Melbourne outfit Big Scary is comprised of Tom Iansek and Jo Syme. Together, the alternative-pop duo released multiple EPs and two records, the latest being Not Art (2013). Before playing Toronto’s The Drake Underground with Seattle-based artist Say Hi tonight, I had the opportunity of speaking with the very sweet and humble Jo Syme to discuss the album, touring essentials, weird venues, and their obsession with Golden Retrievers. Dive into the interview here:
AMBY: You’re currently on tour and will soon find yourselves here in Toronto. What do you enjoy most about touring?
Big Scary: This whole tour is so new for us; we’ve been to Canada and the States twice so this is like the ultimate road trip. It’s fun seeing all of the snowy mountains and deer!
AMBY: Well, welcome back to Canada! We can’t wait to have you here on Friday. While touring, what are some items you couldn’t live without?
Big Scary: Probably a phone filled with music or an iPod or iPad. I have very sensitive eyes, so I’d have to have sunglasses [laughs].
AMBY: I’m the same. Music and sunglasses [laughs]. What’s the funniest thing to happen to Big Scary at a show?
Big Scary: Probably this time in Australia where we’re at this venue parking underneath the second floor balcony – and we knew it was a little weird of a venue – but a staff member told us to not park under the balcony because people throw bottles onto the cars. So we moved the car, and when we started playing the show, this really drunk girl jumped up on stage and jumped onto Tom’s back while he was playing guitar and piggy-backed on him across the stage.
AMBY and Big Scary: [laughs]
Big Scary: And security did nothing! They kind of thought that we knew her or something and she never got kicked out; she was just kind of there the whole night.
AMBY: Oh my. Would that be one of the more bizarre places you’ve played? Or has something topped that?
Big Scary: That venue was really weird. It was a pub that just happened to have a stage and music room in the back.
AMBY: Being the reason that you’re currently on tour, I wanted to discuss your second album Not Art. Which songs off the record are your favourite?
Big Scary: I guess my favourite, oh that’s really hard. I really like Long Worry because it’s a really understated tune but it’s really beautiful. I also love Luck Now because the vocals just get me on that track. I love that one.
AMBY: It’s funny, because for me it’s supposed to be Spring in Toronto but it’s still pretty cold outside. So, the other day I kicked back and listened to Not Art again to get into that warm and summery mood. And when Lay Me Down came on…
Big Scary: Ahh, yes!
AMBY: Exactly. You get me. That song has such a neat Wild Beasts meets London Grammar feel to it. That’s definitely my favourite song on the album.
Big Scary: So cool, that’s great to hear.
AMBY: Anyways [laughs], what was the reasoning behind calling the album Not Art?
Big Scary: It had a few different meanings, but when you’re writing or painting, it’s essentially called “art”. It’s kind of spoiled by these expectations of what people will think and who will like it and how people will react to it, so I guess we made it with the purpose that we don’t care. Instead of taking the responsibility for the quality of our creation, we instead just really enjoy making it and not worried about anything else. We’re proud of it and didn’t worry about the end result.
AMBY: Before this release, you had a few EPs. What was the inspiration behind calling your EPs Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer, and The Big Scary Four Seasons?
Big Scary: We kind of didn’t want to take the traditional release route – we know that had we been on a label we wouldn’t have been able to do that – because we weren’t really ready to release our first album. It was a good experience to cheat that but still do an album’s worth of material, but not calling it an “album” [laughs]. We love the idea of an album being a cohesive thing, but we weren’t ready to record it yet. Tom does write a lot about the natural elements, so it was a good-timing thing; every three months we wanted to release some new music. That’s why we made it that way.
AMBY: Something that all of those EPs have in common is the amazing artwork.
Big Scary: Yea!
AMBY: Do you have any particular favourites?
Big Scary: I think I love Winter.
AMBY: Why that season?
Big Scary: We’ve got the icicles coming out of our faces.
AMBY: I first saw them all together off your BandCamp page, it was so cohesive looking.
Big Scary: We found this girl off MySpace who lived in Sydney, and got in contact and she made the five different covers for us. She was just super talented and amazing.
AMBY: We know that the both of you are from Melbourne, Australia. Do you feel that hailing from there has an influence on your sound at all?
Big Scary: I’m not sure if it has a massive influence, aside from us not really being “tropical music”. Melbourne is cold a lot of the time and does lock you indoors often, but there’s moments of beautiful springtime which we get so elated about. So, I feel the somberness of our music might be because of that. It’s a very music-friendly place and the venues are great; there’s so much live music every night and in one sense it’s competition, but it’s opportunity as well.
AMBY: Which bands or artists have you been listening to lately?
Big Scary: I’ve been trying to listen to a lot on this tour. I’ve been listening to Chet Faker’s new album a lot.
AMBY: I love Built On Glass.
Big Scary: It’s incredible, I’m so happy for him. I’ve also liked the new War On Drugs album and a few other things. There’s a local American band who wrote to us and I just listened to them, and they’re awesome.
AMBY: What are they called?
Big Scary: Mideau.
AMBY: I am going to definitely look that up. Now we’re sadly at the last question of the interview.
Big Scary: [laughs]
AMBY: What’s something about Big Scary that nobody knows yet?
Big Scary: Our obsession with Golden Retrievers. We have shrines of Golden Retrievers and before a show when were’ back stage, instead of doing drugs or something [laughs], we look up photos of dogs on the internet.
Thank you Big Scary, for giving us your answers!
Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout