Sly Withers are a new punk band from Perth, making the rounds on Triple J Unearthed. Comprised of dual frontmen Sam and Jono, bass-player Shea and drummer Joel, they have tapped into the emotional and heartfelt side of punk that defines the Australian scene. Drawing influences from the American Midwest emo/Philly punk/indie rock scene, the group aims to use Sly Withers as a platform to challenge standards and behaviours in the punk world. The young and ambitious band are challenging the idea of a boys club advocating for inclusivity, positivity and individualism at shows. Their previous singles 'Pleb' winner of the Unearthed NIDA competition, and 'Closer' show a depth beyond their years.
Their latest single, ‘Sad Guy’, sees the band moving beyond their suburban Perth upbringing and engaging with themes of the broader world. It is their most emotionally charged track to date, but that what gives it its kick. The softer introduction has the band begin this sad tale of heartbreak, before the heavy drums and overdriven guitars jump in to match the intensity. It is simple but powerful, playing on relatable feelings and catchy lyrics. The music video has the band rising from the raw end of a bender to a trashed house, metaphoric of the messy relationship in the lyrics. There is one particular shot of the band staring at a fridge, empty except for an egg, tomato sauce and half-drunk ice coffee, that is all too real.
We reached out to Sly Withers for a few comments on the new track and accompanying video.
BYO: Tell me a bit about how the track was made. What were some of your influences? Who wrote the lyrics? How did it all come together?
Jono: This was one of the only songs I have ever written where I had most of the lyrics down before I picked up a guitar. I don’t really remember writing the intro guitar line but I think it was a happy accident that somehow worked with the story I wanted to get across. Shea and I recorded a dodgy demo of the track in his garage before we jammed it with everyone, after that the band sort of added the pop punk flavour to what was previously a slow finger picky sad song.
BYO: What are the ideas and themes of the track?
Jono: This track mainly deals with ideas like personal growth, taking accountability for my role in the breakdown of a relationship and realising the world/life is a whole lot bigger than my suburban Perth upbringing.
BYO: Was this provoked by any personal experiences or observations?
Jono: The song was written at the end of a long term relationship, after which I’d spent two months backpacking through south east Asia. This first experience of being totally independent in a foreign culture was a pretty big cliché eye opening experience for me after growing up in Perth. I wrote the first draft lyrics sitting in a small café in Laos after a fairly serious motorcycle accident. The song came about as a reflection on the relationship, how our tendencies to view the end of relationships when we’re young as make or break moments in our lives and the realisation that my former partner and I were just kids and had so much to learn.
BYO: Why do you think inclusivity is such a pressing issue in the punk scene specifically?
Sam: Inclusivity is a huge thing for the punk community because punk has always been about taking the misfits, the people who don’t feel like they belong, and giving them a safe and welcoming space to be themselves. I think the punk scene is also an important voice of opposition to a bunch of injustices that are present throughout our society at the moment in areas including (but not limited to) race, gender, sexuality. Punk’s roots as a protest art form naturally leads it to being a platform for people to call shit out and try to bring about change. We have some great role models in the Australian scene who really lead by example in terms of pursuing greater inclusivity in music like Camp Cope and Luca Brasi who we really look up to in terms of how they push inclusivity with the platform that they have.
When it comes to inclusivity in the crowd at shows, there’s this attitude a lot of people have towards punk shows where it’s all about getting sweaty and pushing and shoving in the mosh while this loud, powerful music is playing. A lot of people don’t even realise how much of a negative impact they may be having on those around them who don’t necessarily want to be shoved around and spend the whole show trying to focus on being able to stand without getting knocked over. For us, we want to make sure everyone who wants to see a show can enjoy that show without having to worry about anyone ruining it for them in any way and we feel like we (and the punk scene as a whole) have a responsibility to create an environment where everyone can enjoy themselves.
BYO: Tell me a bit about the music video. Where was it filmed? What was the original vision and how did you go about producing this in the video?
Sam: The idea for the clip came from the video for ‘Motivation Proclamation’ by Good Charlotte where the band all wake up one morning looking pretty dusty and head straight for their gear and start playing some sweet 2000s emo goodness. They were a band we all grew up listening to and that kind vibe is a big influence for us, which is something we like to wear on our sleeves. We enlisted the help of our incredibly talented buddy Tim Elphick to make the clip a reality. We convinced our drummer Joel to let us throw a big party at his place the night before the video shoot to get that real trashed house, post party vibe. Also ‘cause parties are hell fun. The clean-up was real rough though. We’re all still finding those little bean bag balls in our shoes/guitars/amps.
BYO: What’s the one thing people should take away from this track?
Jono: If this song can help someone find a silver lining in whatever tough time they’re going through I’d be happy.
BYO: With the release of ‘Sad Guy’, what are some of the immediate goals of Sly Withers?
Sam: We’re pretty keen to get a couple more laps of the country under our belt. We haven’t played Brisbane or Adelaide yet which we are itching to finally do. The live show is a really important part of Sly Withers so the more people we get to play for the better.