After impressing audiences throughout Europe supporting Courtney Barnett, Big Scary brought their funky indie pop to The Lexington on the last of two debut headline shows in London.
The Australian duo of Tom Iansek (vocals, keyboards, guitar) and Jo Syme (drums, vocals) are joined on stage by a bassist/saxophonist to reflect the layers of sound that permeate their records. Formed in 2006, their second full length album, ‘Not Art’, earned them the 2014 Australian Music Prize. Recorded and produced by Iansek, the album was mixed by Grammy Award-winner Tom Elmhirst (Hot Chip, Lily Allen, Adele, Black Keys, Amy Winehouse, The Kills). A new album is forthcoming and Iansek tells us to strap ourselves in for plenty of new songs on the set list.
They begin with the mellow ‘Invest’, which is the ultimate late night chillout track. The sound that flows off the stage is much warmer than on record. The almost spoken word parts of this are reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘West End Girls’ with Iansek doing his best Neil Tennant impression.
‘Luck Now’ continues the laid-back atmosphere but the pace is stepped up for latest single ‘Organism’, which layers keys and drums to create a sound that can only be described as quirky (and has a video to match). On record Iansek’s voice can sound detached but on stage the connection is there and is helped by the chemistry between the band members. They are having fun and it flows through this track.
On ‘Belgian Blues’ Iansek’s vocals take on a Bono-like quality, echoing and soaring through a song that takes them briefly onto the rockier side of indie pop. Although they continue this feel with ‘Gladiator’ they seem more at home when they shift back to driving beats with chilled stylings.
The stand out track for me is a new one. Punctuated by the staccato saxophone and with a spiralling crescendo that carries it to the final beats, it takes their groove to new heights. Experimenting with big beats and synths is where they belong, although the minimalist piano and drums from their earlier work still sounds flawless in this setting. This is a band that seems to simply feel, rather than play, their music. Syme gives the impression that the drum rhythms just flow out of her movements in the same way that Iansek strokes the keys and drifts into falsetto.
Big Scary aren’t scary, but they’re unusual. The new songs are a tantalising glimpse of a forthcoming album from a band whose experimentation is paying off. They’re not big, yet, but they are clever.
Photos © Rhiannon Ormerod