INTERVIEW // SCABZ: Siobhan On: Saxophones, Politics and ‘Guess Who’

WORDS BY THOMAS FREEMAN

Recently we caught up with Siobhan from Sydney’s punk trio SCABZ to chat about their latest single, saxophones, politics, and their upcoming debut album. Here’s what she had to say:

Recently, you just dropped a new single called ‘Guess Who?’. What can you tell us about this song?

Basically, we really wanted to write an anti-cop number. The three of us had been talking about write a song about the cops for a while, and we didn’t really know what angle to go for it, like if it should be funny or serious, or how we would get the message across. One day, I was hanging out in Newtown, where Lozzy (another member of the band) also works in a pub, and I saw a big pack of coppers going into all the venues and checking in on everyone. They went into Lozzy’s work, and I sat down at the bar and we just started writing all these silly lyrics, like “what kind of person actually wants to be a cop when they’re a kid? Like, who actually chooses that path for themselves?”, and that was kind of the angle that we went with. So, we continued writing lyrics and the song ended up like that.

What was the inspiration for this track?

There were two main songs that we were listening to when we were writing it. One of them was ‘Constable’ by Pete Temple, which is like a very deep song. It’s almost like a bush-ballad about this constable who’s just reminiscing about their life. It’s very heavy, but a very good snapshot of what it’s like to be a cop, and a very interesting take on how police kind of fit into Australian society; and that was the serious song that we took inspiration from. The other was from Frenzal Rhomb with their song ‘Who’d Be A Cop?’. We listened to that a bit, and we tried to be serious but also funny in the way that Frenzal Rhomb would do it, and that was our inspiration, I guess.

Do you think that this type of song with affect police and security at festivals and gigs in the future?

I was also wondering about this, and we had a little pre-plan before the shows about what we would do if the cops did show up (but luckily, they didn’t). I have spoken to cops whilst on stage at a festival before, and I think they realised that they were outnumbered and so they just ignored me. I don’t really know how that’s going to go down at the moment, and there seems to be a large number of them at gigs with all the Covid safety restrictions, so I guess we’ll find out on tour.

Where did the saxophone in the song come from?

We were actually talking about the artwork and what that was going to look like, and if we’d have time to do a film clip and what that would look like. I was like “oh, maybe we could do like a Benny Hill thing, where the cops are chasing people in that old, comical, cartoon police style”. There’s a big sax solo in the theme song for that show, and so we thought that we should chuck a sax solo in the song. Loz was like “my friend Vuli plays sax and he said he wanted to do something with the band”, and I thought that this was a sign and that we have to do it. It all happened pretty organically, considering how outrageous it actually is.

TD has a signature question- if ‘Guess Who’ was a song, what would it be and why?

Probably red, to represent all the bloodshed from the NSW Police.

‘Guess Who?’ is going to be a part of a debut album. What can you tell us about this album?

The album is something that was definitely written during quarantine. There are a few songs that are very 2020 specific, like “Double Dole” which is about getting that sweet, sweet double JobSeeker for the first time in my life and having enough Centrelink to pay the rent. Then there’s songs about going back to the pubs once they all reopened. We’ve also got songs like “Guess Who?” which is much more political. It’s very much an album for 2020.

What can listeners expect to hear from it?

I think they’ll be pleasantly happy with all the silliness on the album. People who have seen us live will know that we like to crack jokes and have a fun time. There’s also a bit of political commentary, and I think that it’s the first time that we’ve tried to tap in and write songs with a bit more of an introspective look at how politics affects us opposed to how the world around us affects us, and how we all fit into the that world in a bit more depth.

Were there any big challenges when making the album?

I think the biggest challenges were for us in thinking that we could actually do it. We’ve always been that fun/party/silly band, and we really wanted to knuckle-in and write a really good, slick album; book a studio for a whole week, stay there the whole time, bring in a heap of extra gear, play a heap of extra instruments, get a sax solo in there, and really try to focus a lot more on the writing and music than we usually would, instead of just chucking a single out there so we could go on tour again. It was a good challenge to try and push ourselves to be more of a studio band than a live band.

Are there any tracks that you think listeners will hopefully enjoy the most?

I hope everyone enjoys the track “Pressure” that we’ll be bringing out shortly, because It’s my favourite song that I’ve written for a while. We played some new ones live over the weekend, and there’s one called “Just at the Pub Gossin’ With the Gals”, which I think people will enjoy and really like because it’s a nice, fun song. As much as we like doing the political stuff, sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy the simpler things in life.

Do you have any favourite moments from creating the album?

Getting sent the sax solo and hearing that for the first time was pretty cool because we had all just been singing it in a studio and we weren’t really sure how it was going to turn out. Vuli sent us the file and it just fit so perfectly and sounded so sick. We were also, in typical SCABZ form, a bit rushed getting everything together when going in the studio. We weren’t quite finished writing all the songs or any of that kind of stuff, so I think that the fact that the three of us managed to get there with have all these half-ideas for songs and finish them in the studio and just work really hard on the song-writing. It was really cool overall and it’s not something that we’ve had time to do before, so it was really nice.

Do you reckon there will be any tours or live shows coming up soon?

Yeah definitely. We’ve just finished booking a tour of seated shows; We’re going to call them ‘Scabaret’, and we’ll be going to Canberra, Ulludulla, Sydney, Wollongong and Miranda, so hopefully we’ll be announcing that in the next few days, and it should take us up until the end of the year. It should be pretty fun, I reckon. 

How would you describe the current music scene in Sydney?

It’s a pretty nice kind of place at the moment. There’s a lot of variation in the venues, especially with some of them specialising in different genres. There’s also a lot of good promoters and agents around too, and they put a lot of effort into putting on really cool parties. I think as long as a lot of the venues can stay open over the next few months with restrictions and with smaller seated shows, once everything opens again, it’s going to be a really exciting place in Sydney. With the lockout laws that were bought in a few years ago, there’s talk that maybe they’ll be wound back to help the entertainment industry make back some money that it lost during this quarantine period. I have a feeling that when everything opens up again, the world goes back to normal and Sydney will be lifted from these lockout laws and restrictions, it’s going to be a fun place to go and see a band and have a party, I reckon

How did COVID-19 affect your plans for 2020?

I realised today that the last time we played a show was in February, other than the one on the weekend just gone, and that’s the longest time I’ve gone without playing a gig in my whole life, so it was very, very strange. We were kind of hoping to book a support tour overseas this year, and we were trying to play a lot more shows in Victoria because our last gigs went really well down there. A lot of our plans were touring based, and when that didn’t happen, we decided to write an album instead, which kind of worked out, I guess.

Is there anything else we should know about the album or about SCABZ?

We’re usually pretty transparent about what’s coming up, and we’ve got the ‘Scarabet’ shows coming up soon, and a new single from the album in a week or two, hopefully at the beginning of November. There’s a few other little bits and pieces to keep an eye out for as well.

SCABZ debut album ‘Pressure’ will be out November 30.

STREAM ‘GUESS WHO?’ BELOW:

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