EP Walkthrough: Perth's smol fish break down their captivating debut EP, sooky la la
Soundtracking the band's last three years, smol fish's debut EP is a stark introduction to a band that one day will be everywhere.
If you're a regular around Perth live music haunts, there's a strong chance you've bumped into smol fish at some point over the last year. Since forming at Rock Scholars (a West Australian music school that educates and fosters young musicians) in 2018, the four-piece have blossomed into an exciting addition to West Australia's musical next generation, creating this lo-fi and hazy take on indie-pop that's become one of the state's most in-demand since putting out their debut single Cry All The Time in 2020.
Since then, smol fish have swum their way to win after win after win. On the live stage, they've played alongside heavyweights including Spacey Jane, Noah Dillon, Demon Days (RIP) and Jack Davies, while in recording, everything they've released following their debut has been better than the last. Take this March's Sad Girl Summer as an obvious example, as well as their third single Like A Lemon in June, a song "capturing the indie-pop tidings of the band's sound as they mash their brightness together with more reflective and inward-looking lyricism," as we said with its release.
Over the last year, it's become more than apparent that smol fish are mainstays to-be in Perth; every move they make solidifying their presence that little bit more. It's something continued with the release of their debut EP sooky la la too, a six-strong collection of tracks that depending on your knowledge of the band already, can be a reminder of their strengths as they open a new chapter of their careers, or for conversely for those unacquainted, sooky la la is an introduction to a band that you'll see be infatuated with, a band you'll quickly fall in love with.
Released last Friday, sooky la la is an encapsulation of smol fish's journey thus far, capturing their continued sense of evolution ever since forming three years back. "The songs we’re releasing on the EP have been in our live set for quite a while and signify a time when we came together, to form the band smol fish," says their lead singer, Clancy. The EP highlights everything the band have strived for since forming, from their intimate and inwards-facing lyricism, right through to the woozy and slightly off-kilter indie-pop that they use to bring that songwriting to life.
"Looking back over the lyrics I think they really encapsulate my awkward, ‘who the hell am I’ and ‘why can’t I function like everyone else’ feelings and anxieties," Clancy continues, establishing a common thread between many of the EP's tracks. "I often hear myself describing them as my musical journal but it really does feel appropriate, I’ve never been able to keep a real journal so it's nice that I have this little record of my feelings towards situations and relationships."
The end result is an EP full of potent and comforting moments, ones that make you feel visible and seen in the same way as many of the project's key influences," as Clancy explains: "I was listening to a lot Stella Donnelly, Frankie Cosmos, Marlon Williams, Big Theif, Laura Marling and Julia Jacklin. I definitely took heaps of inspiration from these artists, I think particularly in the way they have a very tell it like it is approach to lyrics. I also love the way these artists write songs that at a first listen appear to be one thing but your understanding of their songs evolved as you listen deeper and deeper. I like to take big concepts like ‘love’ for example and really zoom in on a tiny aspect or zoom in on little moments from my day and romanticise the heck out of them."
Everyone in Perth knows that smol fish is next up, but now, sooky la la may just prove that to the rest of the country too. Take a listen to the EP below, and dive into a track by track walkthrough of the release underneath:
This is a classic low self-esteem, self-indulgent ditty. It took a while for me to show this one to the band as I knew it was written more as a tool to work through my own low feelings but also the little suspicions that people who loved me actually hated me and were sick of me. Looking back on these lyrics I can see that I was projecting and kind of catastrophizing. (How good is self-reflection!?)
Despite it taking a while to bring to the band, it was a song that was written with multiple parts in mind. The chord in the verse stays the same over the alternating bass notes and the hits that signify the rhythm section coming in. I had ideas about how I wanted the full song to sound but they never really lived up to the ideas the rest of the band came up with. I particularly love the melodicism in Hannahs bass lines - the chorus is a great example of this! Jack Seah, our sound engineer, also really was responsible for bringing this one to life with his incredible sonic capabilities. The outro is all his handiwork!
Sad Girl Summer
For many people, summer is for partying and being hot. For me, this is not the case. Summer is for sadness and social anxiety. The summer of 2020 really started off with a friend not allowing me to their party because I did not fit into the “curated vibe.” As you might imagine this caused a lot of self-doubt (and pity) setting the tone for a sad girl summer.
It's dedicated to those of us who feel a bit lame sometimes, it’s sincere and silly in equal measures. But above all this song is dedicated to my Honda Jazz.
Like A Lemon
The song is about the thoughts on loop in the week of my 20th birthday. I’d just gotten home from New York and learned that not everyone is nice but ultimately it’s their issue not mine (sorry that you’re, so damn sour). I also kept saying 'it’s my birthday' to my partner and family so they would do nice things and they were like... it’s literally not your birthday. It doesn’t last a whole week, turning 20 is lame.
Having just been to the Brooklyn Museum, I was thinking a lot about the universe and realised how I felt this awe and connection with the stars and the moon. The idea that everything was created by the Big Bang seemed super romantic to me and it felt cute that an exploding star had created me and all my friends and our world.
Not super sure what this is actually about. I think I literally wrote the lyrics after I had fallen asleep and was rudely awoken by my phone, on full volume, ringing right next to my head. So kind of written in that confusing hazy, just woken up from a nap at an inappropriate time of day feeling. The bridge however, is pretty obvious, it's just an example of a conversation with my sister and realising that I was being totally unreasonable. Sister put on a murder mystery and fall asleep at the TV is another nap reference, possibly how I fell asleep in the first place before the phone went off. Oh, and there’s definitely some social anxiety feelings peppered in there.
This song is a rebellion against my music education and really the thing that allowed me to start writing music that I knew my lecturers would hate. It’s very silly and fun and very simple. Except for at the very end where I’ve never communicated how it should end and just make intense eye contact with Cat (our drummer) and hope for the best. She always kills it though. We love to be silly here at Smol Fish. Blah.
Shoes was written by an undeveloped Leo who needs to feel adored at all times (me, except I like to think of myself as more of a developed Leo now). It has a big growing pains energy about it. It’s about that kind of dependency you build with a partner that you’ve been with from a young age. It’s insecurity and constantly trying to please. I think it's easy to view these feelings with negativity but I think there is a kind of beauty in this naive, all-in type of love. The song is also about growing to accept that people can have lives together but also apart.
We kind of leaned into a more folky sound on this one. I remember the day we recorded it and Josie filling the studio with the most beautiful sounds on the upright piano. I think the acoustic piano sound adds a layer of emotion and nostalgia, at least for me anyway. In the same vein, is the violin and clarinet on this one. We enlisted the help of some very special guests with Elise Hiatt on violin and Izy Nguyen on clarinet. Both incredible players, we are so lucky to have such amazing friends.