Music | San Cisco – Interview
Stepping out of the leaden coldness of Cross Belgrave Street into the warm neon hue of the new Belgrave Music Hall; one knows it is a place to feel at home with its mishmash of cosy leather setees, pizza parlour, chippy and bar stocked with a fine range of alternative bevies. Its walls are left bare, battered, and yet somehow offers a feel of modesty. Australian indie-pop four-piece San Cisco (one of the hyped bands that have been asked to bring life to this new setting) are similarly loveable. After several hot EP releases, their eponymous debut album has finally dropped in the UK. This headline tour has been in support of that. In spite of having been touring for nearly three years straight, playing just a handful of songs, they are in high spirits. The interview is punctuated by bassist Nick and guitarist Josh’s playful noise as they vivaciously frolic like Adam and Eve on the Belgrave’s stunning, Edenic roof terrace.
Lead singer Jordi Davieson and vocalist-drummer Scarlett Stevens snuggle into a wendy house for a chat.
What do you think of this fresh venue?
Jordi: ”It’s cool. We walked in and it was still under construction but they’ve pulled it together. It’ll start to warm up soon. It’s pretty cool that they’ve got the restaurant thing going on. I like really old venues with a lot of history. I like playing in old theatres.” I remind them of Leeds’ musical heritage. “It’s a bit like Glastonbury,” adds Scarlett, a comment by which I was somewhat taken aback.
You didn’t play Glasto this year, but you did play our beloved Leeds Festival.
Scarlett: It was the last show on the tour. We played a really good set, but as a festival…I wouldn’t go as a punter.
Was there a difference between Leeds and Reading?
Scarlett: No difference. We didn’t really stick around. I guess those differences will come out later in the day. It was too early to tell. I definitely prefer real summer festivals. We went and did a festival in Belgium – Pukkelpop. There is stark difference in how you get treated as an artist, which makes a difference when you’re playing.
Jordi: I love festivals, a really good festival crowd is so much fun. You can tell if a festival has had a lot of love put into it, or if it’s just about sponsors and making money. Lollapolooza was awesome. We played in front of a really big crowd, for us. And also, rocking up at a festival, it’s pretty standard that you get a nice big stage, a good PA, plenty of stage hands, good foldbacks. You just have to play a good show. At some pub shows they’re missing bits and stuff isn’t working.
What have you made of your headline tour so far?
Jordi: It’s been good. We’re sort of at the end of our touring schedule now. We’re pretty tired, so we’re just scraping across the line. There are good days and bad days. But we’ve coped.
Scarlett: The last few days have been good. British crowds are good, Especially the younger crowds, they’re a lot of fun. We’ve played to a lot of 15 year olds.
Are you happy with this sort of audience?
Jordi: Yeah of course we’re happy with it. But we wanna have audiences as big as possible. Not just 15 year olds. We want everyone to love our music. In Bristol, there was this 60 year old couple loving it in the front row, really going for it. They were so good. It was really cool.
You aren’t much older than the crowds you draw. Have you had to grow up?
Jordi: Our friends have grown up more; we’ve been in a bit of a time warp. We’ve got a lot of stories to tell people. I went straight into this, I had to grow up a lot. I’ve done a lot of growing in the last year.
San Cisco’s chirpy sound is surely suited to a youthful audience. But there is melancholy and maturity involved too.
Jordi: I kinda like it. I like dark stuff. From a songwriting point of view I vent a lot of stuff. It’s easier to write about that sort of thing. But our upbringing and the setting of Australia where it’s so sunny influences the sound.
Are Aussie stereotypes true?
Jordi: Most of the time it’s beautiful. But normally it’s like this [pointing to the grey Yorkshire sky]. It’s quite windy. But there’s not many spiders or snakes. I’m scared of most things. You just deal with em. I’ve never been hurt or attacked by snakes or spiders. Only a swan.
What about ‘I’m A Celebrity…’?
Jordi: I haven’t eaten kangaroo balls, but I’ve eaten kangaroo. Have you heard of wichetty grubs? They’re like Caterpillars, you dig em out the roots and eat em, they taste like peanut butter. It’s something you have to do. Aboriginals do it.
On the topic of wild things, can you tell me about your song of the same name?
Jordi: Wild Things was a concept for a song I’d been thinking about for a while, just a concept in life. Realising the more you think about a negative thing the more it manifests in your mind and eventually it ends up controlling you. The wild things are thoughts. You can think ‘that guy doesn’t like me that much’ and then you’re always looking out for things that he does to piss you off, then you strart making things up and then you can’t be yourself because your so worried. They’re the wild things. The video for Wild Things was the hardest to make, it’s the most professional one we’ve ever done. It was a bit of a struggle. We were in the middle of nowehere in the freezing cold in Victoria, an hour out of Melbourne. It was a good thing for us to do cos we were out of our comfort zone. This song was a little bit more of us stepping back and letting a director do things.
What is your songwriting process like?
Scarlett: We used to be a folk band. When we first started playing, the only instrument we had was an acoustic guitar, it was all we had to play with. The songs start out as folk and then we change them into pop songs.
Jordi: I used to listen to a lot of Jack Johnson when I was younger, so when I start writing a song it becomes a folk song. We would play in cafes and farmers markets. We wanted to develop musically and make the songs fit a different live setting, make it bigger and better.
The album is incredibly well produced with a lot of weird and wonderful sounds to complement the songs. Do you incorporate these into your set?
Jordi: When we started off we tried to do it as much as possible with a keyboard, Scarlett had an SPD launching things. As we played the set more I lost the keyboard. Haim translate their songs really well. You’ve just got to focus on playing a good show. It’s hard to do that when you’ve got your head in a keyboard.
Scarlett: Once people fall in love with a song it’s just mainly about the melody and the lyrics and not all the frilly shit. All the frilly shit is nice, but it’s just nice to listen to. The album and the live setting need to be two completely different things. Or else you could just go and see a DJ like Calvin Harris.
You have been touring the same songs for a long time now. Do they still relate to you?
Jordi: Some songs still relate. They are snapshots of your life which will never go away so we still relate to them. But the songs we like playing are the songs people like listening to. It’s all about the audience.