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Big Scary are rolling through town on Thursday at the Black Cat. Seeing as the duo is normally based in Australia, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of the chance to see them perform live in the US. (And as someone who’s seen a gig or two of theirs, I can attest that you will most definitely want to be in the audience for at least one of these shows.) I had a chat to drummer Jo Syme last Friday, and we covered everything from the band’s creative process to going blonde to Patty Schemel and Hole. SO, read up on all that below, grab tickets to catch Big Scary live, AND be sure to snag a copy of their new record Not Art, ’cause it’s pretty much amazing. HERE WE GO:

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So you guys fairly recently won that big Australian Music Prize / congratulations!

Thanks so much! Yeah, you know, we try to keep awards and all that sort of thing in perspective, but that award is one that we’ve always really respected, and we love all the winners, so that was really cool.

I bet! Now, it’s been a while since I last saw you guys, but you’ve gone blonde now, yes?

Oh yeah! [Laughs] I did that maybe eight months ago and I thought it’d look terrible, but my friend is a hairdresser and she did it for free, so I figured if it looked shit I’d just go back to brown. But I love it!

So do blondes have more fun, then? I’ve been thinking about doing it, but I’m too nervous.

Yeah, I dunno what it is! I think it just suits how I’m feeling at the moment.

Well it looks great! Now, you guys will be here for a pair of shows; are you still drumming without shoes on?

Yeah, yeah.

Is that like, a normal thing for a lot of dummers? I know Patty Schemel drums like that, but I don’t know of TOO many other people who do.

I don’t know why I do it; I think it’s because you’re always wearing different shoes, so there’s no consistency about your reaction time between the shoe and the pedal. I think just having a bare foot, there’s no inconsistencies, and that’s kind of what I like. There’s just less to worry about and less to adjust to; the sound in the room changes every night and you’ve got to worry about that, so at least the feel of the kit tends to be as consistent as possible.

Right, that makes sense. Now, how long have you been drumming for? I know a lot of people who’ve taken it up recently towards adulthood, but it seems like you’ve been doing this for a pretty long time.

I started in primary school in year six (which is our final year), and my favorite cousin had this drum kit which was so cool, and so every time I went to her house I’d just want to go to her room and play the drums. Like, that’s what going to her house meant to me. I think my siblings were really pissed off, because they were both older and when they’d asked they got denied. I guess I must have been persistent. But I guess that’s fifteen years now, which is a freaky number to say; the reason I’m embarrassed to say it is because I’ve never really been one to practice. [Laughs] You know, I always wish I could say, “Oh, I’ve been at it just a few years!” but I’ve never just sat down and tried to master the thing.

Well, maybe that’s what works well for you, then, and maybe that’s why your parents haven’t strangled you by now! [Laughs]

Exactly, because I never practiced back at home!

Well when I was little, I can still remember being four or five and cutting out this picture of this beautiful red drum kit for kids and pasting it into my Christmas list so that there would be no confusion for “Santa”. And so then Christmas came and I got this dinky little electronic drum pad instead, which, in retrospect, was actually pretty cool, but I was just SO PISSED. I still give my mom a hard time about that; I could have been a world renowned drummer by now, but my wings were clipped before I even had the chance!

Yeah, that seems like a pretty deliberate move by your parents to keep things pretty silent. [Laughs]

Oh, totally. Now, I just watched this Patty Schemel documentary on Netflix; have you seen it? I don’t know if you guys even get Netflix in Australia, actually…

Yeah, we don’t get it.

Well, it’s a good documentary! It’s about Hole, but it sort of looks at the band through the lens of Patty Schemel as the drummer. It also kind of addresses how before her there were minimal female drummers; it’s kind of shitty that that’s always a thing that people sort of harp on, like the female drummer to male drummer ratio, but I guess there is truth to it statistically. Anyway, you should watch it if you haven’t seen it!

Cool! Yeah, I’ve actually been listening to a lot of Hole recently, and I think it’s kind of influencing me; I’m not a writer, but when I’ve been playing on guitar recently, everything that comes out is very nineties grunge. [Laughs]

Amazing. So how does the writing process generally go for you guys, then? I’m always sort of interested to see how that two person dynamic works in bands. Clearly you guys get along, and that doesn’t seem to be a divisive issue, but are there generally set roles or is it pretty organic?

Yeah, it’s really organic; it’s completely different for almost every song, and certainly between albums. Not Art, for example, was almost no direct collaboration because we were both away and apart for most of the year, and we were doing a lot of writing on the road. So we recorded a few drums at the start, and after that I went away traveling and he was holed up in his room cutting and pasting the stuff that we’d recorded together to build songs. Other times we jam it out and there are lots of different ideas, and eventually we get enough material to write a song. But I mean, Tom is definitely the one who actually writes songs, and so I’m really luck to have him to work with.

So do you generally agree on most things creatively, then? And if not, do you like, flip a coin, or…I mean, do you think it’s easier or harder with two people than say with three or four members, or even as a solo act?

Yeah, I guess it’s easier than having more members, because then you’ve got to factor in more people to agree. But I also think it’s more creative; I just found that when I was in a bigger band, it ended up sounding the same all the time after you’d finally gotten everyone to agree. With this one, I guess a lot of the time I might not agree, but I’ve noticed over the years that Tom’s usually right, and I’m just slower on the uptake. [Laughs] Like I didn’t really like “Luck Now” on the latest album at first, but now it blows me away every time I hear it.

Well that’s good! That’s all you can ask for, really. And do you like being on the road, or are you more of a homebody? 

I like it, because for me it’s like a holiday. I have to say, this is the first time I’ve been on tour and have felt like it’s “real” touring; we’re nearing the end of week two, and it’s like, “Whoa, another load in, another sound check.” But everyone you meet is so nice and enthusiastic, and you get a good idea of the size of the country and the differences. I find it really interesting.

No, it’s great! And it’s nice to be able to keep up with your travels on Instagram! Who’s in charge of the account usually? You?

Yeah, I recently got all these new apps, and I’m getting really excited, like, “Hey, check out my white borders!”

So artsy, so artsy. Now, this tour is obviously pretty big, but what’ve you got on the horizon that you can talk about?

Well, the main plan is to try to do as many US shows as possible, and that’s kind of the big priority. But then as soon as we get back home and have any time off, we want to start recording. That’s about it, really.

Well, that sounds like PLENTY to me. Be sure to catch the band tonight at Rough Trade, tomorrow at Mercury Lounge and on Thursday in DC at the Black Cat. In the meantime, follow the band on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news.

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