LP Walkthru: Sly Withers - Overgrown

LP Walkthru: Sly Withers - Overgrown

The Aussie punk outfit treat us to a track by track breakdown of their latest album ahead of their biggest nation-wide tour to date.

Photo credit Shannan Stewart 

When it comes to Aussie punk rock bands, it’s pretty hard to look past Sly Withers and the influence they’ve had on the scene since their inception in 2016. Through honest and relatable lyricism and incredibly infectious melodies, the approachable Boorloo/ Perth-based best–friends continue to grow, as they release their latest LP Overgrown, alongside dates to their largest nation-wide tour so far. 

Following the success of 2021’s album Gardens, “Thematically Overgrown feels relevant in the sense of us all being a bit older and a bit more aware of the constant need for maintenance in life as we age.” shares Sam Blitvich, Jono Mata adding,“In my mind, Overgrown feels like the spiritual successor to Gardens in many ways. In its themes, Overgrown explores this next part of our lives with what I would describe as a more overarching view of consequences and responsibilities.” Capturing and timestamping the bands growth, individually in the experiences they beautifully articulate, and musically working with producer Dave ‘Parko’ Parkin to continue refining their sound, Overgrown keeps to Sly Withers' bare-bones of earnest stories wrapped in anthemic melodies, whilst the muscle that is their sound and delivery continues to grow stronger and stronger with each release.  

With Overgrown out today and tickets to their Australia-wide tour on sale now, we wanted to celebrate this exciting time with Sly Withers by asking them to give us a track by track breakdown of all 14 songs on the LP. Be sure to hit play, hear what Sam and Jono had to say, and get tickets to their upcoming tour below.  

Overgrown

SAM: I started writing this one in 2019 so I think that makes it the oldest track on the album. Our manager Skinny and I joked last year while listening to an early demo that it should be the opening track of whatever came after ‘Gardens’ and then we completely forgot about it until recently. The opening lyrics just felt like such a perfect way to begin the sequel record to ‘Gardens’.

“It’s mid to late August 

And everyone’s gardens

Are all overgrown

Too much time on their own

But the sun’s coming out again”

It’s a song about home, family, and relationships you care about that you worry about being too busy to tend to when things get hectic in life. It used to be an acoustic ballad type of song but something never quite clicked in that arrangement. On the day we started recording it, we were maybe three quarters of the way through tracking the album and had a conversation about how we all felt that the album could use a track with a bit more energy to it. We listened to a bit of Blink and PUP as reference points, then went in to the tracking room to have a jam of it, and this bouncy and fun kinda vibe just fell out of us. The chorus still wasn’t hitting though, so I ran outside with a guitar and quickly wrote a new one that we decided to go with. When it came to the bridge, I wanted to lean into a bit of a cheesy musical theatre type vibe cause why the hell not, ya know? It was one of those decisions where I felt instinctively that it was maybe a bit too cheesy, but the thought of people thinking that it was lame and hating on that previously mentioned musical theatre type vibe, just motivated me even more to lean into it cause fuck those people. Sorry that got heated real quick haha

Liar

JONO:  This song is about how we sometimes give false impressions of what a relationship is going to be like and over time as people get more comfortable around each other, some standards of selfcare, interest, life expectations and feelings can change.  We get lazy and maybe stop putting in the effort where we should.  It’s not necessarily a lie, but without good communication it can sometimes feel like that.  I like how the song starts really empty and reserved and builds up in stages throughout the track, the only time it steps backwards in intensity is after the bridge and I think that adds to the notion that problems between people will only build and get more intense if not addressed.  Parko told me once the intro felt like a Jeff Buckley song and I think that's pretty damn cool.

Make Do

SAM: This song used to be called ‘Over’ but someone pointed out to me that it looked stupid having an album called Overgrown with track 1 called ‘Overgrown’ and then track 3 called ‘Over’, so now it’s called ‘Make Do’ which I think actually sums up the essence of it’s message pretty well. It’s about navigating the struggles of trying to run a band and navigate the music industry. Like dealing with taxes and shit? That stuff bums me out so much, but is obviously so essential when running a business at this level, which is what we’re doing here whether we like it or not. Making a business out of your art is such a complex and at times all-consuming thing to deal with, both practically and mentally, but I’ll save that rant for another time and instead just shoutout the other boys in the band and the amazing team we’ve built around us, without whom this whole thing would fall into a big ol’ pile of nothing!

The “I’m not here for you to fuck with” bit is referencing all the vultures that wanna take advantage of people like us sometimes. We do our best to keep them at arms length but sometimes it really can feel like it’s swoopin season out here. Shoutout to all venues who take merch commissions for literally no reason xxx

Fun fact- The bridge in this song has a percussion track that is literally me just kicking a big plastic box filled with maracas and bells and stuff like that. It was so fun to track and I’m very excited by the prospect of getting to do more box kicking on the next record!

Radio

JONO:  This song nearly made it onto Gardens but wasn’t quite finished at the time, it felt important to get it onto this record because it had an upbeat energy that doesn’t really come out in the other songs on Overgrown.  For this reason it’s really fun to play live and I think in some ways I wrote it hoping it would be a great live song, which isn’t something I usually think about when writing.  Most of my songs at least start as slow burn builders and I think on some level I was trying to prove to myself that I could write a fast punk song.  Radio is about feeling like you can’t organise your thoughts to get your point across and It kinda came out as word vomit when I was writing it.  The way lines in the verses swap between past, present and future tense kinda proves I was struggling to organise thoughts and opinions.  

Tongue

SAM: The opening lyric here came from me listening to Phoebe Bridgers’ latest record Punisher way too much in 2020. There’s this line in one of the tracks called ’Moon Song’ where she says “stuck your tongue down the throat of somebody who loves you more” and the intensity of that incredibly direct and visceral use of language just left a big impression on me, so I kinda ripped it off. No wait, I “played tribute” to it. Yeah that’s the one. The “no shit we’re 23 and a bit” lyric made me so happy when I wrote it until my girlfriend had to remind me that I was 24 at the time of writing. 23 still sounded way better though so it stayed haha

This song is a bit of a reflection on youth, and a big exploration of the “what if” that is the future. There’s a lot of wondering about having kids, owning a house, growing apart from the people close to you throughout it. I like to think that things will work out in the end, but sometimes I wonder if that’s just my privilege talking. I’ve been a very lucky dude throughout my life, and am very conscious of that. 

Overall I think this is the song on the album that changed the least from the demo to the final product. We didn’t really pull it apart at all in the studio, but I do remember that we did it last on that day of tracking and everyone was super knackered so maybe that contributed. I always had a pretty firm idea of what the song was though, so that definitely helped. It also used to have a really bad chorus in it’s original form, but I realised that it sucked pretty quickly and changed it long before we entered the studio. Pheoff! Maybe it still sucks though? Eep.

Stoopid

SAM: I wrote the initial idea for this one in the car park at Westfield Innaloo. I think I might’ve literally just been singing along to the beat of my indicator (that’s normal right?) and the “stoopid but I mean well” thing came out. Lyrically, this track is me processing my own desire for self improvement and grappling with whether I’m actually an idiot or not. Some of it kinda feels like me desperately calling out into the void, trying to be all like “hey I know that sometimes I come across a little hectic and say some stupid shit but I swear I’m not the worst, please don’t think I’m the worst, sorry if you think that I’m the worst”. 

The guitar for the verses took me waayyy longer to track than it should’ve. Something about how simple it was had me really psyching myself out. Jono plays a guitar line at the end of this that is one of the most fun and playful parts of the album I reckon. It’s a super fast single notey part in the last chorus that we all refer to as the “hoe-down bit”. Yeehaw.

Hotel Stuck

JONO: When I started on this track it was originally about relationships between my friends and I and how the first time moving out and living together had tested those friendships.  I had the first few lines and a rough bridge idea but the song wasn’t really going anywhere and it got benched while we focused on other things.  The day before we started the main block of recording the relationship I’d been in for nearly 4 years came to a sudden and dramatic end and when I decided to try to finish this song those were the feelings that came out on paper.  Fun fact this song used to be called ‘Not Amy’ because the little guitar line after the first chorus sounds like an Amy Shark song.

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Put Me Down

JONO: This track was originally written to serve as a kind of “Passing through part two”, I started to write the verses around a variation on the main guitar part after I heard Shea playing this riff in his backyard one day.  Both of them are now quite different songs to what their respective initial ideas were so it's more of a fun fact now.  This song was originally written in Drop D and about a week or so before we went in to record it I swapped my part over to the open tuning I use and when I did that it took on a different kind of energy and opened up the ideas for the chorus and outro section.  When it came time to record this track we took some influence from the song ‘Cocaine Lion’ by Ball Park Music.  I really liked the way that track works as a linear build up for most of its length, with different elements wrapping around a really solid and grounding rhythm guitar part.  When it came time to layer different instruments throughout the track we made the deliberate call to have things pop in and out at odd times to make the gradual build feel really natural and organic which I think adds a nice dynamic break to the album that didn’t exist before.

Don’t Wanna Leave

SAM: Often writing songs can be how I process major life events and struggles that I’m having. This track was me processing moving out of home and the subsequent change in relationship with my parents now that I didn’t see them every day. As a result I started hyper fixating on all of my interactions with them in a real intense and probably unhealthy way. Things that would’ve once been small and insignificant, suddenly felt like they meant the world. As the song progresses I think you can hear me gradually talking myself down from my irrational thinking. 

Jono plays some beautiful piano in this one. Pretty sure that he just took the original demo that I’d made of just me with an acoustic guitar, and played over the top of it for a while until he found some fun stuff he liked. It’s bloody lovely! I think that there’s a weird layer of guitar throughout most of this song that we recorded by getting me in the corner of the big tracking room at Blackbird, playing the chords on a hollowbody guitar (an Epiphone Casino from the 60s), with a mic right in front of the guitar itself, with the amp I’m plugged into at the other end of the room all distorted and drenched in reverb, spilling over into the mic in front of me just enough to make a weird and cool, half acoustic sounding, half electric sounding guitar tone. Parko has a very big brain, filled with many many very good ideas just like this one.

Passing Through

JONO:  This was the first song we got a mix of back and it was the first taste of the new sound we were pushing for which was really exciting.  It gave me a lot of faith in the recording process we were working with and made the idea of deconstructing our songs to build them back up into their best versions really appealing.  This song went through more iterations than any other I have ever written and I lost count of how many different ways I tried to make it work since I started working on it back in late 2020, it began as an expansion on the guitar parts from ‘Explode Into View’.  I had a lot of faith in the guitar lines and the verses but it wasn’t until I came up with the chorus years later that I felt it was something we would record and include on an album at some point.

Something

SAM: This is a fun one. The original demo had this cheesy sitcom intro theme vibe to it and the overall song was super chill and vanilla. I think someone in our team specifically requested for it to sound “less Melbourne indie” lol. The idea for having it be this big wall of guitars type of song came from our love of the Turnstile record from last year, Glow On. We were pretty floored by the delicate balance between sheer power and undeniable catchiness on that whole album, and I think the final version of this track ended up as a bit of a love letter to that record. Not that it’s all that similar, but to us it carries similar DNA. “What if we made this song sound huge?” was the general line of thinking when we put together this arrangement. Shoutout to Shea who made the original suggestion to take it in a heavier direction on the night before we started tracking it. We’re all pretty stoked with where it landed.

Lyrically, the first verse is a very deliberate parody of every song we’ve ever written. Talking about “how I’ve been feeling lately” and “staying in bed” and all that jazz. From there it turned into an exploration of getting older and missing how things used to be, along with recognising the sense of helplessness that comes with realising that you and the people you care about’s lives are based around trying to continuously “ride out” each new challenge that life throws, over and over again. A bit of a “I guess this is growing up” kinda vibe. The third verse was intended for another song that I was trying to write while we were on the road earlier this year finishing off the ‘Gardens’ album tour, but on tracking day we found ourselves with a need for another verse in this one, so I gave it a fang and it felt pretty dope so it stayed!

Old Enough

JONO:  This song is about feeling like you’re never really old enough or experienced enough to deal with the next hurdle life throws at you, the feeling that you aren’t really sure what you want and neither are the people around you and you don’t actually need all of the answers to those big questions.  You’re allowed to enjoy the chaotic nature of life and you don’t need to spend your time ticking off milestones (unless you wanna).  This song got swapped around a lot when we started working on it in the studio, in the original demo the bridge and chorus lyrics were swapped and I liked that this song was more a collection of nice parts that could really work in a lot of different orders/ways and I think that's rare amongst the songs I write.

Sundays

JONO:  Sundays was one of the first songs I recorded myself after purchasing a bunch of demoing equipment and setting up a little studio at home.  The original demo for this track dates back to November 2020 which is pretty crazy to think about.  Since then there were only two changes made to the song, the gap between chorus 1 and verse 2 was doubled and the very last vocal line was originally 1 bar later.  I thought that was really interesting given how much other songs were shuffled and changed.  I can’t really remember much about the headspace I was in when writing this, but I was listening to a lot of The 1975 and the song ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ was my inspiration for the second verse, something about the gorgeous open, full and golden sounding guitars in that song really captured my attention.  When the track resurfaced in the studio we showed Parko the iphone jam room demo and he told us that recording had a really nice quality to it which we then tried to capture, its funny to think that you can go into a studio and then shoot for something you captured on an iphone.  I love what Clancy was able to do with the string arrangement on this track and I think they really elevate everything else in the song.  I’m glad this song made the record because it always felt like a bit of an outlier amongst the songs I usually write and it definitely adds a bit of spice to the record.

Last

SAM: I LOVE that this song is the last song on the record and it’s called “Last”! The guys are defs incredibly sick of hearing me say that by now I’m sure haha. It was also the last song that we recorded, so it barely made the cut for the album  (it was between this and a handful of other tracks on that last day) and I think that fact gave it this cool subconscious underdog type vibe that made it easy for everyone to get behind.

I wrote it in an airbnb in Brisbane in November 2021 during the Gardens tour. It literally only exists because this house had a nylon string acoustic laying around. I was practising playing our song ‘Breakfast’ for that night’s show (while watching Naked and Afraid with Joel and our filmy boi Tim) and accidentally stumbled upon the chord progression, so I went to my room and wrote a whingy song bout missing my girlfriend cause she’s real cool and I love her and stuff. 

The idea of recognising that you have something good going on, and hoping that you can “find a way to make it last” was something I found myself really drawn to from multiple perspectives. It’s a love song at its core, but I like the multiple meanings that can be drawn from songs like this. For example, I feel like it’s also about this idea of being on tour with your mates from high school, in the band you’ve played in your entire adult life, and being like “oh wow this thing we have is so cool, it would be so cool if we could find a way to sustain it forever”.

 Sly Withers Overgrown2

Sly Withers new album Overgrown is out now via Dew Precess/ UMA.

SLY WITHERS OVERGROWN ALBUM TOUR DATES

FRIDAY 4 NOVEMBER | THE GOV, ADELAIDE

THURSDAY 10 NOVEMBER | UC HUB, CANBERRA

FRIDAY11 NOVEMBER | METRO THEATRE, SYDNEY

SATURDAY12 NOVEMBER| PRINCESS THEATRE, BRISBANE

FRIDAY18 NOVEMBER| NORTHCOTE THEATRE, MELBOURNE

SATURDAY19 NOVEMBER| UNI BAR, HOBART

SATURDAY26 NOVEMBER| DARWIN RAILWAY CLUB, DARWIN

SATURDAY10 DECEMBER| ASTOR THEATRE, PERTH

Tickets on sale now

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