As kids growing up in California in the late 80’s/early 90’s Samiam had nothing but time to commit to developing their own brand of sing-along pop-punk. But as the decades went on, it was harder and harder to find time to rehearse, write songs and play shows as commitment to families and day jobs added up. Those commitments eventually scattered the band members across the country.
But thanks to a fan base that never went away and technologies that allow the band to compose entire albums despite being on two separate coasts, Samiam is back with their first proper full length in five years (Trips) and will hit the road for their first headlining tour in almost a decade.
Singer Jason Beebout spoke recently about being a punk rocker and family guy, playing Fest without a bassist and what life was like on a major label in the 90’s.
Innocent Words: Obviously there have been some considerable amounts of time between the last few albums. Was that a conscious decision or did you just let time get away from you?
Jason Beebout: It was a conscious decision in that we all had to go to work (laughs). We live pretty far apart. Serg (Loobkoff, guitar) lives in LA; I live in San Francisco and the other guys live in Brooklyn, so it’s kind of hard to get together on weekends to work on songs. We have to e-mail stuff back and forth and when we do get together we have to book some shows around it. Every now and then I’ll fly out to New York to work on some songs, or go down to LA to see Sergie, but it takes awhile to get things together and we are all really busy with other things. We can’t expect Sergie to take off work all the time for us, so things have to be right.
IW: I’m assuming it’s gotten easier over the past few years though, with advances in technology, to be a band spread out across the country.
Beebout: Absolutely. This record was brought to you by Garage Band. It would have taken a whole lot longer without it. It was all finished as far as the songwriting was concerned before we ever got together to play and that’s never really been the case before.
IW: Was the writing any different with Trips than other releases?
Beebout: No. Some bands usually get together and someone has the lyrics and you add the guitar and everything else around it, but we’ve always done it backwards. Serge usually writes his music and I try and write around it and make it fit. Cram it in if it doesn’t.
IW: Is there a general theme to the songs that make up Trips?
Beebout: You know, there wasn’t at first – at least I didn’t think there was – but in retrospect, yeah, it all is kind of based around me losing my job. That’s what I wrote a lot about, my old employer. Sean did pretty well when he chose the name “Trips” for the record because that kind of sums it all up: traveling through life and traveling through different emotions and all that bullshit, but really that’s what it’s all about. I had a kid, I lost my job, all this stuff happened at once and makes you try and figure what you are going to do to move forward. It’s all a trip.
Beebout: Oh yeah, I’m fucking doing great now. I’m about to open up a new bar in San Francisco. In this past year things have been fantastic. This record turned out much better than I ever imagined, setting up these tours… We started talking about tours awhile ago because I was broke and we get a little bored playing the old songs over and over, so we got together and started working on a record. At one point I thought, “Holy shit, I remember how to do this.”
IW: This will be your first headlining tour in about a decade, right?
Beebout: It’s been awhile. We’ve always been a little hesitant about committing to things because we had other things going on that were making money for us. I couldn’t quit my job to be in a band, I had to quit my band to be in a job. But I can work whenever I want now, which is so much better.
IW: You and the guys in the band have been doing this for a long time now. Do you ever think, I’m married, I’m a dad now, I just don’t have time to be in a band anymore?
Beebout: In a way, yeah. I could have been playing music for money for the past 20 year if I had wanted to, it was totally possible. But I would never be home. That’s not something I enjoy. Now that I have a family that I care about I really don’t want to (be on the road). I’m having a hard time just thinking about being away for a few months. I enjoy playing music, but you have to have a balance.
IW: Was it tough with the other guys to carve out a time when you could be on the road for three solid months?
Beebout: Well, you know, I think between me and Billy (Bouchard, bass) and Charlie (Walker, drums) we’re probably the flakiest ones in the band. The only problem for me is I have dependants and I can’t really drag them along with me without feeling guilty. Sergie is more employed. But Sean is kind of a bohemian because he’s a craftsman and can always find work wherever he is, so really it’s just Sergie who has been holding us up.
IW: Because you guys are so far apart and obviously there’s not that many times you can get together and practice and rehearse, do you play in any bands on the side or do you play with friends? How do you avoid staying rusty?
Beebout: I sing with my kids. I have no idea what the other guys do. Sergie plays a lot of guitar and Sean is in a lot of other bands and all the other guys are in other bands too.
IW: You guys have been around since the late 80s. What have you noticed change the most about your music, for good or bad?
Beebout: I guess our music is less contrived because we don’t have as much time to sit around and fiddle with it. Now we’re more like, “That sounds alright, cool. It’s done.” I’m kind of happy with it. We have also defined ourselves, in our own minds better. I had a limited amount of self-criticism when I was younger. I have a better idea now of what I do well and what we do well – and what we don’t.
IW: The music industry itself has changed a lot since you guys first started playing, as well. Anything that’s really surprised you?
Beebout: Nowadays, it seems like it’s pointless to have a record label. It doesn’t cost anything to make a record now and just about nobody will buy it. It just seems like an unnecessary middle man. You can put out your own record on your web site if you have enough will or energy – we don’t. We’re all lazy. Why would you go through the middleman when you can sell vinyl or a download on your website … all that sweet, sweet corn will be yours!
IW: Do you have any positive memories about being involved with Atlantic Records in the 90’s?
Beebout: At the time I was so excited I couldn’t believe it. I was finally doing something my mom would be proud of, though she wouldn’t like our music. When people are spending that much money on you it’s exciting and I was naïve enough to think they were spending money on us. Until I realized they were spending our money.