Interview :: Big Scary

November 15th 2011


Each track on Vacation, Melbourne duo Big Scary’s debut album, conveys immense atmospheric power. There is not one song on this album that doesn’t cry out for a serious singalong, a rendition by the listener to accompany Tom Iansek’s towering vocals.

Along with musical other half Jo Syme, Tom has conceived a new brand of experimental music that easily straddles both the commercial and niche market. They appeal to music pundits with a broad range of instruments used innovatively as a backtrack to catchy indie-pop lyrics that garner the attention of the masses. It’s a mosh-pit of leather-clad garage-punk rockers and star-crossed hipster lovers, and it’s catching. They started off jamming in Jo’s lounge room back in 2006, and now, after a few years doing the national circuit, Big Scary is about to meet the international market with a trip to North America to ring in 2012.

Neada Bulseco caught up with front man Tom Iansek to chinwag about firsts, the future and everything in between.

FBi: Tell me about Big Scary’s beginnings. How did you and Jo first come together?

Neada: Well, I was looking around to start a band and I met Jo through a mutual friend. We both had different things going on and this was more of a side project but eventually Big Scary really became our priority, and it all sort of just went from there.

What inspired the name Big Scary? Is it a way to fend off possible stalkers?

Haha. No, I just tend to think of band names that I like and save them in my phone. So I had this name in my phone. I’m not sure I like it anymore, but I suppose it’s too late for that. I think it’s the kind of thing a kid says, but it doesn’t necessarily make you think of something youthful. I think the most important thing in a band name is that it doesn’t conjure up any ideas, that it is something really neutral, and that’s what ‘Big Scary’ is like. It doesn’t really conjure up any ideas of what the music would be like.

Electric guitars, mandolins and ukuleles all contribute to the Big Scary sound. Do you think being a two-piece allows you to be more experimental?

Yeah, I think it does. I think people assume that a bigger band can try more things, but we don’t have more people pressuring us to push the band down one particular path. We can just pick up an instrument and have a go, see how it sounds. From experience, I don’t think you have the same freedom to do that if you have more people. Like, we don’t have to consider whether a mandolin will go well with the bass.

You’ve remained firmly independent by establishing your own music label, Pieater Records. What does it mean to you to have complete control over what you’re producing?

It means a lot to us. We can just sort of learn and grow with our music. Labels can do great things, but it’s not right for us right now. We’re able to really do what’s right for us when it’s right for us, which is something you can’t always do if you’re signed with a label because they have margins. We just keep trying out new things.

You’ve toured with some of the biggest and scariest in the business including Florence and the Machine, Editors, and The Vasco Era. What’s your highlight from life on the road?

Well, touring with The Vasco Era was our first national tour so that was a really great time. Jo and I made really


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