which frontman Wil Wagner recently extricated himself after realizing how damaging it had become.
“It tracks that relationship from the very start through all of the peaks and troughs — mainly troughs — and then we break up towards the end of the record,” Wagner told me over a Skype call after we were able to organize ourselves around the nearly twelve-hour time difference. “Then the last song on the record is me meeting someone new. I actually had been writing all of these songs as these things were happening. So another cool thing about the tracklist on the record is that it’s basically the order that I wrote the songs in, which I really like.”
The record’s title is taken from “Passiona,” its fifth track that sees Wagner viewing his relationship from an external perspective. It’s also a reference to the way that his physical appearance might lead people to believe that, should there be an abusive member of the couple, it would certainly be him, when in fact the exact opposite was true.
“People say that about sharks and bears and snakes, something like, ‘Well, they will attack you, but they’re more scared of you than you are of them…'” he explained. “I may seem like an intimidating person, but often times I’m infinitely more scared of people than they are of me.”
Despite the fresh wounds left by his ex-partner, Wagner speaks casually about this time of his life, and is very forthcoming with the details of a less-than-ideal situation that allowed him to craft The Smith Street Band’s masterpiece. “I really enjoyed the whole process of making this record,” he said. “There were some really cathartic moments and some really therapeutic moments and some moments of joy and feelings of accomplishment. It was really a beautiful process and something that I didn’t even quite realize how much I needed to do until a month ago when we got the masters back and I was like, ‘F**k, I was in a bad place! I really needed to get this stuff out.’ In hindsight especially, I realize how important this was for me.”
To help familiarize people with More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me, we asked Wagner to run through key lines from the record’s tracklist and discuss the their stories and inspirations.