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The band formed in 2010, composed of singer/lyricist/guitarist/keyboardist Wil Wagner, guitarist/backing vocalist Tom Lawson, guitarist Lee Hartney, bassist Jimi O'Loughlin and drummer/backing vocalist Chris Cowburn. Initially named Wil Wagner and The Smith Street Band. an allusion to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, the band changed its name in 2011 to signify a change to a whole-band songwriting style.

Their debut EP, South East Facing Wall, was released on Jackknife Records in 2011 and was reissued in 2013, while both albums were released on Poison City Records. Both albums received critical acclaim in Melbourne.

In 2012, the group announced their Young Drunks tour, which ran from January through March, with Bomb the Music Industry! and The Bennies as support acts.

In March 2013, Wagner announced All Tomorrow's Shoeys, a three-day music festival held at Hobart's Brisbane Hotel. Curated by Wagner, the festival included Luca Brasi, The Bennies, Grim Fandango and Linc Le Fevre. Later that month, the band participated in the "Tram Sessions" program that involves the recording of live performances on Melbourne tram routes. The program organisers explained: "One day we asked ourselves, hmm, if only there was a band who' s name encapsulated an iconic Melbourne street which also happened to be along an iconic Melbourne route who had a typically route 86 sound... And then it came to us. The Smith Street Band!"

In August 2013, the Don't Fuck with Our Dreams EP was released. The EP's title track was inspired by the events prior to a show from the Young Drunks tour in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia, in which the guitarist from The Bennies was injured in an altercation. The song was performed to end the band's show at The Fest event in Gainesville, Florida, US in late 2013.

In June 2014, The Smith Street Band announced Jeff Rosenstock from Bomb the Music Industry! would produce their third album, being recorded in July 2014 in the small town of Forrest, Victoria. The album is titled Throw Me in the River and was released on 31 October 2014.

In January 2015, the band released a single titled "Wipe That Shit-Eating Grin Off Your Punchable Face", which was inspired by current Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his government, particularly its stance on asylum seekers. The single was released on 7" vinyl and as a download, with proceeds from its sales until the end of February going to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. The song directly impacted sales of the band's album Throw Me in the River, which rose to number 105 on the Australian Albums Chart. At the end of January, the band will also embark across Australia on the 26-date Get High, See Everyone tour.