With 20 years under their belt, Samiam have recently released their rarities collection Orphan Works on No Idea. The album contains outtakes, B-sides, and live recordings from the Clumsy and You Are Freaking Me Out years. The band recently finished a handful of dates in central Europe supported by The Casting Out and A Death in the Family. Punknews interviewer Stephanie Thornton sat down with the guys after their show in Prague early in their tour last month. They discussed the differentiation of audiences world-wide, the secrets to keeping a band together for two decades, closing The Fest '09, and anagrams.
How is the tour going so far? Sergie Loobkoff: Itâs been really, extremely fun, I would say. Wouldnât you say?
Sean Kennerly: I would agree, yeah, itâs been one of our best tours so far, I mean itâs just beginning, but weâve had a lot of fun shows.
Sergie: Like seven shows in, itâs always gonna seem pretty fun . . . catch us on that 164th and see how weâre liking it.
Laughs Yeah, so youâve been supported by The Casting Out and A Death in the Family, I know youâve at least toured with ADITF before; how are you all getting along? Sergie: Oh, super good. Did you see that DITF played a little song with Jason in their little encore?
No, actually I got here after that Sergie: Well DITF took us to Australia last year, so weâre like old friends now, and The Casting Out guys are really nice. You, know we share all the same equipment and weâre all just hanging out - a bunch of dudes.
Right. So, what about touring Europe have you been looking forward to most and what sort of differences do you notice between American and European audiences? Sean: Those are two really distinct questions.
Sergie: Maybe you should get two different guys to answer themâ¦
Ok, I couldâve probably set them apart. Ok so, what about touring Europe have you been looking forward to most? Sean: Well itâs funny âcause itâs usually super fun to go to Berlin, and we played there, and that was probably, only for technical and logistical reasons one of our worst shows. And here, we showed up here and we were like, âaw man, we gotta play one of these little dumpy college bar things or whatever, and it was actually the best show, energy-wise, it was really fun and the crowd was really great.
Sergie: Itâs definitely proved that you donât have to play in front of a giant group of people with a giant PA. Itâs just the energy from like 300 people all flippinâ out. Cuz in Berlin, there were four or five hundred people - a lot more people.
But the energy wasnât there. Sergie: The energy was actually there, but it wasnât like tonight where people were trying to break each otherâs arms
Yeah, a little more intense. So do you notice many differences between the American and the European audiences? Sergie: I would say that New Brunswick, New Jersey must be a Czech audience.
Sean: Theyâre so drunk
Sergie: Seriouslyâ¦I can differentiate because we go to like Japan, and South America and Europe and America, I can differentiate between cities, but you canât say certain countries are different..you know?
Yeah. Sergie: And also itâs different nights - when the magic is in the air.
Sean: Weâve had shows in Berlin that are like this, when everyone is stage diving and floating around. You never know how much alcohol is gonna go through peopleâs systems and make them do things that theyâll regret in the morning
So would you say you have a favorite place to play in Europe, after your many visits to the continent? Sergie: Well I would say our best shows are usually in Munster and Cologne, like biggest, which I guess, as we were saying isnât necessarily the best. Weâve had some really fun ones here, you know? But thereâs two different questions in that one two because itâs whatâs the place you want to be at, and whatâs the place you want to play a show at? You can be in a rad-ass place, and people donât give a shit about your band. Like, on tour you sorta go, âoh, I want to be in a place where people like my bandâ, but then thereâs places where itâs hella fun to hang out. But we love most places in Europe because every time we come everyone is like, âYay!,â and theyâre nice , and thereâs more cheese and bread than we could ever ask for.
Oh, definitely. The pastries are really good here, too. Sergie: Yeah. Well, I dunno. Itâs just really hard to single places out.
Yeah. Alright, so the rarities collection (Orphan Works) came out last month. How do you feel about the response so far? Sergie: Well we donât really gauge the response because they take it home and listen to it, so. If we had like a little robot with a little camera on it, so we could sneak it into peopleâs homes and see their reactions, and they go, âThis sucks!â
Sean: Itâs also different because weâve already played the songs, itâs not like theyâre new, like we have a new album coming out or anything. I mean, weâve already played most of these songs.
Alright, so with the recent release of the rarities and a self-proclaimed tendency to romanticize Samiamâs past, what is the likelihood that youâll be taking inspiration from your older material on newer work? Sean: I think at this point in time, weâve sort of reached this phase where we donât - weâre sort of working on new material, but weâve reached a point where we donât really have to think about what era weâre drawing from or whatever. We can just do whatever we want. Maybe itâs good or maybe Itâs terrible, but weâre not really confined to, âOh, we have to do the old thingâ or âWe have to reinvent ourselvesâ¦â
Sergie: but like, you formulated that question for us, so do you think thereâs a big distinction between old and new Samiam?
Oh, no, no Iâm just wondering what the mindset is . . . Sergie: Oh, no. We donât think about nothinâ.
(Laughs) Sergie: The better answer is like âI dunno . . . weâre just gonna put some songs together..
We do what we want. Sergie: Yeah.
Ok, cool. Cool. So When can fans expect new material? Sergie: We have fans?
I think so. Sergie: Oh, I thought drunk people just happened to show up at the same time we were playing . . . uh, no one can expect anything. We donât know. Real soon - howâs that sound?
Sergie: In all seriousness, we are a rag-tag group. The fact that weâve been around for 20 years means that we go on tour and a lot of people come and see us, but weâre basically a garage band, you know? In every way. Weâre not serious enough about it to have anything planned, as much as maybe weâd like to. Itâs complicated, we donât live in the same city.
Sean: Weâve also been playing with our new drummer, Charlie Walker - itâs been really fun. (points to Charlie) He changes things - he makes it reinvigorating.
Right, so youâve been on a handful of labels in your time, and Orphan Works is the first one out on No Idea, what inspired the switch to No Idea and how have they been treating you so far? Sergie: Well we played the Fest last year, you know? And Iâve known Var for about a century. We were talking to him and he came out with the idea to get those two records - Clumsy and You are Freaking Me Out - to re-release them. Thatâs why we did this Orphan Works record. We just wanted to get it out and try to spark some interest in this old band of weirdos, you know? Itâs not like we signed to No Idea - theyâre not that kind of label or anything. Itâs really neat to be on a label with a bunch of guys that weâre all friends with.
You guys closed the Fest last year - how was that? Sergie: It was an insane show because our bass player didnât make it so we had to teach two guys how to play our songs - to go stand out in front of a couple thousand people and play, and that was really nerve-wracking. Then we played the show and it was packed and people were jumping around and it was very gratifying. But the whole entire time I couldnât relax because I thought at any second it was going to fall apart - the bass playerâs gonna go âI donât remember this anymore!â, you know? So it was one of those âHold your breath - itâs gonna be over soon - I hope it turns out - I canât believe itâs still going good! - wow itâs not fucking up completely!â and then it ended, and we went âwhew! That went real super well!â But honestly, I wasnât feeling loosey-goosey like tonight, I was really worried.
Sean: I think in some ways though that show was sort of a pivotal show especially with the energy of the band coming back because we were sort of like, âwhat? What? Are we gonna keep doing this?â or whatever and there were so many people that were so enthusiastic about it and we thought it was awesome. It was really great.
Sergie: âCause the Fest is just like a little group of people from around the country that might - at least for our band - a group of people that wouldnât normally see us âcause we donât normally tour. Thereâs people from Chicago, and people from whereverâ¦
Yeah there was a big international crowd there, as well Sergie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it was a real monster trying to wrap ourselves around not having our bass player and then to do it. It came out really great. We all - well everyone except our bass player was there - all walked away from it saying âWow, that was really neat.â âCause you know the band that played right before us - it was like half as full, and to be really honest I was going âHoly shit weâre the last band of the whole festival - 150 bands and weâre the last band. I guess Sunday night everyone wants to take their plane back or drive homeâ. So the band right before us played and it was half full so I was going, âOh, shit. I guess this whole trip was a giant disasterâ. And you know, I face my amp when I tune, and after we did the sound check, I turned, and I was like âHoly shit, this room is packed!â. So then when the show went off, I personally felt like âYeah, the whole 19 years of doing this shit wasnât a complete waste of time!â
Laughs Right, yeah. Yeah, so speaking of that, you guys have been together for over two decades, what have been some of your most proud accomplishments? Sergie: I think that being an old fart and not being fat right now and being able to not pass out after running around playing the songs and having the people in the audience, no matter if it is like 200 people that really love it…Like, - you get a band thatâs on the radio in 1994, like we were. A band way more popular in 1994, and they havenât made anything in 10 years - put them in a little club in Prague, and how many people will come? No one. And then you get a little garage band kinda, a little punk band - quote unquote punk band, whatever we are - and we come here, and everywhere we play - we played eight shows - every show we played has been packed. People love our stupid songs and itâs like, wow, weâre like total failures in the music industry, but weâre actually really successful as humans.
Sean: Plus he smoked a really killer joint earlier soâ¦
Sergie: So that might have something to do with what Sergie says.
Laughs Right. So do you have any goals right now as a band beside the whole âwe do what we wantâ kinda thing? Sergie: I really honestly think we donât have any goals. We have a goal to make a record right now, but we have very modest goals as far as exceeding what weâve done in the past. As far as like, oh, itâd be nicer if 800 people came, but only 400 people cameâ¦I donât think weâre that hung up on it.
Sean: Pretty much just having fun. We get to have fun now. Itâs not about making money off of it. Itâs just fun to play the shows.
Yeah, yeah. So most punk bands donât make it for this long - what do you think has set Samiam apart and kept you all going? Sean: Weâre very forgetful . . . we get along pretty well. Weâve been friends for a long time, and we also put up walls so we donât really have to emotionally interact. All laugh Sergie: Yeah I think the text messaging and IMing have really kept this band tight . . . when is a band thatâs a serious band that puts out records every year, every other year, and tours 10 months out of the year, and really puts their lives into their band - their entire lives - anything they can fail at- monetarily or relationship-wise, and they take breaks and itâs monumental - they get mad at each other and stuff. But the fact that we reverted in 2000 back to a garage band, and I think that keeps us together in this mentality that itâs not for anything except for fun. Itâs kept the band together, but it hasnât kept people from leaving. Weâve had a couple drummers in the last 10 years and a couple bass players, you know? I think after your 25 and youâre playing music, to keep a group of five people together, unified while theyâre fucking up other things in their lives . . . I think one thing that keeps us together is this willingness- as horrible as it sounds - to lose a member that weâve been with and toured with for years, Johnny - our last drummer. We have enough interest and love of doing what we do to actually continue and go on even without him. Other bands do it because they make money, theyâre like âI canât leave this, Iâve got a mortgage paymentâ and stuff . Well, we canât pay our mortgage on our band, so weâre actually pretty much doing it because we love it.
One last just for fun question - Considering your name can form a few different anagramsâ¦between "I am Sam" and "Miasma", which one do you like better? Or is there another one that I havenât thought of? Sergie: Well if anyone is gonna answer this question humorously and also truthfully, itâs Sean.
Oh good, well Iâm glad youâre here! Sean: We had the 10,000 person facebook Samiam anagram contest - there were no other anagrams other than "Miasma", but one guy submitted the anagram from "Storm Clouds" of, I canât remember exactly, something like "Old Crumbs" . . . anyway, that was the best one. Anyway, there are no other anagrams.
Sergie: Or weâre not intelligent enough to find them.
Yeah and which one did you prefer from those two? If you had to change your band name- Sean: Wait there was two of them?
Sergie: "Sam I am" and "Miasma"
No, between "I am Sam" and "Miasma" Sean: Oh, "miasma" is way better!
Sergie: Well I like "I am Sam," but there was that movie, and that movie was really offensiveâ¦
Oh, yeah! Sean: But I liked the title of our first little thing, I am. Samiam - I am.
Sergie: That was a tricky little number we pulled.