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Interview: Big Scary at Bumbershoot!

Big ScaryAustralian duo Big Scary, comprised of Joanna Syme and Tom Iansek put on an engaging  show at The Rhapsody Stage at Bumbershoot yesterday. They are incredibly nice and were kind enough to take some time to chat while they were at the festival!  I hope you enjoy our conversation!

So you guys are from Australia?
Jo and Tom: Yeah.

Is this your first time here?
Jo: We’ve been here three or four times, I think.

First Festival?
Jo: We played Sasquatch last year. Yea.

Right on! Have you been able to seen any of the sights or anything?
Last year we had probably a week in Seattle. That was like our first proper tourist time I think. We’ve been to Pike Place a few times and the Showbox I think. Yeah. But we still haven’t been to the EMP or been up the Space Needle or anything like that. Okay. We did the Underground Tour.

How did you guys meet?
Tom: Just through a mutual friend many years ago. Just after high school, I think. I was looking to start a band and we both had our own, separate, very serious bands – as you do when you are twenty years old.  And then we met up and started playing together and it was never a serious thing.  I think that is what kind of made it fun and interesting.

That’s cool!

Jo: He just kind of turned up on my doorstep with a guitar. We hadn’t met. It was like, “hi,” “hello!”

Big Scary in an interview with Kristina Valencia

What inspired the name?
Tom: Well, collecting band names is a hobby of mine and I keep a list at all times.  So I’ve got a stack and Big Scary was on one of the first lists I think. Band names are really hard and its amazing how much you can get out of one word or two words of something you know?  It sounds too this or too that.  Big Scary was the most fitting at the time – the most mutual.  The one that we neither of us disliked and we both kind of liked. That’s more accurate. Whereas what we’d been sending to each other before – the other person would be like, ‘what are you crazy?! That’s terrible!’

That’s cool! When you guys write a song is it really collaborative with eachother or does just one of you bring an idea to the table?
Jo: It sort of differs, and its different over time. Like certainly in the early days Tom would kind of bring full songs that he had already written while he was trying to form a band. And now over time we’ll plan a time to get together and jam and track every idea on our phone recorders. From there we tease out good bits.  Tom, being the primary songwriter, uses structure first and then lyrics are kind of the last thing to pull the song together. It usually comes from a jamming kind of place.

Tom: Yeah we’ve kind of had this getaway where we go and it’s to just play music but it ends up just being these crazy admin weeks where we just catch up on all of our e-mails, but we do manage to squeeze in few hours of jamming every day. We come away with lots of ideas and then I’ll take them away and work them and turn them into something seventy percent finished and then we’ll play some more that way until they’re finished.

Awesome. What’s the biggest difference that you’ve noticed between American fans and Australian fans?
Jo: I think American fans are kind of more polite and like more interested in actually hearing the music. Like Australians will often go out to see a band but its like, its sort of an excuse to be social and drink and chat a lot you know. We’ve got some really quiet numbers that we hesitate to play because we think people are just going to talk through the whole thing you know. And we were really pleased when we came last year on tour, people were dead silent and at first we thought ‘well they hated it’, but its just because they’re there not there to just drink, they’re there to watch the music and really absorb it. So that’s a really nice part of touring over here.

Big Scary in an interview with Kristina Valencia

That’s really cool. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Jo: One is, stay together. Like, so many good bands like you know to just keep succeeding is you actually have to stay together and not start hating each other.

Tom: Yea what was that? I think someone from the, is it from the National?

Jo: I think it’s from the National. Its like, to be a successful band you have to write good songs and you have to stay toghether. That’s kind of the basic idea…

Tom: Yeah I think its something along those lines, of playing the long game I guess, has helped us out quite a bit. And let us grow in our own time, which has been important to us. To what we do.

Right on. Alright, last question. If you had to choose three albums, each of you, that are go to inspiring albums of your life, what would you choose?
Tom: Probably Grace by Jeff Buckley would be one for me. I get less and less of them these days, I don’t know if you find the same. When I was younger there were more of those albums that really change the way you think about music.

Jo: I know one for you, Tom. DJ Shadow.

Tom: Oh yeah! DJ Shadow, Endtroducing..

Jo: If you ask me tomorrow, it’ll be different, but Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago. And Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, not because it was the first moment that they influenced me, but because it was an affirmation. Some bands – I almost just only need one album from them – and they can create great albums afterwards but from them, all I need is that. But Arcade Fire just continues to engage me with every album and The Suburbs is just so good.

Tom: I don’t know which one, but Led Zeppelin. I used to listen to a lot when I was learning guitar and it was really important to me.

Jo: I’ll go Abbey Road by the Beatles.

Thank you so much, Jo and Tom!  For more information about Big Scary, check out their website!



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