The Smith & Western Jury Release Album Hotel Texas, Lead Us Through their Alt-Country Musings

14 June 2024 | 5:53 pm | Emma Newbury

"This is what we are writing and playing right now. It’s our version of “country”, like it or hate it."

The Smith & Western Jury

The Smith & Western Jury (Credit: Dan Shaq)

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The Smith & Western Jury are newcomers to Australia’s booming country industry, but they make up for it with experience. Lead singer Sam Lombardi and guitarist Simon Torcasio both started out as pop punk darlings, gripping on to the early 2000s wave before letting the tide turn. Out of the desire to finally forge their own path separate from the tireless grind of the industry, the two recruited long-time friends Danny Bonici on bass and Matt Maraso on drums and switched their dark and brooding soundscapes for those twangy Nashville-inspired ones. 

“We're not 18 anymore,” Torcasio said. “When we started this band in 2018, the idea was to do something just for us. We did the grind as best as we could, and took it as far as we were able, and we burnt out on it. Now, we want to do things our way.”

After a slew of singles, the four-piece have just offered up their debut album Hotel Texas as of today (14th June). Surrounding themselves with the Western influences of Texas while working with producer Tommy Detamore (James Talley, Dallas Wayne), The Smith & Western Jury have provided a unique mix of Americana-meets-Australian country. The band take us on a tour through each song on the new album below: 

1. Have Mercy

Have Mercy was written in October 2020; we were in our second lockdown for the year, and we were about 90 days in. The monotonous drain of being stuck inside, day after day, had me feeling like I was going crazy. The constant repetition, combined with my anxiety, was agonising. In the middle of the night is when my anxiety is always at its worst; when I sing 'the devil knows where I sleep', the devil I'm referring to is my own mind. It’s our Western take on my nocturnal sufferings.

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2. Do Your Worst

Over the last few years, I have struggled with some health issues. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Vestibular migraine (a type of migraine where you experience constant episodes of dizziness & vertigo). As there is no direct way to treat this condition, doctors will either put you on Epilepsy medication or antidepressants, as they both act by blocking the brain signals that cause dizziness.

When I wrote Do Your Worst, my neurologist had just prescribed my first antidepressant to try and treat my VM. And obviously, being an antidepressant, it not only blocks the dizzy signals to your brain, it also works as an antidepressant and was making me feel very numb to a lot of things at the time. This all happened in 2020, so we were also deep into the Covid lockdowns and I think at that point, I was feeling sorry for myself and it was kind of like me saying "Do your worst, what else could the world possibly throw at me."

3. Armour

Armour is a song I wrote about my grandfather. He was one of the strongest and hardest-working men I'll ever know. An Italian immigrant who came to Australia with nothing and ended up building a successful business & farm that supported his family for years. He was a man of few words with some very old-fashioned beliefs, but at his core, he did everything he could to take care of his family. All he knew was work, and he worked 16-hour days well into his 70s. He was built like an ox, with the muscles of a 20-year-old and had never stepped foot in a gym. Sadly, in his 60s, he developed Parkinson's disease and whilst this still didn't stop him from working, it eventually progressed and finally got the best of him when he was 84. I wrote this song in 2018, about three months before he passed away.

4. Not Even The Devil

This song was written at a time when Simon and I were living apart. We were in the transition between moving states and I had moved back to Melbourne before him. It’s always hard being in a long-distance relationship and at times, I was obviously feeling very insecure about some of the very beautiful friends he had around him!! haha. That feeling of me being very jealous, inspired this fiery honky tonk song.

5. Heartache

I wrote Heartache about one of my best friends Nat. In 2020 she was diagnosed with cancer. She went through a horrible battle and sadly passed away in November 2021. Nat and I met in Sydney years ago. A friend of ours was putting a band together, they had already recruited Nat and had asked me to sing. When we met, we instantly clicked, and she became one of my closest friends. For the first 6 months or so of being in the band, I was still living in Melbourne, so Nat and her girlfriend at the time, took me in on numerous weekends, and their house became my home away from home until I moved to Sydney myself. Nat was a super sweet soul, stunning inside & out, and unbelievably talented.

Years later, when Nat was diagnosed with cancer, I had then moved back to Melbourne, and because of Covid restrictions at the time, I was sadly unable to visit her whilst she was in hospital. A few weeks before she passed away, her wife emailed a bunch of her closest friends and told us she only had weeks to live. I remember reading this on my laptop, feeling completely helpless and breaking down in my living room. This song was written about that feeling. A feeling I had never felt before.

6. Cowboy Blues

Cowboy Blues was inspired by a friend of mine who was dating a real prick. He treated her like shit and I hated him for that. Musically, I wanted to write a song that was a bit of a tribute to that classic 'Women of Country' sound. Women such as Loretta Lynn, Connie Smith, and Tammy Wynette. But a lot of their songs back then were about "standing by your man" no matter what. And whilst I love that sound, I don't love that idea of how women were treated back then, so I wanted this song to have the juxtaposition of that sound, with the opposite message of "Don't you waste another minute on that cowboy fool."

7. Button That Collar

Button That Collar is a song inspired by an old photograph that I found of my grandmother standing in her family-owned fruit shop. A faded washed-out photo, in an old Kodak pack. Even though my grandmother wore a smile, I knew there was much more to the story. Being in a complicated relationship in the 1970’s, with no escape in sight – the photo sparked this song. I wrote it about how I think she felt back then. Putting on a smile and doing what she had to, to get by and take care of her family.

8. Hurt Like Hell

I wrote Hurt Like Hell on a day when I was just feeling super down. I was still dealing with the passing of my grandfather, struggling with my own health issues and things were just hard. I remember speaking to my mum one day, and she is a very strong, “no-bullshit” kinda woman and she's always pretty positive. She said something to me like, "One foot in front of the other, the sun's always going to come up tomorrow". Speaking to her made me feel better, so I wrote this song about it.

9. Bolo Ties & Bullshit

This is the intro to our song Hotel Texas. A tribute to that classic Marty Robbins & spaghetti western sound. 

10. Hotel Texas

I wrote this song about the judgements people make about others, no matter what music scene you're in. As a band, you’ll get judged for the music you play or the outfit you wear. No matter what you do in the industry, someone is always going to have something to say. People love criticising others for not being “original” yet, every single one of us is influenced by something or someone else, none of us "invented" country music, punk music or any other genre. We are all products of our surroundings and upbringing. Yet, unfortunately, I think we are all guilty of judging others. 

Simon and I were talking about this very topic one day, and he said to me, "You should write a song called Bolo Ties & Bullshit." So I did. We obviously ended up renaming the song to Hotel Texas, but we kept that line in the song.

“Bet mama tried, bet that she did. Tell me now boy, got that ink just yet?” is another line in the song. That line references the very famous song Mama Tried by Merle Haggard. To some, Merle is an artist that “if you don’t know who he is, then you’re not a real country fan.” But if you have a “mama tried” tattoo or keyring on your keys, well then you’re just like everyone else..and that’s not very cool.. so my case in point. You can’t win.

In the chorus of Hotel Texas, when I sing "Come and check in at the Hotel Texas, fill that vacancy. I'm from out of town, but I'll show you around" - It's basically a metaphor for me admitting that I don't exclusively listen to country music, and I haven't always sung/written country music. But however you want to pigeonhole our sound, this is what we are writing and playing right now. It’s our version of “country”, like it or hate it.

Hotel Texas is out now. You can catch The Smith & Western Jury on tour this year.



Friday, July 26 - Shotgun Willies, Karuna/Adelaide (SA)
Saturday, July 27 - Three Brothers Arms, Peramangk/Macclesfield (SA)
Sunday, July 28 - 10 Gallon Hat, Karuna/Adelaide (SA)
Friday, August 16 - The Eastern - Wadawurrung/Ballarat (VIC)
Saturday, August 31 - The Cosmopolitan Hotel - Dja Dja Wurrung/Trentham (VIC)*
Friday, September 6 - Enmore Hotel, Gadigal/Enmore (NSW)
Saturday, 7th September - Adamstown Bowlo, Mulubinba/Adamstown (NSW) (on-sale July)
Sunday, 8th September - La La La's, Dharawal/Wollongong (NSW)

Also performing at Out On The Weekend
Saturday October 12 - Seaworks, Bunurong Country/Williamstown (VIC)

Tickets here.