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Big Scary

Avani Dias chats with with Jo Syme, the female half of Big Scary, and stumbles upon a treasure trove of fun facts: what it was like to play SXSW, their lives before Big Scary,
and just where ‘Bad Friends’ came from.

Chilling instrumentals, cathartic lyrics and egg shakers … lots of egg shakers.

It’s these things that make garage pop duo, Big Scary, so enthralling. Their debut album Vacation has had six months to woo its audiences in Australia and around the world; its reception has been remarkable. Their sound has matured in the past six years to allow for an atmospherically compelling vibe both on record and live on stage.

HS: So you’re touring in the US right now … what was it like playing a momentous festival like SXSW?

JS: I don’t think you can imagine what SXSW is like until you go. There is just SO much happening; it’s overwhelming and exciting. For most bands I don’t think it really changes their career… the CEO of Rough Trade isn’t going to stumble across your show and sign you up for millions of dollars – everyone’s too busy watching Bruce Springsteen, Snoop Dogg, L’il Wayne and Kaiser Chiefs play. But to actually have been part of the festival was something.

We didn’t really get to stick around and watch the bands on the same lineup much, though, because we had to rush off to other gigs of our own… We did catch a cool band called Cold Showers one day and got to see a lot of Australian bands … who were all really cool.

HS: Your debut album, Vacations, was completely independently released on your own label Pieater Records right?

JS: Yeah we got tired of saying “independent” after every release, so we just created our own label as a name to put things out on. We’ve been trying to get set up so we can hopefully offer support to new bands we love. We’ve been lucky enough to assemble an incredible team around us … but we’ve had to learn pretty quickly as we go. It’s definitely more rewarding to watch things slowly grow yet maintain control.

HS: I do agree the “indie” thing is getting a little exhausting. ‘Bad Friends’ has to be my favourite track on the album… Tell me what it’s about.

JS: I feel guilty every time I hear that song. We had played a gig in Hobart and the next day Tom was due to play live at one of his best friend’s weddings … I just totally got the time of the flight wrong and we missed our flight, so Tom missed the wedding. It was a sickening feeling when we realised, we just had to sit in the near empty airport and take a later flight. So basically WE are the bad friends.

HS: I got the impression you HAD bad friends. I’m glad I asked. This is a strange question to ask, but what would be the best song of your album to have sex to?

JS: DEFINITELY Child in a Tree. There are two versions of this song, and the one that made it on the album was created after we’d been watching these hilarious “yacht rock” YouTube videos. It’s so smooth.

HS: I’ll keep that in mind! So as a band, what made you two decide it would be a good idea to make music together?

JS: It took a long time for us to feel like a band I think. For almost the first two years we were only playing very occasionally, we both went travelling for a long time and we were both in other bands and considered this the “side project”. We didn’t want to push a million gigs onto our friends and family …

But then when we started getting some attention and momentum we realised that there was something working, and more and more we started focusing on Big Scary. I think we both share a desire to keep learning and making challenging yet accessible music. We just don’t want to be stagnant which makes us work harder together.

HS: Speaking of families how are both of your parents dealing with you guys being in a band? Do they like your work?

JS: Our parents are really supportive. It’s pretty cute. They come to as many gigs as they can.

Whenever some new T-Shirt or album goes on our online store my mum orders like twenty so she can give them out to family members. We’ve always rehearsed for free in my parents’ living room and we leave it in such a mess! So we’re really lucky that they’re proud and don’t pressure us to get real jobs at all.

HS: Seeing as I am writing this for the uni paper, did you study?

JS: We both studied. We both have an arts degree. I really enjoyed learning the subject matter, although unfortunately I’ve forgotten most of it! Tom did a Diploma in sound engineering and that has been so great for the band – it means that in the studio Tom can speak the language of any of the engineers and get closer to the sound he has in his head. And now, he’s producing our next album.

HS: Lastly, what can we expect next from Big Scary?

JS: Well we’ve got our national tour when we get home and then we’re straight into the Groovin’ The Moo tour. We’re also working on our next album. We don’t know when that’ll be out because we want to take our time, digest it and have fun learning how to make it ourselves.

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