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2013 Artist Survey: Big Scary

Joanna Syme on Music Industry Scams, Embarrassing High School Moments, Disastrous Vacations, Obamacare, Spotify, and More

Jan 31, 2014 Big Scary
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For Under the Radar‘s 11th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to the important issues of the last year, as well as some quirkier subjects. Check out our next print issue and digital issue for surveys from My Morning Jacket, Foals, Amanda Palmer, Local Natives, Wild Nothing, These New Puritans, Lanterns on the Lake, Xiu Xiu, and Summer Camp.

Here are answers from Joanna Syme of Australia’s Big Scary. Big Scary’s new album, Not Art, was released this week on Barsuk.

Top 10 Albums of 2013

1. Phosphorescent: Muchacho-This album is like giving religion to the non-religious. So much elation!

2. Cloud Control: Dream Cave-It’s such a cool album. Al [Alister Wright] is probably one of my favorite singers; he has an awesome delivery.

3. Violent Soho: Hungry Ghost-Finally my generation gets an album with as much angst as the ‘90s gave my elder siblings. I went to their gig and the whole room was one big mosh pit.

4. Palms: Step Brothers-Every morning I put the first track “In the Morning” on. It’s so beautiful, but then the rest of the album just rocks-perfect pop hooks you wanna scream along to.

5. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: Float Along - Fill Your Lungs-Basically no other band can hold my attention for a 15-minute track.

6. Bibio: Silver Wilkinson-I find this just as beautiful and exciting as Ambivalence Avenue, which changed my musical tastes forever. Bibio is one of the most textured and interesting artists operating.

7. Volcano Choir: Repave-This album is so warm and familiar and it’s hard to sound so earnest without sounding like a big piece of stanky cheese, but they nail it.
8. Kurt Vile: Wakin On a Pretty Daze-Sweet, old-school guitar music. Nothing fancy about it, just perfectly executed.

9. DJ Koze: Amygdala-I love albums that widen my musical palette, which is what Amygdala does. I don’t need to be mind-altered to enjoy this techno. He’s techno, right?

10. Major Lazer: Free The Universe-“Get Free” is one of the best songs I’ve heard ever. Perfect vibe. And for some reason I like the obnoxiousness of their dance tracks.

What was the highlight of 2013, either for you personally or for the band?

It was pretty amazing to me that three incredible artists (Menomena, The Antlers, Dan the Automator) that we hugely respect remixed our music. Which means they listened to it. And they said they liked it.

What was the low point of 2013 for you?

The result of the Australian national election.

What are your hopes and plans for 2014?

Our album Not Art is being released in North America and beyond at the end of January through Barsuk. Basically, we’re just gonna come over from Australia and play as many shows as possible and live out of a sweet van and eat bagels and Bloody Marys. Then headline Coachella.

What are your thoughts on the passing of Lou Reed? Did his music influence you at all and in what way?

Is it kind of a miracle we didn’t lose Lou to the 27 Club? But then we wouldn’t have Transformer. I wouldn’t say Lou Reed was a formative artist for me except that I remember not knowing what the hell he was singing about in “Walk on the Wild Side” when I was young. I haven’t listened to Lulu so he remains a complete auteur in my memory.

What are your thoughts on the U.S. government shutdown and the debt ceiling debate?

I am frustrated for Americans from all the way over here in Australia. I guess people in the States don’t realize how much citizens in other developed nations get taxed. I was stoked the Democrats stood strong on the Affordable Care Act-in one generation, people won’t believe there was a time when it didn’t exist. It’s so funny, because it’s the right wing in Australia who are currently trying to lift the debt ceiling and the left who are trying to hold them back.

What are your thoughts on Obamacare, now that it’s being implemented?

From what I hear it can be a nightmare to navigate, but the actual concept is something that I take for granted at home.

What is your opinion on the extensive government spying on the world’s Internet/phone usage? Is Edward Snowden a patriot or traitor?

I’d say that every nation probably spies, even the ones acting indignant at the revelations, and I guess that’s always going to happen, but people like Edward Snowden are definitely acting in the right way-he’s upholding the ideals of his nation, yet being ostracized by his nation.

What are your thoughts on music streaming services such as Spotify and Rdio? Are they good or bad for musicians?

As a consumer I really love them. I’ve been told by my publisher that it’s really bad for artists, but I saw a cheque the other day, so I’m relatively happy. I guess you just trade a one-off payment of $1 for someone buying your song, compared to a lifetime of them paying you a tiny bit to listen forever, which might eventually come to $1 if you’re good enough.

Who was the first person to break your heart? Whose heart did you first break?

Oh, I don’t think I’ve broken anyone’s heart. I wouldn’t go so far to say that I’ve had my heart broken. I did lose one of my close friends when we got together, but then he was a jerk and that was the saddest thing.

What was your most embarrassing moment in high school?

I peed my pants in primary school during a saxophone lesson. Nothing more embarrassing than that happened in high school.

Do bad reviews bother you and which negative review has affected you the most?

I get most annoyed when people compare us to bands that I can’t see any resemblance with. Mainly because it’s kinda lazy and that lazy review is affecting someone’s life.

What moment in history do you most wish you could’ve witnessed in person?

I think it would have been pretty damn heart-warming to watch people tearing down the Berlin Wall. Or maybe watching how the hell they built Stonehenge?

What is your favorite word and why?

“Clusterfuck” is a pretty good word. It’s just fun to say. I don’t think I say that enough.

What was your most disastrous vacation experience?

I messed up a booking in Montpellier in France. Our plane landed later than we were allowed to check in to our hotel, which turned out to be way out of town at the end of the tram line. And that tram ended earlier than we realized one night, so we had to catch a cab, but we couldn’t find a cab, so we ended up getting in a car with a drunk Serbian who pretended he knew the way but instead was pulling over and asking people on the street directions (and hitting on the chicks he found), then driving at a million miles an hour over speed humps and scraping bushes. My brother, who was travelling with me, had his passport shoved up his butt in case we were about to get robbed. It was a clusterfuck. (The guy dropped us off in one piece though).

What’s the biggest scam in the music industry today?

“Hey, can we put your song on our promotional website for free-it’s great exposure!”



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February 28th 2014

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March 4th 2014

I love albums that widen my musical palette, which is what Amygdala does.

March 4th 2014

I love albums that.