Seminal Californian punk band SAMIAM are currently on tour in Australia and we had the chance to chat to guitarist Sergie Loobkoff about what’s going on…

G’day  Mate, how’s things?

Shitty.  Last Friday I did  this interview….thought  I emailed it back….then  found out that I  didn’t attach the file.  So today I look for it and I threw it off my desktop.  I’m not a great fan of interviews…but typing answers are even worse the second time.  After about 20 years of using computers daily…and I am still capable of bonehead rookie mistakes.  That’s comforting.

Other than that, things are fine. I’m looking forward to travelling to your land. Playing some shows, meeting some people.

This year Samiam turns 20 years old, you’ve released 7 studio albums, countless  7"’s and have done  a few compilation tracks.  My question is this, from the inception of Samiam to where you guys are now,  is there anything more  that you want to  do as a band? Are you happy to coast along from now on?

I  think that Samiam is  sort of an blob  that carries on with  no real goals other  than to have fun  and provide a creative  outlet for us. The  days of looking at  it as a ‘career’  are long over…basically  ever since 2000, when  you might say we  ‘broke up’, we have  been simply picking  and choosing what we  do based on what  we might enjoy rather  than what might help  us along. As a result we tour mostly abroad. You know, it’s a lot funner to be in Berlin or Sao  Paulo or Barcelona than  in Cleveland. At least for us, who, in our day we toured America 2 or 3 times a year for a decade. 

Going to Australia is  actually a long time  goal being realized…for  one reason or another,  we never made it…I’d  love to play in  Greece and Russia too…those  are places where we  have been booked and  it fell through. But  to be honest, I  have toured everywhere  in Europe, Japan, South  America, America, even  china….we’ve done alot  for a band that  isn’t really to popular.  We are very lucky.  Right now we are all very hopeful to do another album…but it’s hard as we live all across the states and can’t rehearse alot. Keeping our fingers crossed, sort to speak.

Can you tell me about the first show you ever played with the band?

We  played with a band  called Christ on Parade  in a venue that  we considered ‘the commercial  rock club’…looking back…no,  it was a dank shithole,  but you know how  people are when they  are young and ‘punk’  … we would have  played at our local  grassroots club (called  Gilman St.) if we  were truly supportive  of the scene I  guess. But I think that choice sort of signaled people that we were different. a lot  of people came to  that show…mostly because  Jason was in a  popular local band called  Isocracy….and I think  the general feeling  was, "what the  fuck are these guys  doing?"

Now days, Samiam’s  style of music would be  thought of as regular  or kind of generic  indie rock / punk…if  you weren’t going to  be very kind….but  at the time it  was sort of out  there to the punk’s  ears and people were  very ‘unkind’. It was too melodic and not punk regulation standard. So it didn’t go over especially well.  For about a year, we never really drew as many people as that first show. It took quite awhile for people to say, "hmmm…this is ok…"…’just ok.’  Ha.

It seems like the band is revered as some sort of deity in the punk rock world, did you realize when you were just starting out that it might  turn into something  special?

Deity?  I wouldn’t go so far as that. Perhaps  to the guys that  make flyers and fanzines…because  that is where it  is occasionally said…meanwhile  99.9999% of humans on  planet earth have never  heard of this strange  ‘god’. Ha. 

The  thing is, truthfully,  that if you told  me that I would  be doing this with  Jason in 2009, the  1990 me would say,  "oh shit…really? Are  we going to be  driving Lambo’s and living  in mansions with special  rooms for cocaine and  heroin  storage? Will it be expensive to feed the pet tigers?"  "Do I get to  OD or die in a  fiery plane crash?"  Meaning:  it would have  sounded pretty absurd.  We never thought we were any better than the reality: playing in smaller clubs and having day jobs…and before Green Day happened, any other possibilities never really seemed possible.
So to answer  your question, I personally  think that Samiam is  ‘special’ (for lack  of a better term)  and playing with my  friends in some of  the amazing situations  we find ourselves (both  good and bad) is  an amazing thing. The fact that the rest  of the world doesn’t  recognize how ‘special’  this is…is sort of  beside the point. There  are a lot of other  bands that haven’t done  what we have that  deserved the chance  but couldn’t get it  together, so I feel  pretty happy with how  things have transpired.

Next  month you’re heading  over to our shows  for a run of shows  including the Poison  City Weekender, which  includes some of our  best playing two shows  in Melbourne. What are  you expecting when you  come down under? Anything you would like to  do while you’re down  here?

I have a lot of Aussie  friends, not just from  A Death in the  Family, but from Blueline  Medic and Bodyjar and  actually a bunch not  through the band. So,  I’m looking forward  to hanging with them.  Then there is always the fun of playing  some shows, but that  is usually only about  an hour out of  the day. So I hope  to realize my number  one goal of the  tour, which is to  hug a koala at  some reserve or something. 

People love to point  out that they can be vicious, but I don’t  believe it. Especially when I delicately offer some delicious blades of eucalyptus to the little fucker. I hear that the Melbourne shows  are sold out, so  that is very pleasant.  Samiam is usually much  better with a good  crowd, we find it increasingly  hard to play when  the room isn’t full  of love. In the  old days, when we  thought more about the  bands future, we (like  all smart bands) got  quite good at ‘faking  it’. Basically rocking  out when we weren’t  particularly wanted. Luckily,  as we do pick and  choose where and when  we play, it is  unusual that we play  a house that doesn’t  have some faint sense  of ‘love’…so we don’t  have too. But if  put in a situation  where people don’t like  us…like opening for  a band where the  fans were indifferent  to any opening band, we  aren’t terribly great  I suppose. Hmmm, that  is a tangent I went on.

I remember first hearing about Samiam through the live split with Texas is the Reason which was released back in 1999, that’s 10 years dude. How you think since then Samiam has changed as a band, people and in a live setting?

Despite  the fact that we  have a bit of different  lineup, I think it  is pretty similar. And  our current lineup is  the same for the  last decade except for  the bassist. The real  change for the band  was around 1994, when  we made the album  Clumsy. Before that,  we were sort of  scattered and I don’t  know…sort of shitty.  We learned a lot in making that record, especially  about sound and songwriting. 

Mainly our attitude changed, no longer were  we striving for acceptance  in the punk world and trying  to make music to  stagedive too haha. I think we probably lost a lot of those  early followers at that  point. But since then, we  have been pretty much  the same sort of  band. To be honest,  the time since the  late 90s passed so  quickly, I don’t really  feel much different  at all.

You  guys last released ‘Whatever’s  Got You Down’ in  2006, any plans on  a new record?

Like  I said, we would  love to. That record  was a major disappointment  for me, so much fighting  while making and the  result, while it has  some good songs, the  sound really was shitty.  It would be great  to make an album  that held up to  the preceding three, which  I’m quite proud of.  I really hope so, but the process of writing and recording  is strained by the  fact that we live  so far apart from  each other.
Musically, it is not tough, we have tons of songs that we have  individually recorded and  rehearsed as a band  over the last year  or two. The real  problem is that Jason,  the singer, doesn’t  write or rehearse by  himself at home. Which  I can understand I  suppose. singing isn’t like  guitar, you don’t casually  do it while watching  TV or on the couch. 

Anyways, my point is that we need to be together  in the practice room  to get the vocals  and that isn’t very  easy when 2,500 miles  separates us.

The band kind of went on hiatus around 2000.  What was the main reason for this? 

Mainly  the strain of being  in a band that  is a struggle. If Samiam  was much more popular,  we would have stuck  it out. But after  10 years, I didn’t  feel like dealing with  the arguments all the  time. It didn’t seem  worth it at the  moment. Of course, within a few months,  we were offered a  European tour and took  it, then South America  and took it. Then we  basically spent years  considering ourselves broken  up yet toured Europe  once or twice a  year…every year.

I  started a band in  2001 with my friend  Garrett called Solea and that  is when I realized  Samiam isn’t that much  of a struggle. We have  lots of fans and  promoters and record  labels interested in  us. Solea was a  complete struggle like  Samiam was in the  early years. I really don’t know how new  bands do it, especially  financially.

Even  though you weren’t really  playing shows in North  America around that  time, you still toured  places like Europe etc.  Why is that? 

I  think I touched on  it earlier, but we  toured America maybe  30 times in our  day. To an australian,  it might sound exciting  and romantic, like the  old west or something.  But for me, I don’t love a lot of the  places and situations  you deal with on an American tour. Particularly  the long drives, terrible  hotels and food options  in rural states. I  love the places I  love, but there are  so many times we  would play a show  and I felt, man,  I would never be  here except for with  the band. This is a  depressing place! When you are walking around Paris or Beijing   on tour…you don’t  say, "fuck, I am  bored what am I  doing here?" And there is a big difference because a crepe in a Parisian  cafe and Taco Bell  in a parking lot  in Flint, Michigan.

What  have been some of  your most memorable  tours to date? 

Green  Day in Japan was  amazing. We actually have  done quite a few  bigger tours where we  opened for big bands. Bad  Religion too. But really  smaller headlining tours  is much more rewarding.  I would rather play  for 200 people that  know the music and  show it than a 3,000  person show where we  adequately fill the  time slot. Japan is always fun. I’ve toured  there 5 times. South America was great, but  I don’t know. It’s  hard to point out  one tour or one  show.

What  bands have been getting  high rotation on your  ipod/in your cd player  lately? 

The  new Beck, last couple  of Dinosaur Jnr albums, Adam  Franklin solo record, Built  To Spill, Sonic  Youth, The Beatles.  I am really, mainly  stuck in the music  I loved in the  90s, especially with punk  music, nothing really  has stuck with me  in a long time.  Alkaline Trio is one  of the few bands  of the last ten  years, at least their  older records. I actually have been listening to a lot of Blueline  and Bodyjar and A Death  In The Family recently. 

Melbourne  band A Death In  The Family are doing  the national support  for your Aussie tour.  Had you heard of  the band prior to  organizing the tour?  I know Gaslight Anthem  loved them and took  them overseas.

They  came over with a  couple of Blueline medic  guys, Adrian and Dave, and  visited me at my  home to borrow some  gear for that tour.  They were really nice  guys and I went  to see them at  their show. When they  returned the stuff,  they gave me an  awesome amp they couldn’t  carry home and a  bottle of Jameson which  I was very impressed  with.

Such generous,  cool guys. Typically people would drop off the equipment all fucked  and say, "sorry…"  but not them. It  was funny, they knew  I was "the guy  from that band Samiam’  but weren’t at all  impressed or anything.  I’m sure they realize  Samiam isn’t something  to get too worked  up about, but they  really didn’t seem interested  in the least. But  about a week after  they got back Andrew  from the band sent  an email inviting us  to come and has  spend about a million  hours on setting it  up. After pretty much  writing off the idea  of touring there. It  was an awesome surprise.  We are very happy.

Any  parting words for your diehard fans?

Uh, hopefully you will come out  to the shows and  we can drum up  a little old timer  fun. I guess our constituacy is now usually around 25 and up and not  many kids care anymore. And  with that, the difficulties  of getting people to  the shows multiply.  "But I need to  get up for work  tomorrow…" or "can  I find a babysitter?"  Haha! 

Thanks  for the interview!


For more info on SAMIAM head to their Myspace page.

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