Australian four piece San Cisco make a brief stop over in the UK to play a single date at The Dome, Tufnell Park in London at the tail end of a string of European dates in promotion of their second album “Gracetown”. I’m lucky enough to have scored interview time with band’s lead singer, Jordi Davieson, before their gig and after the band’s brief detour for some Thai food, I sit with Jordi on the chilly balcony of their dressing room to talk. He’s probably shattered and jet lagged to hell but is polite, charismatic and thoroughly charming. Our chat covers Australia, the 80s, heavy breathing and shit breakfasts.
Backseat Mafia: Congratulations on the second album “Gracetown”. The name and artwork really evoke Australia. Was that a deliberate move?
Jordi: I’m not sure. It definitely wasn’t premeditated to make it about where we’re from. The way the name came about was we just found an artist that we liked. He happened to draw very Australian style buildings and bits of architecture so then I said one of my favourite photos of my parents when they were younger is that house. Family friends of ours called Darryl and Helen, they bought that house when they were about 30 in Gracetown and they got this really cool photo of it and I was like, why don’t we have this on the front cover and then we called it “Gracetown” and it all found a place. Then after we did that, we realised how symbolic Gracetown is to us as a band and all those sorts of things. It just worked out really well.
BM: You’ve really embraced that cool 80s sound. It reminded me at times of things like the soundtrack to the film “Drive”. Is that a conscious influence?
J: That’s a great soundtrack. The “Drive” soundtrack’s sick. I don’t know anything about the eras of sound. Like the 60s. I’m shit! I know fuck all about music!
BM: You just make the kind of music you like the sound of?
J: Yeah. I listen to a lot of music, but I won’t know who’s in this band and when they released this record. I’m useless like that! I don’t think we try too much to be like the 80s. We might try and pull a drum sound off this and reference a lot of tracks.
BM: You’re often compared to acts like Vampire Weekend and other guitar pop acts, but what genre do you consider yourself?
J: I don’t know what genre we fit into. Every time we write a song we write it differently and we pull on so many different influences, like the Turtles was a big one and obviously the Beatles, sometimes Bob Dylan and then we’ll reference a Drake track and a Kanye West track and then a Taylor Swift track. You know, it’s just whatever we like, what we think we want it to sound like. Like, we want to make the guitar sound like this.
BM: Covering so many genres, do you like the fact that your album can appeal to lots of different ages of fans?
J: Yeah, I think mainly we definitely have a young fan base but we just try to write pop music that people can relate to and like listening to and that can be anyone. That’s the goal. We just want to make music that we would listen to and that we think other people would like to listen to.
BM: Coming off the back of touring Europe, Australia and the U.S., are you finding that you are starting to get more attention?
J: Yes, slowly in the U.S. things are growing. Over here [in the UK] it’s not huge. In Germany and Holland it’s pretty good and London, but everywhere else it’s not blowing up or anything.
BM: I first randomly heard of you and saw your music video for “Awkward” in Barcelona last year. Do you find it odd that you’re big in random places like that?
J: [laughing] Oh? I don’t know about Spain but in Mexico we have a big fan base, out of nowhere which is really cool. We just played our first festival out there and it was crazy. We had this signing and it went on for like three and a half hours in this tiny little shop and it’s really cool that we never put any time or work into that part of the world but it’s happening, all thanks to internet.
BM: Do you think it’s still important to get out there and do gruelling tour schedules or do you think you can just have a big hit thanks to the internet?
J: No, you still need to do that. That’s what being in a band is about I think. Sure, some bands, like Daft Punk, they released their record and they’re not touring it which is fair enough as the thing’s incredible and the only way it can be recreated is if they used a fuck load of backing tracks so that’s fair enough, but part of being in a band – the reason why, Josh and I have talked about this and I think everyone else feels the same, – is we make music to entertain people. We don’t make music for ourselves and we don’t do stuff a certain way to fulfil what we’re trying to do. We write music to affect people and that’s the fun thing… to bring something to someone’s life. So, being in a band and touring, it’s important to do all that yeah.
BM: You’ve been in a band since a very young age. Do you ever get tired of it all?
J: No, you don’t get bored, but you do get tired. There are times when you just want to be at home. Towards the end of our last tour circuit that got pretty tough. Like, we’d done a lot of touring and we were really tired and just ready to go home but that hasn’t really happened this tour. We’ve just started again. It’s so much fun but it’s usually either really fun and exciting or like really hard, like you’re travelling for hours, you’ve had no sleep, you’re hungry.
BM: When you do unwind, you seem to do a lot of sports like surfing, which to us Brits is the Australian stereotype. Is that an important part of your downtime?
J: Yeah, for me it is. I guess I’m just a big cliché! [laughs] I like doing various things like boating, 4 wheel driving, surfing and fishing… that’s what really gets me going. And then Nick’s pretty similar and Josh. He’s just recently started getting into camping, last time we were home for a while, he was really starting to enjoy that. Yeah that is what we do. We’re pretty cliché!
BM: That’s the love we have for Australian life though, through things like “Neighbours” and “Home and Away”
J: [laughing] Yeah, it’s not like Neighbours!
BM: There’s always a lot of love for Australian acts, dating back to those days and then more current artists like Vance Joy. Do you think it’s difficult for Australian acts to make it in the UK?
J: I don’t think it’s easy. It hasn’t been a walk in the park for us. As a successful Australian band, it’s very easy to be like, we’ll just tour Australia, like it’s financially viable. But we come over here and we invest a lot of money and when you tour internationally it’s an investment, a risk to try and widen your fan base and I don’t think it’s super easy and they’re accepting. It’s not as if they don’t like Australian bands but you’ve got to have the right song to kick it off. You’ve got to work it.
BM: You’ve done some really cool cover versions. How do you choose which acts to cover?
J: All the covers that we’ve ever done have never really been premeditated. It’s more like, let’s just do this. I don’t know, but I think we’re good at doing covers. We should have been a covers band! We’ve just been really fortunate in that the covers we have done they’ve turned out all right but we definitely don’t try and copy anyone too much.
BM: You’ve previously said that “Awkward” [a song about a stalker] isn’t autobiographical, but a lot of your songs are about love and heartbreak. Is that something you’ve drawn from personal experience?
J: “Awkward”’s probably the only song that’s completely fictional. Every other song, I’ve written from observing someone’s relationship and not just boyfriend and girlfriend, friendships, family, everything. And I can’t write words that are completely fabricated. I’ve tried to do it and it’s just shit. There needs to be some real emotion or you need to embody somebody’s emotions to do it, once you’ve gone over your own shit to sing about. There’s been a few reviews where they’ve said this is a heartbreak record but it’s not it’s just that usually when I write songs, it’s because there’s something shit that’s been happening. It might not be happening to me but it’s just something that I notice. I don’t find it really easy to write happy songs even though people say they all sound happy. I like that. I like dark twists, so it looks like something and you look again and oh no, it’s not that! “Too Much Time Together” is about a really fucked up relationship that I looked at and was like, this is full on, this is a problem, but yeah, I think it’s a big thing in relationships. It’s about the whole journey isn’t it? It’s alright at the beginning, then the next verse it’s a bit pear shaped and it’s ruined.
Our talk moves onto their striking visuals and whether they enjoy doing the more obviously-going-to-be-viewed-a-lot efforts like “Fred Astaire” or just having fun and being themselves in videos like “Golden Revolver” and Jordi explains how they select video treatment ideas and try and tailor them to their own desires.
J: Recently we’ve just done a video clip for “Magic” and that was completely different. It’s the first video clip that we’re not in. It’s a bit different. We just let them run with it.
We discuss the choice of future singles. I think “About You”, Jordi is not keen on iTunes bonus track “Flashbang”. He visibly deflates at the mention of it, seeing it more as an experiment and not his favourite track.
BM: The second album has a lot of breathy lyrics and vocals [on tracks like “Run” and “Magic”]. Is it more of an adult or sexy record do you think with the heavy breathing?
J: No, that was our producer’s idea, Steve. We’d done the demo and everything was there and he was like it needs a breathing rhythm and I was like, what the fuck do you mean, a breathing rhythm? And he was like something like [makes scary breathing noises] and I was like, alright and that was that! And then you know, it’s kept popping up like Scarlett does her thing in “Magic”. Breathy and bright seems to be good. A good combo.
We discuss how “Run” is really good to run to and what he misses most about being back home (good breakfasts – you need poached eggs, avocado and tomatoes, nice and fresh. Not bread, cheese and meat like in Europe or really dead UK breakfasts with shit beans!). He explains the pros and cons of Perth (good coffee and so many things to do like visiting the beaches down south, but a relatively small city with some ‘hectic’ people).
The band have extensive touring plans, but nothing featuring the UK again yet but they do aim to do more supports, having toured with Darwin Deez and the Vaccines (really nice guys, Jordi says). Glastonbury would be nice, but their dream support slot would be with Haim. Overall, Jordi prefers festivals due to the sense of camaraderie.
Jordi seems incredibly at ease, grounded and a thoroughly nice young man and combined with the great music and sex appeal of the whole band, San Cisco can only be headed for greater success. I end by asking him if now they’re conquering the globe, they get a heroes’ welcome back home? Jordi smiles wryly and explains.
J: Back in Fremantle, everyone makes sure that we know that we’re just some kids from Fremantle and it’s really good.
Gracetown is out now on Island City Records. The band’s touring recommences in Australia through April into May and North America throughout June into July.