By Chloe Saavedra for Tom Tom Magazine
Right now Scarlett Stevens is in my hometown New York City, insisting I get Caracas Arepas with her in Williamsburg before she sets foot on a long journey consisting of two full headlining tours in America and Europe. After my band Chaos Chaos toured throughout Australia with her band San Cisco, I get to finally interview my great friend/drummer idol. Scar (which she prefers not to be nicknamed) took a moment to talk to me about defying stereotypes and on stage wardrobe malfunctions. Dope.
Name: Scarlett Stevens
Hometown & Resides: Fremantle
Current Bands: San Cisco
Past Bands: The Flairz
Drum Set: DW
Hardware & Pedal: DW
Fav Venue: Norfolk Fremantle
Fav Food: ravioli
Tom Tom Magazine: How do you guys write your songs? Location? Instruments? Social or isolated?
Scarlett Stevens: We’ve written and rehearsed at a few different locations. Our backyards and in the recording studio to name a few. At the moment we write in a small, soundproof room that the boys built within a warehouse in South Fremantle. But a lot of the ideas for songs come out of Josh and Jordi’s bedroom recordings. I guess we are more isolated now in this location. Our style of rehearsing is pretty social, we find it hard to stay concentrated in rehearsals. We tend to distract each other.
Who writes the lyrics?
Jordi and Josh mainly write the lyrics.
Who was the first band you played with?
I played with a band called the Flairz. We were a rock outfit and began playing shows in 2003. We played at SXSW when we were 13, the same year that you and Asy were there! Our tastes in music changed over the seven years we were together and in 2009 we went our separate ways and that’s when I started jamming with Jordi.
You have great style, what’s your favorite stage outfit?
thanks! so do you. I have a hard time with stage outfits. I have slopey shoulders so I’m prone to wardrobe malfunctions. My go-to outfit is probably a pair of lace shorts or tailored pants and a patterned shirt. I also love jumpsuits. I’d love to be up the front so I could showcase some killer shoes.
Any wardrobe malfunctions onstage?
All the time. I am forever pulling up bra straps and haven’t mastered the coordination or dexterity to correct wardrobe malfunctions mid-song.
What female musicians do you look up to?
P J Harvey, Kim Gordon, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Cindy Blackman, Le Tigre, Jenny Lewis. So many! But then there’s been people who I’ve met through gigging who I’m also totally inspired by, like you and Asy, Isabella Manfredi from the Preatures and Abbe May.
What’s your favorite San Cisco song to play live?
I like playing Fred Astaire. It goes from being swung to straight then back to swung. The changes to the time signature keep me on my toes.
Which music video was the most fun to shoot?
The clip for Fred Astaire was really fun. We were more involved in the planning and aesthetic of this clip which is always more rewarding. I finally got to wear my awesome all-in-one white satin 70s jumpsuit which got its well deserved debut.
How do you think becoming an “adult” has changed your thinking of music and of being a musician?
It’s definitely forced me to scout out music independent of my parents. I grew up with parents who had good taste and I was pretty much fed the classics my whole life. So now I get to show my parents new bands that i’m excited about which is cool. I don’t think my views on being a musician have changed since being a kid. I’ve always wanted it to be fun and for it not to be a chore.
How long was it you went to University? Being that all of your family members are in the music business, was going to University a rebellion of sorts?
I was at uni for 2 years. It definitely wasn’t a rebellion of sorts, my parents are pretty open minded so they were cool with whatever I wanted to do. For me it was about having that plan b.
What were you studying? Would you like to go back?
Arts management. I’d love to! My friends just had their final class before starting secondments and I felt a little sad. I’ll go back when it suits what San Cisco is doing because that’s my priority at the moment.
You and I were both kid drummers and girl drummers. We grew out of one but cannot grow out of the other. What’s your view on these labels?
I think that both labels are riddled with stereotypes. I’ve had people ‘compliment’ me at shows by saying ‘It’s great to see a female drummer who can actually play’. I find that really insulting because that would never be said to a guy, even though there may be a lot of average male drummers out there. I think the hardest part about being a kid musician is that people see it as being a gimmick which is frustrating because I remember being more professional and serious as a kid.
Have you ever doubted your career choice?
Yeh. I feel very lucky to have gotten this far with drumming. I sometimes feel like a bit of a phoney but I’ve realised you just have to enjoy what you do, celebrate your accomplishments and if you wake up and decide it’s no longer for you then that’s fine.
Who is the first drummer you fell in love with?
Probably you. Not in a creepy way! I love your style, it’s unique in so many ways. I remember taking ‘Find a Way’ by Smoosh to drum lessons when I was about 14 and trying to learn your beats.
When and how did you get into playing drums?
When I was 10 I was at a BBQ with my parents. At the time John Butler, an artist my dad manages, was touring with Jack Johnson on his first Australian tour. There was a kit at the house, I was mucking around on it when Adam Topol from Jack’s band came over and showed me how to play a basic rock beat. He invited me on stage for their show at the Forum Theatre in Melbourne which led to me playing one song onstage at Bonneroo the following year. My parents let me get drum lessons after that.
Being in a stereotypically male dominated industry and given that you’re the only girl in the band how would you describe your role in San Cisco?
It’s definitely changed over the years. I think when we first started playing together I just wanted to be ‘one of the boys’. But now I’m finding my feet and my voice, and I try and portray my personality in all things we do. In a live review I got dubbed ‘The mother bear’ which was kind of frustrating. That’s not my role at all! I think given that it is such a male dominated industry, if I could show other young women that they can go against the grain and be whatever they want to be then that would be ace.
Ok, now for some quick ones. Shuffle or paradiddle?
Paradiddle. What a great way to warm up for a show.
Sheet music or playing by ear?
Sticks or brushes?
Digital or vinyl?
Vinyl all the way.
Favorite era for music?
Shoes or no shoes? Which type of drummer are you?
No shoes. The type who can’t find a pair that are comfy and stylish.
Last 5 songs you listened to?
Sacrilege – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Trying to be Cool – Phoenix
Do I Wanna Know – Arctic Monkeys
Is this how you feel? – The Preatures
Let’s Dance – David Bowie
What is your all-time favorite album?
Lou Reed Transformer. David Bowie co-produced it. I love New York and that album is a pretty cool glimpse of the city and its people at such an exciting time.