Music / Features
Track by Track:
Smarts - Who Needs Smarts, Anyway?
Words by Dom Moore
Monday 26th October, 2020
Following the release of Who Needs Smarts, Anyway? earlier this month, we caught up with burgeoning super-quartet Smarts to dig into each moment of mayhem that makes up their idiosyncratic debut LP.
Genre buzz words can be dubious at the best of times. Catchy syntax and memorable phrases, by their very nature, can sometimes fail to encapsulate how a band actually sounds, and at best they provide a subjective view. The seemingly opaque idea of ‘Egg Punk’, despite the buzz, is one worth delving into (try here or try here). It seems like the almost inevitable, goofy (bordering on satirical) aesthetic and sonic expansion of punk when written and performed by precociously talented artists who are acutely aware that music doesn’t exist in a vacuum. To say Smarts are “Egg Punks” per se would be inaccurate, and something of a disservice to the complexity of the sound they manufacture. They no doubt borrow from the modus operandi, but they’ve managed to construct something that’s kind of beyond a genre tag, which is an enviable feat.

Who Needs Smarts, Anyway? is idiosyncratic, infused with a guttural energy that mutates with every visceral fuzz hook, time change or intersecting melody. The riffs get almost absurd at times (in the best possible way - ‘Smart Phone’ is a personal favourite) but never cheesy or insincere. The melodies are catchy but still complex, and serve to somehow stick the whole thing together. There’s a considerable amount of musical nous behind Smarts, which features members from some of Victoria’s most prominent underground artists (Parsnip, The Living Eyes, Wet Blankets, Hierophants, Alien Nosejob). This comes through in the astonishing technicality and wide breadth of instrumentation evident on the record. It’s refreshing to hear saxophone, an assortment of synths and percussive instruments sit comfortably and tastefully alongside the usual suspects.

Who Needs Smarts, Anyway? is something like a 13 track mini opus that dips and spins in and out of a plethora of intersecting themes and musical tropes, whilst never losing its indefatigable momentum. No amount of adjectives can really capture the genius of Smarts, so we had the band unravel the chaos for us.
Attention Span

Mitch (guitar): This is my favourite one, instantly loved this riff when Bill showed it to me.
Billy (bass): Perfect example of a very boring demo that turned into a cool song at practice. Originally it was just a verse and chorus, and the “xylophone” line (which is actually just Sally playing keys) was on guitar, and the drums were 4/4 all the way through.

Cling Wrap

Billy: This main riff, I found in my phone memos and I didn’t remember making it. Love it when that works out for the best. Initially the solo was a chorus idea - would have had vocals over it etc. Works way better as a solo!

Golden Arches

Billy: I always found Ronald McDonald a bit creepy. That constant smile and enormous arm that wraps around the whole seat that kids sit on and get pictures with at Maccas. This one’s ‘bout Ron.
Mitch: I agree, Ron is weird.

Smart Phone

Billy: A Mitch riff from very early on two-piece days – a rough drums ‘n bass demo was made the same day as ‘Thinking Out Loud’, then both were left to sit in the dark for a solid year till we jammed with Jake and Sally.
Mitch: This was one where the drums were made first, then the bass riff came second. The slower tempo perhaps sits well on the album.

Cause For Alarm

Jake (drums): I've been sitting on this song with no vocals since around 2015, because I loathe writing lyrics. It was originally written for No Limit and jammed once or twice. I couldn't come up with words, so one day when I was driving home from Morrabin, I put the song on repeat, turned on my voice recorder and I recorded my voice yelling random syllables over and over again. At one point on the drive I yelled something that resembled the current lyrics of the song. Probably subconsciously the theme has something to do with the NYHC band 'Cause For Alarm'.
Billy: Sax hoons on this one!

Don’t Slap The Hand That Feeds You

Mitch: We were listening to Dr. Feelgood one night and the next day this song was made, very silly song.
Jake: I've frequently bitten the hand, but I've honestly never slapped it.
Billy: I don’t really know where slap came from - but I’m glad we went with it! Sax really brightened this one up - we all laughed very hard when we first listened back - too good.
Stella (sax): Sounds like baseball, I like baseball.

Smart World

Billy: Rewrote the words to this one since we did the demo and created a longer intro in this version. Record needs that breather.


Billy: The last song we made for the album - one that I sat on lyrics for for quite a while. It ended up being about how you shouldn’t necessarily think something just because others might - a “be yourself” kind of vibe. Accidentally ripped off R.M.F.C’s ‘The Clue’ in the chorus - so we asked Buz to play tambourine over it - mark his territory. Thanks Buz!

Smart Man

Billy: Smarts’ first song. We all know that guy that likes to think he’s a wiz.

Smart Theme

Billy: I still can’t play the goddamn bassline in this song and it still haunts me. This one was meant to be “krautrock” based at first - dunno where that went.

Real Estate Agent

Billy: I think lyrically, this is my favourite song - another one where the demo was absolutely appalling. It’s a funny one to listen back to. Love the Germs drum fill at the end.
Mitch: Another favourite. As this song progressed it just seemed to get faster and faster.

Time On Time

Jake: I was hell stoked when I came up with this riff. About a month later I realised it was a sped up version of Dogs - ‘Slash Your Face’ on KBD 1, that I had listened to approximately 5000 times. Billy and I tried to replicate the 'Drop It Like It's Hot' mouth clicks in this song. I wish we had a video of us recording these noises.

Thinking Out Loud

Mitch: Another piss-take. People usually laugh when we play it live. It’s a perfect Smarts song.
Billy: Maybe the stupidest riffs on the album. They’re all pretty dumb but this song is full of ‘em. And the lyrics! Sheesh. I like the breakdown and the short little keyboard dub Mitch did when the drums come in there. If you’re listening on record - you’re about to hit the album’s climax… the locked groove!

Who Needs Smarts, Anyway? is out now through Anti Fade Records - head to to purchase the album on limited vinyl.