Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN - 24/3
Behind the scenes: SiamesePrevious Next
author HES date 25/01/15
Just a about a week before their release party, Siamese lead singer Mirza Radonjica wrote me on facebook and asked if Rockfreaks.net would be open to maybe show a bit of an inside story about the day. Feeling old enough to actually make no-hangover arrangements on a Saturday mid-day, I accepted. So, Saturday at one o'clock I showed up at Mirza’s place, expecting the boys to be hungover, and when there is no one answering the doorbell my prejudiced mind flies to the press release, which stated that the boys of Siamese were supposedly “growing up”, as I send Mirza a message on facebook. A prompt reaction from Mirza surprises me as he hurries out to let me into his white painted apartment in suburban Vanløse, that he shares with his girlfriend Sabrina; “Sorry! I was just listening to some music - I didn’t hear the bell! he apologizes as I hurry up the narrow staircase. The boys are talkative and explain how they received their CDs with the wrong track order and had to replace all of them last night. Even though I have known the guys of Siamese for quite a while, they seem jittery and shy - refusing my help to clear the table while they tell me about the record and how the experience of crowdfunding this third record has been a blessing - creatively.
We all know how the rock scene can sometimes be dogmatic and locked in it's way of doing things. It's clear to both Mirza and guitarist Andreas Krüger that they really wanted to do things differently: Back in the days the band would lock themselves in a dodgy basement and just work until they were finished - this time they have involved a small army. The most important piece of the puzzle seems to have been the collab with vocalist/producer Grace Tither. Tither has been working with Andreas on multiple electronic projects but has now evolved into a bit of an honorary member of the band also joining them later on stage for backup vocals. Not only has there been a difference in the recording process, the band is not shy to admit that they have looked to both electronic and popular music for inspiration: Something the rock scene does not always look kindly at. As we're getting ready to leave for Bremen theatre where the release is taking place - Mirza and Andreas once again brings their age into the discussion; plainly the band is getting too old to just do whatever is expected of them. Even if it's going to cost them a star in the books of the rest of the scene.
HES and Mirza setting up a "takeover" of Rockfreaks.net's facebook.
We grab a cab from Mirza's and stockpile it with Royal Beers that the brewery has been kind enough to donate to the band's loyal fans. It gets the guys talking about how tonight isn't really going to be a regular show: It's time to thank the people who have been following the band for more than seven years now - they have after all also funded this record. It all ties in with the overwhelming sense of the band growing up. The more adolescent name “Siamese Fighting Fish” - the costume shows, the free shots of “Fishermans” on stage and waking up with a hangover before a gig has been replaced with some serious ambition, more radio-friendly tracks and shortening up the name to just “Siamese”. The lyrics of the new, self-titled and third record are raw and honest: About insecurity and megalomania, cocaine-fueled madness and an introspective theme of being afraid of solitude. All of this is of course in clear opposition to tonight’s pride and accomplishment, but I am getting the sense that the thankfulness towards their fans is more than skin deep, almost as if the former years have caught up to the band - the gratitude almost like a moral hangover as the haze of the last seven years of binging on the attention is clearing.
Something else that Siamese has done differently is to hire their own sound engineer for the entire duration of their upcoming tour. Playing medium stages all over Denmark where commitment to the sound quality may vary, is a poor excuse for bad sound. For a band that has mainly got a large following because of their energetic stage presence it’s a strategic maneuver, to ensure that the shows have the best of conditions. The band knows they are challenging their audience, and they want the new music to come through unhindered. Additionally the band is working with a backtrack for this show and the ones to follow, causing immediate concern technically, but you also sense that the band sees this as risqué in the rock biz; only pop acts use backtracks. This attention to detail may be redeeming enough for most, but overall the boys seem ready to take on the critique head on - as long as they sound like they want to.
Violinist Christian Hjort Lauritzen is late and rushes in the door. The slender, bright eyed youngster is carrying his violin case and quickly throws it all on the ground as he apologizes. Not an original member, Christian was “borrowed” from another Copenhagen band Stream City a couple of years ago. These couple of months are hectic for him, Mirza explains - both of the bands are now releasing new material putting Christian in the lucky, but stressful situation of being involved with two tours. Having actually written the entirety of one of my favorite songs on the new Siamese record ("Gods And Kings"), Christian always surprises with his complete outpour of musical creation. As drummer Joakim Stilling pounds away during soundcheck, we find Christian tucked in a corner jamming along to the beat on a dusty old piano.
The eclectic mix of instruments has carried Siamese a lot of the way, combined with Mirza’s balkanese vocal phrasings. Much to the band’s surprise and maybe even slight disappointment, I had decided not to listen to the new album before the show (But LF did, and you can read her review here). This is mainly because I didn’t want to talk about what I thought about the record, I wanted them to tell me what they thought. But as I get sneak peeks throughout the sound check I get both nervous on behalf of the band, but also on behalf of the crowd. Will the two expectations meet?
The rest of the time before the release is spent on putting up a commemorative wall of the seven past years, ironing shirts, a little bit of dinner and signing crowdfunded CD’s. The “calm before the storm” feeling sets in as the band has a beer or two and play a round of fussball. They have decided to break up the release into two sets, the first set mainly being the new, more funky and pop-inspired part. It’s clear to see that this bold decision is having its impact on the nerves. The whole of Bremen is filling up as parents and friends arrive - but now there is no way back.
The first set goes well, but the crowd is mildly confused. The songs of the first set are very different from the band’s second album “Breathe:See:Move” and many are sharing their feelings in the small break - they seem to be more suprised than negative though. But those in doubt are quickly convinced by the second set, after a free beer and a speech by Mirza: Siamese is still a pretty hard hitting experience with songs like “Gods and Kings” and “Tomorrow Never Dies”. As the band thinks it’s time to leave the stage, having played one “oldie” to wrap the show up, the crowd bellows for an encore. Surprisingly the band decides on “Party Like Charlie Sheen”, with its themes of excessive substance abuse in stark contrast to the lyrical themes of the new album. The band will always have their loyal fans for this wilder kind of music, the question is if they in time will expand it with their new more introspective lyrics and broader appeal?
(A fully detailed review of the band in concert will be written for one of the gigs on their upcoming tours, instead of focusing more on these two small showcase sets).