Big Scary: a peaceful Vacation

Ben Cameron | Bendigo Weekly | 19-Apr-2012 11.50am

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Big Scary's Tom Iansek and Jo Syme.
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Big Scary lead singer Tom Iansek’s neighbours clearly don’t know how good they’ve got it.

His band may have earned almost nation-wide approval with their debut album Vacation, but not from the folks next door, it seems.

“We try to play at my share house and within two minutes we’ve got the neighbour banging on the door,” Iansek laughs.

“You just can’t do it (play at home), really.”

It might be one of the reasons why Iansek and six-year-collaborator Jo Syme recorded the revered Vacation, on a small farm at Phillip Island.

“We had nothing else to do other than play,” Iansek says.

“It’s great living in the city, but it really makes you appreciate the quiet and the space

“And working creatively depends on a lot of those things.”

Iansek says it’s handy to have the space available “whenever inspiration strikes”, and Big Scary have already begun recording the next batch of songs there.

“We spent about four hours a day behind an instrument, which really isn’t that much,” Iansek says.

“It’s always there, we can play for 20 minutes and go away for four hours if you want to.”

Big Scary finished the end of last year as one of Australia’s genuine buzz bands, but it almost didn’t happen.

After initially hooking up with Syme through a friend of a friend in 2006, they took a two year hiatus almost straight away.

“It almost really didn’t happen as I went travelling for a long time straight after we initially got together,” Iansek says.

“Then she (Syme) did the same after I got back.

“It could have easily petered out... then it started to overtake everything else, really.”

After years of towing the line in other bands, Iansek was finally able to express everything in his heart.

“It felt good because... this time round it was my music,” he says.

The production of Vacation was no country sojourn putting together however.

“There was so much energy which into that, a whole year of preparation,” Iansek says.

“And a lot of your musical life goes into your first album.

“It was a big thing, emotionally and physically.”

Big Scary have been lauded by everyone, from Triple J to the street press, but Iansek’s head is in no danger of inflating.

“I’m come to realise the art has to be your focus,” he says. 

“As much as it is having accolades and people liking what you do and being nominated for things, you have to block it out.

“It’s a funny thing... being called an artist is strange for me.

“I feel like I’m always changing how I feel about things.

“Going back to the days when we first got together, the idea of having even one song getting played on Triple J, is just the most exciting thing.

“But once you settle into it, you change your view... I’ve really tried hard to embrace the whole artist side of it.

“To kind of live up to the word, I guess.”

Iansek says it’s a common misstep for bands to descend into self-congratulation. 

“One thing I’m scared of is getting to the point where I think my songs are the best things ever,” he says.

“I think that’s the day they start sounding really sh&t.

“That’s the danger in it all.

“People can hear that, listeners can hear when you’re ruffling your own feathers, rather than trying to create something special.”

So is Vacation special?

“It’s a bit of a journey,” he says, without a trace of irony.

“It’s about the message, rather than just individual parts.

“But there are pop moments that I feel I can’t connect with as deeply as some of the other tracks.

Mixtape for example, we were wondering if we were going to put it in there.

“It’s almost a sugary pop song, and we were trying to veer away from that kind of thing.

“The songs that have a really profound meaning for me are like  are like Bad Friends and Gladiator, they really encapsulated what was going through my head when we were writing the album.”


Big Scary play Groovin the Moo on May 5.


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