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SIAMESE guitarist Colby Robertson talks 90s shoegaze & noise complaints

Dan Webb
SIAMESE are an Adelaide-based shoegaze fuzz rock band who have in recent years supported a number of high profile Australian acts, such as King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Pond and Ceres. We caught up with guitarist Colby Robertson in the lead up to the release of their long-awaited debut EP, Code One on March 9.

How long has this EP been in the works, and what can listeners expect from it?
It’s been in the works for like – since we wrote the songs, so I guess almost two years. Basically what kept happening was we would record the songs and then realise that we’d gotten better – you know, we’d go to mix them later on and we’d realise we’d gotten better at playing them since recording them, in the time between that and mixing. So we’d go back and record it again. And then the same thing happened about two or three times. So it’s been kind of a long, drawn out process of us never being satisfied with it, which I guess is what happens when you do it all yourself, cos you just get better as you go along and stuff like that. So I guess they can expect a pretty – it’s a good reflection of where we were at when we finished it all, which was, you know, a couple of month ago when we had finished recording it and mixing it and stuff like that. It’s just a good reflection of what we’ve been working towards over the last couple of years in terms of getting better at playing and writing and recording our own stuff.

it’s been kind of a long, drawn out process of us never being satisfied with it…

So did you self produce this EP?
Yep, we self produce everything. My job, I record people and Tom (Matheson) is really interesting, he’s really good at it. We’ve all kind of got experience with just tinkering with our own stuff, so we’ve just decided to do it all ourselves with the mixing and recording and going through studios and stuff, yeah.

How democratic would you say the songwriting and recording process is for you?
It’s all democratic. So Tom, the vocalist, he’ll usually come with an idea, like a riff or a loop or something like that. Then Gere (Fuss) is got a real knack for kind of driving the song with a bassline, he just sort of, if you know, Tom’s only got two chord changes, Gere will be able to find four or six or eight kind of ways to work with that in the one verse or whatever. And then basically we’ll just all peripherally add on to the song until we’re all happy with it and we will just push with our gut – we’ve all been playing together for a few years now so we can kinda know where we’re gonna go and where we’re feeling things. And then with the recording and stuff like that, it’s the same process, I mean we’ll layer, we’ll record, get all the technical stuff out the way and then the mixing is kinda just a process of me mixing it and then sending it to everyone to kind of, you know, add their suggestions and criticisms and stuff. And then we’ll try again and then I’ll send it off again until basically we’re satisfied with everything.

We’ve previously played “Slaughterhouse” on our podcast. I’ve read that the song is about technology and short attention spans. Why do you feel that’s an important theme to tackle?
I think it’s just – it’s personal as well as it is like, societal. In the sense that we’ve – we’re not writing from this like, angsty, like, ‘look at the fucking world’ sorta thing. It’s more a like, we realised we’re all pretty bad with that sorta thing. We’ll be at band practice and we’ll be sitting around just like on our phones or something, not talking. Or go out and see the same thing or we’ll do the same thing. So I guess it’s just – or you know, like when you’re dating somebody or whatever, it’s just like it’s a frustrating thing to deal with and it’s a frustrating thing to catch yourself doing. So I think it was just written out of that frustration.

it’s a frustrating thing to deal with and it’s a frustrating thing to catch yourself doing.

There’s a video circulating online of police rocking up to one of your rehearsals. What happened there?
Yeah (laughs). We got a noise complaint and I mean, it was like, two o’clock on a Friday. It was a ridiculous noise complaint. We don’t really know the song – we were playing Metallica, we were playing “Enter Sandman” and then someone – like, it was kinda just like a joke, you know. Initially what happened is we were playing it, and this dude rocks up, this random neighbour and he was a bit dodgy lookin’ and he comes over and he was like, ‘oh, do you mind if I sit in and watch you boys play that song?’ and we were like, ‘oh probably not, man’. And then he leaves and then about two minutes later the cops rock up, and I was thinking like, ‘oh God, who was that guy, like is he a guy on the run who’s trying to hide out or what’s the deal?’. And anyway nah, they were like ‘we’ve received a noise complaint, but it’s 2pm on a Friday’. And then one of the cops is like, ‘are you boys playing Metallica?’ and we were like, ‘yeah’ and he’s like ‘well play it again for me’. And then the drummer, Baden (Guillou), cos it’s at his house, was like ‘well you’re at my house mate, you can come in and sing it with us if you know the song’, like, ‘you’re on our property, you gotta sing it’, so he did. He came in and had a little sing-along. Yeah, it’s cool I guess. I guess it’s good publicity (laughs).

Johnny speculated on the podcast that your band name may have come from Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins?
(Laughs) No comment. Yeah, I dunno, I think – I wasn’t a part – Tom came up with the band name years ago and I think it’s got lots of meanings.

What would you say is the ultimate 90s shoegaze or alternative rock album, in your opinion?
Ah shit. The ultimate shoegaze album is Loveless (My Bloody Valentine), the only good one, you know, the first and the best one. Tom recently picked up the vinyl, the remaster, it’s really great. That album’s really great. But yeah, I dunno, it would have to be that album, can’t really think of any other ultimate 90s albums.

How would you rate the popularity of this style of music in Australia? Do you feel it’s enjoying a resurgence?
I’m not too sure, I wouldn’t say it’s prominent. I think it’s a bit more niche than – not that we expected it to be more popular than it is or anything, but it’s just kinda like, I think it’s serving a more like, underground resurgence than it is a popular resurgence. It’s just a lot of people do love albums like Loveless and Slowdive and those sort of like, bands that got popular like, only around now when the internet’s been around and people have been able to find these bands cos they never really cracked it earlier on in the time. So I think it’s still kind of like, we – we’re trying to do our own thing on top of that foundation, so it’s kind of like a head nod to that sort of style. Yeah, I don’t know if it’s particularly popular but we like it and a few people like it, so it works out.

we’re trying to do our own thing on top of that foundation, so it’s kind of like a head nod to that sort of style.

You’ve recently supported some pretty big names on the local circuit. Is there a particular highlight that leaps to mind?
I mean we played that Day of Clarity last year with Hockey Dad and it was kind of cool to see that many people in The Cranker, just this little pub we’ve got. That was cool, that was like a free gig that Clarity Records, who are a really great record store here puts on. It’s like a festival down the entire east end of town. And Hockey Dad played and we got to play on the same night as them and that was great. We played to just like a big, young, enthusiastic crowd of Hockey Dad fans. And they’re really nice dudes too. I’m just trying to think, have you got any names there, I’m kind of blanking… Oh yeah, Gizzfest. That was cool. That was a while – that wasn’t last year but the year before. We like, played – that was cool. We played in – so that’s like, a little – they have their main stage where all the big bands play and then there’s like a little shipping container. And so we’re playing in this like, shipping container in the summer in a car park next to the theatre where everyone was at, drinking and smoking. And that was sick. It was just all these people like completely packed in and around and it was very intimate and sweaty and cool. It was fun.

Can we expect a full length album from you any time soon?
Probably not any time soon. But that’s kind of the aim, is to just kind of write – after this, we’ve just been writing for something like another full length or even maybe another EP. We’ll just see how it goes.

If you could collaborate with any artist, in any medium, past or present, who would it be and what would you ideally create?
Ah man. I was thinking about this the other day. I was thinking the other day I really wanted to have been in the studio with – a lot of the time I’m listening to a record and I’m like, ah man, I would have loved to have just like, been listening to the recording sessions and just like the first takes of these bands and songs. (Laughs) that’s a tough question, I’m not too sure, I’m sorry, I’m trying to think. Probably like, if I could collaborate with, or have anyone collaborate with us, it’d probably be Steve Albini, like the engineer. He’s recorded like, Pixies and The Breeders and Nirvana and stuff. I just – his whole vibe and his sound and his – the way he works in his studio and stuff is just my all time favourite. It just makes – it’s just the best way of doing it and I’ve always wanted to hear ourselves kind of recorded by him. And I think that would kinda be my thing.