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Big Scary on the Aussie invasion overseas, hip-hop and the perils of road trippin’

Kermit Cintron vs Walter Mathysse

 It may seem hard to picture in Australia but the Australian invasion in America right now is fiercer than ever. This month already, Iggy Azalea has entered the top 10 on the US charts, Courtney Barnett has played Jimmy Fallon and boy band Five Seconds of Summer have stormed the charts with their debut single. In addition to that, Elizabeth Rose, Flume, Jagwar Ma, The Preatures and Anna Lunoe have been touring the country, impressing widespread crowds.

Big Scary are currently touring the country with Indie-Electronic artist Say Hi, contributing to the mass attention directed at musicians downunder. The Melbourne pair consisting of Tom and Joe have moved from LA to New York where they played two shows.

They’re signed to Barsuk records which is the home of artists like Death Cab For Cutie and Phantogram and have just released their sophomore album Not Art in America.
Tom spoke to us from a van touring from New York to Philadelphia. Despite being plagued by terrible weather and a minor car accident, he managed to chat us through the overseas tour, hip-hop and re-designing the live shows with a smaller band.

the(in)terns: How did the show go in New York?

Tom: It was awesome actually, really good. It’s just a really cool venue with a lot of vibe and we felt really relaxed.

How have the shows been going in the US overall?

Generally really good. I think we’re a bit surprised at how well we’ve been doing but more in our own capacity as performers. I thought I would’ve got sick and lost my voice but I’m still hanging in there. I think we’re happy about that and we definitely haven’t had any train wreck shows. Some have been better than others, but it’s been really good so far.

Kermit Cintron vs Walter Mathysse

Is it odd going through the whole album release again overseas?

It kind of is. It’s not odd it’s more, we know the songs so well. So it’s different like that. When we were touring with them back home in Australia they were kind of fresh and new to us so there was a nervousness about playing them along with the excitement of doing something new. Now, we have performed them plenty but we also don’t have that nervousness like “am I going to remember what to play in this part” or “what happens here or there”. It’s more relaxing and we can concentrate on the performance on the night which has been really cool.

Is this your first time touring in the US?

I guess as a proper tour, yeah. We’ve come over and done CMJ and South by Southwest before and a few little showcase shows and so we’ve been to New York and LA but this time we’ve just driven from West coast to East coast then down South before we head back West. It’s a completely different thing really.

Have the songs developed in the live arena since the release of Not Art?

Absolutely. I think more out of necessity. Back home we had two other band members to help us out with new songs but over here we couldn’t afford to bring them over. We were thinking we would do it over here as a two piece but just by chance it worked out that Say Hi was available and his album release cycle was going to line up. The tour together was looking good and along with that he was willing to learn a few songs and play along during our set. We’ve had to strip the songs back a bit and kind of re-interpret them in different parts. Back in Australia we had the other guys doing quite technical things with more instruments involved but with Eric we only had a few days where he had to learn everything and we didn’t want him doing too much. We didn’t want him playing three different keyboards so we re-interpreted just for him to play on a bass guitar. I think we’ve been quite successful though.

Is it exciting to come overseas and see rooms fill up on the other side of the world?

Yeah absolutely. Two years ago we played the Mercury Lounge and it was pretty empty, but last night we had a full room. Having been there before, it struck us as something pretty cool. We’ve played a string of shows rights through the country. Some shows have been bigger than others but every show there’s been at least a fan or a couple of fans just there to see us. It’s cool that we can make music in Melbourne, Australia and someone overseas has heard us and loves the music enough to want to pay money again just to see us.

Are you finding you’re encountering lots of Australians over in the US?

Yeah. I guess it’s like even when you’re travelling you tend to bump into Australians wherever you go. It was nice to bump into Courtney [Barnett] and her guys. We toured together back home and so that’s how that friendship started. She’s doing so well over here so it was cool to see them and give them a hug before they headed off to the UK.

[Tom interrupts the interview]

Sorry, this weather is insane. It’s seems to be getting worse and worse. Jo just got out of the van because this guy just pulled up and slammed his door into the van.

Is everything okay?

Yeah, Jo is inspecting the damage. Sorry to interrupt.

How did it all come together with Barsuk records?

It’s something that initially started from connections we built from our early trips in 2012. We made a really good connection with a music lawyer based just outside of New York and once we got him on board he started working on getting us out there and doing his thing amongst the labels out of our sights. It was handled by a manager and we were back home. And then we got an email through that Barsuk had heard the album and loved it and were keen to do something with it.

Are you writing and recording over here?

We had every intention to. Jo and I had a writing session a few weeks ago and we had a bunch of cool ideas so I bought my iPad over and put GarageBand on it. But time just seems to be swallowed up on the road.

Are you finding it’s harder to break the US than it was in Australia?

It’s hard to tell. Nothing ever really happens as suddenly as it appears on the outside. It might seem from someone watching us on the outside that this has happened quickly but it’s never really the case. Jo and I have been playing together for seven or eight years so even in Australia we’re still an up and coming band even though we’ve been playing together for that long. Over here it’s kinda the same. It’s a slow but steady thing for us. Things are definitely moving in the right direction and slowly which I think is a healthy thing. The Barsuk guys are in tune with that. They want to do things organically and do things when the time is right. It’s a long term thing and it has to be for it to work.

I wanted to know if you actually think Hip-Hop sucked in 2013, as alluded to on Not Art?

That tracks actually a reference to another similarly named track. It’s a nod of the hat to an artist who influenced our sound on the Not Art record. It’s not a reprint action of our feelings towards hip-hop. Hip-hop production was a really big influence on the sound of the album and how we approached recording and arranging. It’s definitely not how we feel. Hip-hop has been a new discovery for me personally and I think it’s the most exciting genre in terms of production.

I thought the drum loop on Luck Now was reminiscent of that sentiment. Were you trialling new production techniques on the record?

Yeah absolutely. Production is something I’ve been getting into and we were keen to try new things. When the album was being made we had a whole lot less time together to play because of other commitments. And so it had to be made in a different way than the first record. We didn’t have the same time to write and then go into a studio. We did it on the fly.

Gig information can be found through their website

lizzierose

Elizabeth Rose on New York, Lady Gaga comparisons and the new album

Kermit Cintron vs Walter Mathysse

At just 22, Australia’s own Elizabeth Rose is as audacious as they come. Making her headline debut in New York, she took to the stage at the Mercury Lounge, just down the road to the iconic Katz’s Deli. Unlike the mammoth pastrami sandwiches Katz’s is so famous for, Rose is a petite performer. Petite, however, is no description of her show.

Playing in front of a small but highly receptive crowd, Rose was a valiant performer. Working her way through songs from the EP, she had the crowd dancing in seconds. At just 2 EPs, it’s a testament to the young artist that she was able to hold the attention of a crowd largely unbeknownst to her music.

The triple hit of Sensibility, her cover of Rhythm of the Night and The Good Life, proved the strength of her back catalogue. The best part about watching her is it looks like she knows it too. She often moves away from her keyboard to face the crowd front-on and throws some dance moves Solange would be proud of.

While her stage demeanour is confident, off-stage Elizabeth Rose presents a different side. She’s softly-spoken and polite yet talks knowledgeably about modern RnB and the sound she’s channelling.

the interns sat down with Rose in a dodgy Mexican cafe in the Lower East Side just before her New York headline to chat Lady Gaga comparisons, YouTube comments and the impending album.

I saw that you were working with Sinden and TokiMonsta. How did those sessions go?

Elizabeth Rose: Yeah they went well. That was in LA last week. The session with TokiMonsta was really good. I met up with her last time. She recently did a remix for me for my single Sensibility. The session with Sinden went well as well. It’s still very early stages.

Is the album starting to take shape?

Yeah. I’ve written about 3/5 of it. I know what sound I want.

Are you finding its a different process from writing the two EPs?

Yeah definitely. It’s a lot more rushed, doing it all while the EPs still doing well. This time around I’m focussing on getting melody and chord progression down rather than worrying too much about details of production. It’s kind of helping- we get through the demos quicker. It’s hard because I usually do the instrumentation first- I do the whole song and then I do the bass-line and then I come back and write the melody and lyrics. But it’s been really refreshing to do it the other way.

Have you found after the good life did so well that you were surprised and thought, oh wow, now I have to get back to work?

Yeah it was really surprising. I was really shocked at how well received The Good Life was. Mostly from Triple J. They really supported it. It’s been great. Since that single everything’s just been gradually building.

How did you find the Australian tour last month?

Yeah the tour was really good. It sold out in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. I’ve never done that before so it’s really exciting. Now it’s this next phase where I think “ok I’ve gotta buckle down and put some hard work in for this album”.

Did you enjoy the response to your cover of Rhythm of the Night?

It was really cool. I was worried because so many people say the nastiest things on YouTube. If they don’t like it they’ll rip it apart. But yeah most of it has been positive. The only negative comment was that I need to get more sun.

Do you read most of those comments?

Yeah. I’m sensitive. But someone wrote as a reply to that person, “it’s called a studio tan you arsehole” [laughs]

How was the show in LA?

Yeah it was good. We had a few technical problems but the crowd was into it. People were calling out for me to play Sensibility which was really cool. I thought no one would know that song at the show but it was a really good turn-out. I’m looking forward to tonight [in New York].

Seeing you’re now in a huge music hub, What’s your classic New York song?

I’d say something by Frank Sinatra.

What sort of expectation do you have when you play a show overseas?

I think when I’m overseas that nobody will turn up. It’s starting all over again, you feel like you’re all the way back at the bottom but it’s good to be surprised.

Did it seem like the road of starting out in Australia to selling-out venues was slow or quick?

Yeah it was slow. Slow and gradual. I’m happy that it took time thought because a lot has happened over the last few years- experiencing playing a festival for the first time, releasing an EP for the first time. It felt like the right pace for me. I feel quite comfortable with the way everything’s panned out. If it was happening too quickly i think I’d be quite anxious about it.

How did recording and writing change between the two EPs?

It changed quite drastically. I was in a totally different headspace for my first EP. It wasn’t really me having a solid concept it was more “here’s a bunch of songs I wrote, I wanna release something, let’s do this”. That one sounds a lot different to the second one because I didn’t really put much thought into it. With the second EP, I had a sound and a concept for it, so it felt like this one had a stronger feel to it. But also my writing has developed as well. Constantly writing has really strengthened that muscle. I’ve found the sound that I like now.

What about the live shows, do you enjoy having more material to play with?

Yeah, I love playing gigs now. I’m going to try and start playing some new new stuff soon so I’m really excited about that. Hopefully when I get back maybe I’ll play some shows with new songs, maybe if I get them ready in time. It’s really exciting to play new stuff and go “what do you think of this?”

Is there anything that’s influenced the direction you’ve gone in with your new material?

Nothing really new. It’s a progression on from the EP where I’ve taken on a bit more RnB. I always am inspired by the music I’ve grown up to like Brandy and Missy Elliot and all those really cool RnB artists. That’s always going to stay with me. Recently, I’ve been listening to some more experimental electronic music, some minimal techno.

I’ve noticed FKA twigs as well. Are you trying to find your own niche inside the RnB genre?

Yeah. I’m not consciously striving for it. I don’t really try and write anything, it’s just what I would like to listen to. I don’t have a sound in mind that I want to make it sound like. It’s just if it sounds good to me in the studio, I’ll go with.

Have you had any songs that you love in the studio and then listen to it with a collection of others and think it doesn’t fit?

Yeah that happened recently with a demo I wrote. It kind of has more of that ’90s pop feel with melody. It reminds me of that song by Olive. I was like, “shit, I’ve written something that doesn’t fit”.

How was your last trip to America?

It was good. I played six shows. It was a bit rushed and hit n miss every show. The venues were just like one fold-back speaker. But I got good feedback from it. I did a club show at the end which was great. I feel like I fit a club scene rather than a live band venue. This time around it’s going to be different. That time was really to get the word out about my music and this time I have the single out and plenty of remixes have been done which helps spread the word.

Have you found that international blogs have helped you overseas?

Definitely. I can’t believe this little trail that you leave. The internet is weird.

Do you like releasing a song and seeing how it’s received and where it’s taken?

Yeah. The TokiMonsta remix of Sensibility actually helped a lot. It’s created a lot of hype.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/elizabethrose/sensibility-tokimonsta-remix[/soundcloud]

Do you ever read a review of somebody writing about your music that says it sounds like something that you disagree with?

Everybody compares everything to anything these days. Like Spotify says listen to this, if you like that. I’ve read things in the past where Lady Gaga was mentioned and I was like “I don’t think so, you were at the wrong show”.

Are you writing with any Australian producers for the album?

I’d like to and I have a lot of people I can think of but nothing’s locked down yet.

Do you have a release date in mind?

I don’t know yet. I’d say sometime next year.

Do you have any writing sessions set for London?

Yeah. I’m trying to get in contact with Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs.

What’s the thought process behind choosing to go overseas?

I don’t feel like this year would be appropriate to move overseas but I’ve already started to think about next year. You can only do so much in Australia. After coming back from America last year, to see how big the market is and how many radio stations there are, it’s just so much bigger. I’m sure in Europe I’ll find that too. You’ve got to go where the music is buzzing, you can’t stay at home when there’s stuff happening overseas. I want to be there to be in it. Collaborations are so much easier overseas.

 

After America, Elizabeth Rose heads to Canada and then onwards to Europe. For all the details, click here. 

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