Charming, humble and with a grassroots philosophy, it’s not hard to figure out why the pop rock duo known as Big Scary are rapidly amassing fans around Australia. Their 2011 debut LP Vacation is chocked full of lush melodies that create an instant rapport with its audience and has earned Big Scary high praise throughout the land of independent music. Of course this success would come as little surprise to fans who have followed Big Scary’s evolution since the release of their first single The Apple Song in 2008. Since then Big Scary have gone on to release six original EPs, (including one EP for each season in 2010) one compilation and their aforementioned debut record Vacation.
However, for Joanna Syme (drums) and Tom Iansek (strums), the two Melbourne musicians who comprise Big Scary, it’s not just about making music but also the autonomous ethos behind that music. In 2011 Big Scary created the label ‘Pieater’ with the future ambition of helping fellow independent artists. For now the label exists as a constant reminder as to why Big Scary remain independent despite having so much commercial appeal. As Tom Iansek explains, the inherent liberties that come with being an independent band have afforded Big Scary the freedom to experiment as musicians and the time to grow as songwriters.
TI: “Being independent means we can do stuff as it feels right to us, we have that luxury. At the time, releasing a whole lot of EPs felt like the right thing for us to do, and we could do that because we were independent. When we felt like doing a proper album we could do that. You’re not waiting around for other people to ‘ok’ it; we’re going at our own pace.”
“The label (Pieater) is really, more than anything, a commitment to staying independent, or at least not signing with any other label or any major label.”
“In Australia we just feel that if you don’t have to sign then you’re better off not doing it… We’re not the kind of band that would be happy doing the 18-month album cycle thing for the rest of our careers.”
Understandably there are tradeoffs to refusing the glitz and glamour of a major label. There are no plush hotel rooms or private buses; no endless supply of booze or a publicist to help spin your latest drug-addled escapade, and most of all, no guarantees of fame and fortune.
TI: “There’s just not the unlimited budget. We couldn’t spend $100,000 on recording an album and we can’t fly all around the world all the time. They’ve (major labels) also got great publicity and PR resources, but the thing is, Australia really isn’t that big and we feel like we’ve got our own publicist; we feel we’re doing everything a label can do.”
Big Scary’s commitment to remaining independent was validated during 2011. The band was nominated for the AIR (Australian Independent Record) Breakthrough Artist Award and the triple j’s Unearthed J Award with Richard Kingsmill including Vacation in his top ten albums of 2011.
TI: “triple j has been crucial to our success, as they are for a lot of bands. So to be recognised by them was something we’re pretty chuffed about. Having met a lot of them (triple j staff) you realize they really love their music and there’s no agenda to what they’re doing. It was cool to get the nomination and to be amongst such great company.”
Such great company includes Ball Park Music who took out the Unearthed J Award and will travel with Big Scary as part of this year’s Groovin the Moo Festival; a festival that Tom praises for bringing bands and remote fans together.
TI: “The best part is that they’re regional festivals. I think regional places miss out on so much music. They love music as much as the next person, but they don’t have the opportunities to see the band they love to play. I think that’s what’s so great about these festivals. And from a band’s point of view, a lot of the time bands can’t afford to travel to these places. So to have this vehicle is a great thing; it’s beneficial on both parts.”
Another benefit of festivals like Groovin’ the Moo is the chance to see a handful of your favourite acts on the same day. Fans and bands alike will get to experience a diverse line-up that ranges from pop rock acts like Big Scary to electro dance outfit Digitalism to hardcore metal band Parkway Drive. With so many different musical genres represented it raises the question, ‘Do even musicians in a working band dream of what life would be like in another band?’
TI: “I reckon Public Enemy would be one of the best experiences of my life just for one gig… When we saw them last, they had these two guys who were in full army getup. They just stood there and every now and then they would break into this synced dance…and it was just hilarious. I reckon if I was one of them I would have a great time”
Big Scary Australian Tour April 2012 – Vacation Tour
with Geoffrey O’Connor (East Coast dates only) and special guests.
Thursday 19th April – Darwin Railway Club – Darwin – NT
Somerville Gardens, Parap, NT, 0820
Friday 20th April – Amplifier Bar – Perth – WA
383 Murray St, Perth, WA, 6000
Saturday 21st April – Uni Bar – Adelaide – SA
Gate 10, Victoria Drive, Level 5, Union House, The University of Adelaide,
Tuesday 24th April (ANZAC Day Eve – Public Holiday) – The Corner – Melbourne – VIC
57 Swan St, Richmond, VIC, 3121
Friday 27th April – Oxford Art Factory – Sydney – NSW
38-46 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, NSW, 2010
Saturday 28th April – The Zoo – Brisbane – QLD
711 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, QLD, 4006
Groovin The Moo 2012 Dates
Saturday 5 May 2012 – Bendigo VIC – SOLD OUT
Bendigo’s Prince of Wales Showground
42 – 72 Holmes Rd, Bendigo VIC 3550
Sunday 6 May 20112 – Townsville QLD
Murray Sports Complex – Townsville Cricket Grounds
Mervyn Crossman Dr & Murray Lyons Cres Idalia QLD 4811
Saturday 12 May 2012 – Maitland NSW – SOLD OUT
Blomfield St, Maitland NSW 2320
Sunday 13 May 2012 – Canberra ACT
The Meadows, University of Canberra
Kirinari St Bruce ACT 2617
Saturday 19 May 2012 – Bunbury WA
Hay Park (off) Parade Rd Bunbury WA 6230