Interview: Jono and Sam of Sly Withers talk new album, tour and time

Credit: Shannan Stewart

Perth alt-rock quartet Sly Withers have become a local favourite since their widely successful sophomore record Gardens in 2021. Just a year on, the band returns with their third album Overgrown on 28 October via Dew Process/UMA.

We caught up with vocalists/guitarists Jono Mata and Sam Blitvich to talk about the new album and tour.

“It’s super exciting, it’s been too long,” says Jono.

“It definitely helps that we have two songwriters, so it takes us half as long to write a record,” Sam adds.

Overgrown comes just 16 months on from their widely successful sophomore record Gardens with an impressive 14 tracks. Singles “Radio” and “Passing Through” showcase their newly expanded sound while retaining their most lovable traits. With more involvement and exploration on this album, it seems that the key ingredient was time.

J: “There were definitely ideas that were kicking around from the time that Gardens was recorded. That process of writing songs for Gardens never really stopped, we kind of recorded the ones that we had ready at the time and then we just kept working on what we had.”

S: “The key thing is that we’re always writing. When one cycle finishes and another begins, it’s largely dictated by the dates of recording. A big part of how we kind of socialise is us listening to our own demos.”

J: “We didn’t go into this one planning on it being 14 tracks, we just didn’t feel like cutting anything.”

S: “Having the time to go in and make an album and spend time breaking apart the songs and stuff was a big thing. It was really fucking cool to have the time and space to kind of explore a little bit more and really craft this very deliberate collection of songs.”

Gardens seemed to chronicle the highs and lows of navigating adulthood, while Overgrown is more of a reflection on that experience and anticipation of what’s to come. Poignantly relatable lyrics and big catchy hooks have always been a trademark for Sly Withers and the one of the reasons they have such a loyal fanbase.

S: “I like to think of our songwriting process as a journaling process, but it’s not really a conscious one. We write stuff and it reflects where we’re at, what we’re thinking and what’s going through our brains. I think Gardens was a record of adjusting to adulthood, and Overgrown is a record of attempting to settle into adulthood and looking ahead to the future.”

J: “I think raw honesty is the best way to connect with people in general, not just in a musical sense. We’re very lucky that we’ve found such a great community of fans that are really interested in the same thing and enjoy the same type of music that we enjoy.”

Sly Withers worked with producer Dave “Parko” Parkin (Spacey Jane) on the new record, who the boys say was like a fifth member during the creative and recording processes.

S: “He’s an admirable bloke, the way he approaches his work and his art. The way he thinks about music was so inspiring. I really looked forward to going into the studio every day and not just making a Sly album, but making a Sly album with Parko. It was a really beautiful process and he pushed us to be brave and to do things we wouldn’t normally do.”

J: “I think the main benefit that people get from working with Parko is that he takes on a member of the band type of role. He has such a valuable mind to pick when it comes to not only getting the best out of your songs, but getting the best album that you possibly can out of those songs.”

The songs on Overgrown are more mature and refined than previous efforts, both musically and thematically. While having Parko on board was a big contributor, the band also wanted to strive for a coherent project with greater production value.

S: “I think we pushed to be a little braver with the production, be a little prettier with the sounds we were using. There was a deliberate push towards making things sound lush and gorgeous. There’s a lot of acoustic guitars as layering tools, there’s some synth, a bunch of piano by Jono.”

In support of the release, Sly Withers will be hitting the road this November for an eight-date national tour in every state and territory.

J: “In general, I’m just super excited for this tour. I feel like these are the best songs we’ve written and I can’t wait to see how they transpire to a live setting. With stepping up the size of the rooms and the production on this tour, we’re putting a bit more thought and effort into the live show and not just playing the songs for people.”

S: “We’re so fortunate to have a really wonderful community of mates around the country now because we’ve been touring for a bit. We’ve grown up in Perth and the running gag is that whenever a band announces an “Australia” tour, it’s often just an East Coast tour. So we really put a lot of effort into making sure our national tours are indeed national tours.”

You can get tickets to the Overgrown album tour this November HERE. Follow Sly Withers on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates.

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