Image description: The album cover of Between You and Me. The three members of San Cisco sit in an antique black car, their faces looking directly up, towards the camera. They sit casually, and are dressed in 1970s-era clothing.
By Susannah Wong and Tiani Ralph
From playing the bars of Freo to the stage of New York’s CMJ Festival, local indie rock legends San Cisco have played some of world’s best stages in their ten years on the live circuit.
In part one of the interview, we sat down with lead vocalist and guitarist Jordi Davieson to get the lowdown on the band’s new album, Between You and Me.
Susannah Wong: What was the songwriting process like for this album?
Jordi Davieson: For this record, we really wanted to get the song structure and the lyrics and the stories really strong before we took them into the studio. So what happened was Josh and I started sitting down in our living room and just like writing these songs, and then we would show Scarlett and she would be like the gatekeeper and be like “This one’s shit, that one will do, this is bad” [laughs].
Then from there we would get in the studio with our producer, Steven, and Scarlett and Josh and I – well actually we would demo them – we would play them on guitar and then we would demo them in our home studio, just to give Scarlett and Steven a bit more of an idea of how we wanted the song to happen, and then they would be like, “yep, let’s keep working on that one.”
So, then we take that into the bigger studio and work on it really hard, and sometimes we’d like tear it apart, and other times we’d keep it very similar to how it was. Then eventually we went to [NSW town] Mullumbimby for a month, and we were out in the bush, away from everything, and just like worked twelve hours a day till the record was finished.
SW: Ah cool. So, do you think that was a better approach in terms of concentration?
JD: I think in the initial songwriting process when you’re like coming up with these lyrics and ideas that are actually going to connect with people, I feel like I need, to write them, life to happen, to come up with the ideas. So, I can’t just pump out a record in a month – I need like five months’ worth of life experiences to come with the ideas, and then it’s okay. But once I’ve come up with the ideas, to have that intense month of making all the music and how it’s going to sound, because that’s more Josh and Scarlett’s realm, and they’re a lot quicker working [sic] than me.
SW: You’re writing a lot from personal experiences then?
JD: Yeah, especially with this record. It’s a lot more personal than The Water, which was our last record, but it’s more like Gracetown, which was our second record. I feel like this record’s quite similar to Gracetown in the songwriting process and in the kinds of songs that are there.
SW: Did any other artists influence this album?
JD: Josh was listening to a lot of West Coast 70s country pop sorta like America, Fleetwood Mac, and Scarlett’s also into a lot of Fleetwood Mac, but she always pulls out really good references from real current pop songs – that was really good. She’d just pull out an Ariana Grande reference from nowhere, and we were like “yeah! That’s a great idea, we’ll do something like that.”
SW: What track from the album are you most excited for your audience to hear?
JD: Yeah, it’s hard; I really love all of them. But people have heard most of the songs anyway, but I really want to get Alone out, and we’ve done a video clip for it, and I think Alone will be one of my favourites. And then also Between You and Me.
SW: In making the album, was there any track that was more technically difficult than the others?
JD: I actually didn’t do much playing on this record – Josh did most of it and Scarlett obviously on the drums. I did a lot of singing and more writing stuff.
What was tricky? On The Line – we had to work for that song so hard. We wrote it for a year, and even once we left our intense time at Mullumbimby, it still wasn’t quite right, and it wasn’t going to be on the record. Then we got home, and our release date had changed, and we were like, “We should try and get some more songs on the record, let’s have another go at On The Line.” We took it to the studio and rerecorded everything live… and it came out great. And I think that would be one of the songs that we’ve had to work the hardest for to get it to where we want it to be.
SW: Your newly released single, Messages, showcased vocals from Scarlett Stevens. Is that something we can expect more of in the future?
JD: Yeah, we’re always trying to get Scarlett to sing more. She was saying the other day, we were in the studio, and we were like “come on Scarlett, you should sing this one!” and she’s like “no, no, no, I don’t want to!” And then by the end of the recording process, three weeks later, all of sudden she was like, “no, no, I’ll sing this bit. No, no, actually Jordi, that’d be better if I sung that,” and she’s all into it. Now that the album’s been finished, she’s like “ugh, I should’ve sung that bit” [laughs].
So yeah, hopefully. I’ve been working on trying to get her to get off the drums and just sing for a couple of songs, but we have to see if that’ll happen.
SW: In summary, what would you say the album is about?
JD: I’ve always been asked “What do you write songs about?” and I’ve just always written songs about relationships, like romantic ones or friendships, or literally just communications between people, because that’s just what I find really interesting. That’s what I think about a lot – people’s behaviour.
This album – the title track is Between You and Me – which is a love song reflecting on a very fond relationship that’s not happy anymore. But I love the sentiment of Between You and Me – this album’s a very personal thing that I want to share between me and our fans. But also, all the songs on this record are songs about stuff between you and me; the person I’m singing about. So that’s the common thread. It’s all that personal shit [laughs]. About relationships in my life or that I’ve observed.
San Cisco play Fremantle Arts Centre October 30, and Between You and Me is out September 4.
Read part two of the interview here.