Big Scary


At first, the moniker Big Scary might seem like a strange name for the duo of Tom Iansek (guitar/vocals/piano) and Joanna Syme (drums/vocals): the band isn't that big (there are only two of them, after all) and they're not that scary (they're both very nice, and there are no animal sacrifices at their shows). The sound the two make, however, is a different thing entirely.

Big in its ambition and almost scary in its scope, depth and range, Big Scary's music knows no boundaries, moving effortlessly between howling, fuzzed-out garage rock, intricate, pastoral piano and sublime rainy-day ballads. Beginning in 2006, Iansek and Syme started making music with acoustic guitars and egg shakers. After a year-long break, the two returned to the still-unnamed project in 2008 with new ideas and new instruments –– electric guitars and drum kits and mandolins and ukuleles.

Unconcerned with any notion of genre, and drawing on their formal training –– Iansek in piano, Syme in jazz drumming –– the two let their writing take them where it may. This process, then as now, continues onto the stage, where Iansek and Syme's remarkable chemistry allows them to play each song as they feel it in the moment, to follow searing rock numbers with exquisite hushed balladry.

In late 2008, Big Scary made their first recordings: six songs, laid down in a single day, all from live takes. One of these cuts, 'The Apple Song', was picked up by Triple J Unearthed, and soon made its way into spot rotation and onto the Best of 2008 Unearthed playlist. With a growing following, in early 2009 Big Scary put out their first release, a four-track mini-EP led by the stomping single 'This Weight'. Featuring the now unmistakable mix of Syme's thumping drums and Iansek's towering distorted guitar and high-wire vocals, This Weight soon made its way onto Triple J's Hottest 100 initial voting list; the mini-ep went on to be named one of Beat Magazine Singles of the Year. Critics raved about this 'talented and fearless' (Beat) new duo, who had seemingly just appeared, fully formed, out of the ether.

Inspired by a wave of apocalyptic weather that battered the country in September 2009, in early 2010 the duo released the six-track 'At The Mercy of The Elements' ep. Featuring the stunning, piano-led ballad 'Falling Away', which received heavy national airplay, the fierce single 'Hey Somebody' and the gorgeous, sonorous title track, the ep was a full-to-bursting showcase of the duo's vital, dexterous sound. 'Thoroughly excellent,' raved The Australian. 'Packed with anxiety and bravado,' Beat said. With a growing national profile, Big Scary embarked on a period of heavy touring, with a diverse list of supports that reflected the duo's rich, eclectic output: The Vasco Era, Florence and the Machine, Midlake, Little Red, Editors. Soon enough the duo began headlining their own shows, first in their hometown and then interstate.

The natural world –– that most immense of muses –– continues to inspire the band. In mid 2010, the band released the first of four seasonally themed, limited-edition eps. With the Autumn and Winter eps, Big Scary showed themselves capable of translating the vagaries and glories of each season –– the flurry of rich colour in autumn, the quiet bleakness of winter, the renewal of spring, the majesty of a summer thunderstorm –– into utterly compelling music, as full of heart as it is free of pretension. In December 2010, the first three eps –– Autumn, Winter and Spring –– will be released with the new Summer tracks as The Big Scary Four Seasons on Gaga Digi. Have a listen to a few tracks from the album in the player above.

In late 2011, the inexhaustible duo released Vacation, a full length lp of new material, and 2012 will see them embark on their first OS tour. We can continue to expect the unexpected from Big Scary, a duo of uncommon gifts whose only constants seem to be their capacity for invention, their desire to keep moving forward.

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