Melbourne duo Big Scary is the proud recipient of the 9th Annual Australian Music Prize, a prestigious award dedicated to recognizing excellence in Australian music (similar to Britain’s Mercury Prize and Canada’s Polaris Prize). They collected the award for their sophomore release, Not Art, along with a check for A$30,000 ($27,000 US) at a ceremony in Sydney. Not Art was deemed to be the best of this year’s nominees by a panel of 11 judges, after paring down a shortlist of 9 records from the original 43 selections that included Cloud Control, Jagwar Ma and other notable Australian artists. Not Art is scheduled for US release on March 25, 2014 via Barsuk Records.
Big Scary is soon to embark on their first extensive North American tour, where they will join fellow Barsuk labelmates Say Hi. The jaunt starts April 11 in Vancouver, BC at the Media Room and ends May 14 in San Diego, CA at the Casbah. Full list of tour dates is below.
Following the release of earlier videos for album standouts “Luck Now” and “Twin Rivers,” the band released a video for Not Art cut “Invest,” featuring a dark, eerily rotating set upon which the members perform the tune. The video’s minimalism suits the sparseness of the track and is powerful in its simplicity. “Invest” .
The story of Big Scary begins in Melbourne, Australia, where duo Tom Iansek and Jo Syme, armed with just acoustic guitars and egg shakers, started playing songs together in the living room of Syme’s parents’ house, gradually working up to a bolder, more expansive sound by incorporating electric guitars, drums, synths and piano. What began as a few rainy day acoustic ballads in their first incarnation soon grew, and before long, the newly named Big Scary were writing anything they pleased — fuzzed-out garage rock; piano-led pop; intricate, pastoral instrumentals — each imbued with an effortless pop sensibility and lightness of touch that would quickly see the duo attract a strong following in their home country.
Following a series of early self-released singles and EPs, Big Scary released the intimately crafted debut album Vacation in 2011 via the band’s own label Pieater (pronounced pie-eater). The album brought the pair widespread acclaim, and earned the duo a large Australian audience with nominations for ‘Album Of The Year’ from Triple J and ‘Breakthrough Artist Of The Year’ from AIR (Australian Independent Record Labels Association), plus a small but growing cult following overseas.
2012 saw Big Scary take its first small steps onto the world stage – earning further underground acclaim via a self-funded North American tour that saw Tom and Jo play SXSW, CMW, and CMJ, impressing whatever audiences happened upon the versatility, lovable magnetism, intelligent songwriting and dynamic live performances that make up the band’s riveting shows.
On the heels of their adventures abroad, an invigorated Tom and Jo returned home and began recording their second full length album. Grappling with the pressures and perceived responsibilities of their Australian success, the daunting goal of bringing their music to wider audiences, and their own expectations of themselves as writers and creators, the band eventually settled into making an album that would be, paradoxically, hotly anticipated at home while acting simultaneously as a first introduction to almost all audiences elsewhere: Not Art.
Recorded and produced by Big Scary’s own Iansek, and mixed by Grammy Award-winner Tom Elmhirst (Arcade Fire, Hot Chip, Lily Allen, Adele, Black Keys, Amy Winehouse, The Kills), Not Art distills influences of indie rock song structure, pop and hip-hop production, and experimental ambient music – it’s ambitious, featuring towering guitars paired with reverberating drumming that gives way on occasion to programmed electronics and home-recorded loops; cooing synths that gild Iansek’s and Syme’s startlingly diverse vocals; and, most of all, a unique musical vision that sounds unlike anything else happening right now in pop music.
Big Scary tour dates:
4/11 – The Media Room – Vancouver, BC
4/12 – Sunset Tavern – Seattle, WA
4/13 – Bunk Bar – Portland, OR
4/14 – The Crux – Boise, ID
4/15 – Kilby Court Gallery – Salt Lake City, UT
4/16 – Lost Lake – Denver, CO
4/18 – Slowdown Jr. – Omaha, NE
4/19 – Duck Room at Blueberry Hill – St. Louis, MO
4/20 – Schubas Tavern – Chicago, IL
4/21 – 7th St. Entry – Minneapolis, MN
4/22 – Canopy Club Void Room – Urbana, IL
4/23 – Radio Radio – Indianapolis, IN
4/24 – Beachland Tavern – Cleveland, OH
4/25 – The Drake Hotel – Toronto, ON
4/26 – Il Motore – Montreal, QC
4/27 – Brighton Music Hall – Boston, MA
4/28 – Rough Trade – Brooklyn, NY
4/29 – Mercury Lounge – New York, NY
4/30 – Boot & Saddle – Philadelphia, PA
5/1 – The Black Cat – Washington, D.C.
5/2 – Cat’s Cradle Back Room – Carrboro, NC
5/3 – The Mill Room – Asheville, NC
5/4 – The Vinyl – Atlanta, GA
5/7 – Gasa Gasa – New Orleans, LA
5/8 – Fitzgerald’s Downstairs – Houston, TX
5/9 – The Prophet Bar – Dallas, TX
5/10 – Mohawk – Austin, TX
5/13 – The Western – Scottsdale, AZ
5/14 – The Casbah – San Diego, CA
5/15 – The Echo – Los Angeles, CA
5/16 – Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco, CA
Not Art tracklisting:
1. Hello, My Name Is
2. Luck Now
3. Harmony Sometimes
4. Belgian Blues
5. Phil Collins
6. Twin Rivers
8. Lay Me Down
9. Why Hip Hop Sucks in ’13
10. Long Worry
11. Final Thoughts, With Tom and Jo
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