Interview with Josh Biondillo of San Cisco

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They’re a cocky little bunch, San Cisco. Upon first meeting them, that is. Whether face-to-face on the red carpet being interviewed at the ARIAs or over the phone talking for the first time, each member has so far come across to Cream as too cocksure for such young ’uns in the music biz. But that might be because they’ve seen it all before – what with singer Scarlett’s dad having been a band manager for decades (think John Butler Trio, The Waifs).

Anyway, once you do get chatting with them, they do warm up a little.

Antonino Tati gets San Cisco guitarist Josh Biondillo to drop the one-word answers, and eventually warm up to announce his fear of crowds, talk about success with songs on the subject of stalking, and music that’s “a lot different to Awkward” on the band’s self-titled debut LP…

 

For a band who only formed in 2009, San Cisco is doing remarkably well. Has the success so far blown you away?

In some ways it has. It’s been good to play shows outside of WA. But other than that, I was talking to Jordi’s dad last night about it, saying that it personally doesn’t feel much different to how it felt in the early days.

 

To another band member’s Dad – Scarlett’s – he actually manages the John Butler Trio and The Waifs. With that connection, did you guys get to go to gigs at an early age?

We’ve always gone to local gigs. Even though we were under age, we went.

 

You all went to school together. Have you always gotten along or have there been a few fights?

I think when we’re on tour we behave in a way that allows us to get along. We know we’re going to be together for a while, so you don’t want to put a… fork into the works.

 

You mean a spanner in the works?

Yeah, that’s the one. Anyway, we try to get along as best as we can when we’re on the road.

 

You guys changed your band name from King George to San Cisco. Why were you called King George to start?

The name King George nobody really liked. It was really just a name from the corner of two streets where the venue was that we used to play. It was on the corner of King and George Streets in Perth. A super-lame name, I know, but that’s just how the band name came about… So we went along with that for a while but then got to the stage where we realised it was time to come up with a band name that was, actually kind of… good.

 

Well we’re glad you changed it. A lot of people do think, however, that the name San Cisco has some connection to the city of San Francisco…

We just tell them there’s no connection between us and San Francisco. It’s really just a name that’s not associated with anything, which is how we wanted it.

 

Your first single Awkward made it onto all manner of charts. I bet you had a great Christmas last year celebrating its success…

Yeah, we did.

 

Was it bizarre hearing your song so constantly played on radio?

Yeah, big-time. When we were writing it, it was just like another song. We didn’t think it was going to be as big an explosion as it had been. It just happened to be a song that resonated with more people than normal.

 

Do you agree that part of the attraction of Awkward was that the song talks about stalking and the use of mobile devices in the contemporary age, whereas a lot of love songs or anti-love songs are usually the same old boring story?

Yeah, I think the content and the quirkiness really resonated with people. Even the call and response duet thing between Jordi and Scarlett was just right. All that was happening at the time with the Gotye and Kimbra thing, so it kind of came out at the right time.

 

I believe you provide some vocals on tracks. Are your vocals featured on the new self-titled album?

My vocals appear on some of the older songs but I consciously tried to not sing as much on the new record and to instead concentrate on playing instruments. I prefer to write the melodies of the songs now, as opposed to singing them.

 

In 2010, San Cisco covered Tame Impala’s track Solitude Is Bliss

We were just in the studio recording it to get our levels right, and our producer hadn’t heard the song before and thought it was actually our song.

 

Could it be one to consider for Triple J’s Like A Version series?

I think we’ve been invited to do that, actually, but I’m not sure what we’ll cover.

 

Do you like the way bands today are covering each other so readily? A new song comes out and weeks later it’s being covered by another band.

Well as you know covering songs is not a new thing… Even the Beatles did it a lot.

 

It’s just that those artists used to cover artists that came 10 years before them, and nowadays artists are covering each other within weeks of a song’s release. Really, it’s a form of instant flattery, don’t you think?

Yeah, definitely.

 

You’re currently touring and also will be playing the festival circuit.

Yeah, we’re playing Falls Festival and Southbound in Perth. Then, at the end of January, we’re going overseas again.

 

What’s your favourite thing about festivals?

Before I was playing in the band, I never used to go to festivals. I don’t really like crowds so I guess they’re not really for me. I’d rather be on stage or backstage at a festival…

 

What happens when you’re on stage and you see tens of thousands of people, do you get nervous then?

Nah, I’m comfortable with that. Because we’ve done it so many times before, I’m kind of numb to it now.

 

Tell us about the new album.

It’s very different. Those who are out to hear another Awkward are going to be surprised, but hopefully satisfied. There’s a lot more keyboards and interesting noises. Not just guitars, drums and vocals.

 

Did you all get involved in the production side of things?

We got involved quite a bit. We sat there through all the recording and chipped in with the mixing.

 

And are there any other artists you’d love to collaborate with?

There are a few bands on our label [Fat Possum Records] that I’d love to collaborate with: the Smith Westerns, and there’s a band in New York called Friends. And outside of the label, The Black Keys, definitely.

 

San Cisco’s self-titled debut album is out through Fat Possum Records.

 The band play Falls Festival in Lorne on 29 December and in Marion Bay on 30 December, followed by Southbound Festival in Busselton, WA, on 4 January, 2013.