Discovery: Big Scary

Published April 18, 2013

ABOVE: BIG SCARY. PHOTO COURTESY OF ANDRZEJ LIGUZ

Big Scary counts “cups of tea with plenty of sugar” among their greatest inspirations. Their music flush with subtle orchestral flourishes, it’s not a stretch to say that the Melbourne-based duo know the sweeter side of life. But theirs is also world of spiky guitar rock, down-and-dirty falsetto, mixtapes, and heartaches.

We caught up with Big Scary via Skype for a conversation about luck, loneliness, and their song “Phil Collins.” They also provided us with the premiere of their video for “Luck Now,” a single off their upcoming sophomore album, Not Art.

CURRENT CITY: Melbourne, Australia

MEMBERS: Tom Iansek (guitar, vocals, and piano) and Jo Syme (drums and backing vocals)

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT? Jo Syme: He literally texted me and then turned up on my doorstep with a guitar.

Tom Iansek: Yeah, it was funny. It almost didn’t happen.  I went away traveling for six months. When I got back, Jo went traveling for six months. It almost petered out. We had a dinner one night when we were all back in town. We decided to keep playing. It just took off from there.

COUNTING THE DAYS: Iansek: I just remember at the start of last year, when I had said that we were going to start recording and do a new album, the initial excitement. Had I started recording the day I decided that, the productivity would have been through the roof, [but] because it was a good six months after that realization, it was very much fighting myself. It was the opposite of productivity. Especially since there was no deadlines. It was me verses myself, instead of forcing myself to do it all. It’s not like a job. I could record weird little sounds that I may or may not use, or I could sit and watch YouTube for an hour.

KEEPIN’ IT LOOSE: Iansek: I think of [our debut album] Vacation (2011), when we were sitting and only had a few days to finish everything. We were there 20 hours a day, going home, sleeping for a couple of hours and getting back to it. There was some weird stuff happening in those late hours and those final days. I don’t know why, but the producer cut out all these words out of a newspaper. He taped the random words together to make a rap. Then I rapped over this instrumental piece.

Syme: I was asleep on the couch. I came to and came in. Tom was kneeled over this collage of words. I don’t think I even heard a tape of the rap.

Iansek: No one needed to hear that rap.

THINGS THAT YOU CAN’T LEAVE BEHIND: Syme: With Vacation we saved up the songs that we really liked. We didn’t want to waste them on [our EP] Four Seasons (2010). But by the time we wanted to go to the album we were sick of the songs. Nearly every song was brand new. I guess every band goes through this when you start touring and you’re away most weekends— adjusting to the repercussions of what that means. If everything goes well, what does this mean for my life? Having to realize that you’re going to miss a lot of things that your family and friends are doing, and how weird that is. It wasn’t preplanned, but a lot of those themes came through for that one.

LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL: Syme: I don’t know why I connected with the drums. I had a favorite cousin, she was so cool and had this drum kit set up. It was a real treat when I was eight years old, to go over to her house and try and play. This is the only time my parents haven’t been supportive. They did not want me to learn the drums! I guess I can totally understand. They made me pick another instrument and said, “If you learn it for a year and prove your commitment to the drums, then you can start learning them.” I picked the saxophone, which is probably just as annoying. Except that I didn’t. I never practiced. I don’t know, I just always really loved it. “Little Drummer Boy” was my favorite carol. Maybe I just thought it was so cool. From high school on, I was learning. I went to jazz school with it and totally had no confidence. It was all these kids who listened to jazz and I was not into it at all. I was going to stop playing. I did that thing where I took off uni for year and I was working saving up for travel. In that time, I joined these bands, including Tom and this other one. All of a sudden, I realized that I didn’t have to play jazz. That I could enjoy playing live. It’s always been a passion.

OUR APPOLGIES TO PHIL COLLINS: Syme: It’s not that I don’t like him; it’s just that we’re not fans. When we were working on the new song, I would demo it onto my laptop and make up a working title so I could remember my part. The title is usually to do with what the drums are doing. It was because my part reminded me of the drums on “In the Air Tonight.” Now that I listen to both songs back to back there’s almost no correlation. That was just the working title of the song for months and months. When it came time to naming tracks for the album, it had been around long enough that we knew it as the title of the song.

VACATION AND WANDERLUST Iansek: I remember when I was traveling, all I met was Australians. That was the only sure thing, you would meet a couple of other Aussies. I don’t know what it is.

Syme: I think it’s because we can. Travel is so far for us. If I’m going to go, I’m really going to go for a while. It becomes a big trip. It’s a culture thing. You do uni for two years, then you work for six months and travel for six months.

MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR: Syme: I believe in luck; I don’t know about fate. We’re lucky that anything happens with our music ever. There are a lot of great bands who have everything, but for some reason no break ever happens. Luck and the randomness of that happens all the time.

BEYOND THE GRAVE: Syme: Tom doesn’t know this, but I’m constantly thinking about his funeral. The songs. What would be apt at his funeral? The ones that he’s written. “Oh this will make everyone cry, when I play this song that he’s written, and it totally applies to dying!” “Leaving Home” is the one. Be careful Tom.

Iansek: I’ve already chosen my final song, though. Which is “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I want them to sit through a 10-minute guitar solo.

NOT ART, BIG SCARY’S SECOND FULL-LENGTH LP, IS DUE OUT SEPTEMBER 17. FOR MORE ON BIG SCARY, VISIT THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE.