Big Scary are the next BIG thing. And I mean that in the best possible way. Not in some overhyped hysterical hyperbole. But in the sense that watching this band is like watching a crystal blue dawn break over a beautiful landscape. That you just know is going to bring a better day than yesterday.
I first came across Big Scary when they played the NYC leg of the Aussie BBQ after SXSW (South by South West Festival) earlier this year. The Aussie BBQ has become an annual travelling roadshow of Australian musicians who play in LA, Austin, NYC, Toronto and London. Originally established by the remarkable Mary Mihelakos and Glenn Dickie (aka Glenny G) of Stage Mothers and now also driven by Millie Millington of Sounds Australia, this showcase for Australian musicians has had a serious hand in developing the international careers of 90% of the artists who have signed overseas deals in the last 4-5 years. These three people deserve enormous kudos and respect for the time and effort they consistently volunteer on behalf of promoting Australian music.
I was exhausted and about to leave the gig when Glenny G told me to wait and watch the next band. I’m glad I listened to him. Big Scary completely blew me away. Tom and Jo are supremely talented and also really sweet people. Which in my book, counts. A Lot.
They have a crispness to their sound that is refreshing in this age of electronic bleeps and whirrs. There is a craft at play here. And I mean at play. Yes, they work hard and deserve the breaks they are getting, but their sound is playful without being obscure and getting the sense that these are musicians trying to educate you in the mysteries of music.
There is a space in their music that feels full with potential and the fulfillment of that potential. I have no doubt that some lucky record company is going to sign them here in America to duplicate the well earned success they have created for themselves in Australia.
And they have created it for themselves. They have been entirely independent at every step of the way and so far have released 4 EP’s which they bundled together into an album called Four Seasons (for obvious reasons) and a superb album which took Australia by storm called Vacation. They have almost finished their second album and will no doubt start on their third as soon as the second is released. And they are approaching their career with intelligence. They take a basic wage out of the band and reinvest everything cent they make back into their music and touring.
Tom Iansek and Jo Syme have a remarkable work ethic that is supported and encouraged by their manager, Tom Fraser who is also a unique individual that is completely committed to getting his charges a serious career and future. Rounding off their team on the road is their lovely soundman, Callum Barter. These four intrepid travelers are carving a sweet sound through the many venues they are exploring in Australia and the USA.
They are being smart by aiming to break the USA before really hitting Europe as Europe and the UK will fall to their knees much faster knowing the USA is behind them. We did this shoot when they were here on their first visit back in March and I was delighted to get to know them.
They just played six shows in five days at CMJ here in NYC. And I went to five of them. The live shots of the band in this blog were shot in the extremely cool Rose Bar at the beautiful Gramercy Park Hotel on 23rd St. It was an excellent night of music curated by Pete Maiden from the excellent Australiancentric Billabout.
The genetically gifted Katy Steele who comes from a family blessed with musical ability started off the evening. Her father runs the blues scene in Perth and her brother Luke Steele of The Sleepy Jackson and Empire Of The Sun is one of the few real musical geniuses I’ve worked with. Katy used to have a band called Little Birdy back in Australia but is now striking out on her own and judging by the new songs she showcased at this first show with her new band she has a very bright future ahead of her.
After Tom and Jo played their awesome set, they were followed by their good friend Emma Louise who recently signed to the well respected Frenchkiss Records. Her delicate musings were greeted with applause by the well heeled crowd at the Rose Bar.
I couldn’t stay and watch the whole show as it was only the second night of CMJ and the phenomenal Dum Dum Girls were playing a tiny gig at the cool Glasslands Gallery in Brooklyn, so I hot footed it over the bridge on my bicycle and arrived in time to catch the beginning of their show. I originally photographed and blogged about them at last years CMJ and was glad I’d made the effort to see them again as they pulled out a killer show for their (semi) home town crowd. I saw four amazing artists on my second night of CMJ and I recommend highly that you check them all out.
If you live in NYC, make a point of catching Big Scary play their last show in NYC for a while tomorrow night at Piano’s in the Lower East Side at 8.30pm. To get a sense of what they do, check this excellent single shot video for the single ‘Leaving Home’ from their ‘Vacation’ album.