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San Cisco

After hearing her timely ‘Doos’ and ‘Daas’ in hit track ‘Awkward’ you wouldn’t think to question Scarlett Stevens’ singing ability. But as she’s quick to tell me; she doesn’t sing. The thing is, Scarlett has unknowingly taken baby steps towards singing ever since she won a competition as a four-year-old.
“I remember I won a cassette player in a singing competition when I was about four. I was at a school fete with my mum and I really wanted to be in this singing competition even though I couldn’t sing, and my mum was like ‘Okay’,” she says.
“I’m not really a singer, when I was four I think I just had one song up my sleeve that I sung. I was also really small, for a four-year-old, so I think they just felt sorry for me.”
Singer or not (Scarlett is the drummer for San Cisco) her skills were called into play for an “experiment” of sorts that paid out in the track we all know and love – currently nearing eight million views on YouTube.
“The producer was like we want a pop song with your vocals on it Scarlett. I was like ‘Oh, I don’t sing’ and the boys were like, ‘Oh Scarlett just do it, it’ll be like a little experiment’,” she says.
“Then in an hour all the lyrics were written and Josh had the guitar done, so when ‘Awkward’ came out and people liked it we were like, ‘Oh that’s not really what we do, we just accidentally made that song’. Then I think with that experiment we really got to see what resonates with people and I think we learned a lot about the writing just from that one song and it put us in the right direction with writing pop songs.”
Once the experiment more than paid off, the microphone was turned towards Scarlett more than she’d originally hoped, as opposed to just having the kit as her focus.
“It was a curse,” Scarlet adds with a laugh.
“I’ve sung most on Gracetown I think, but that was fine because the studio set up was just so relaxed and I had no problem sitting there and trying to sing and experimenting with my voice. So I’ve kind of given up on saying no and I’ve just embraced it.”
While ‘Awkward’ helped the band release the potential of Scarlett’s vocals, it also helped shine a light on their talents as a band, something that’s evident in their release Gracetown [2015].
“I think we sort of realised what we do well and that’s mainly lyrics, story-telling paired with poppy melodies and it can kind of take on any style for us – we’re not sort of bound by one genre or style,” she says.
“I think because we’re young and impressionable we just listen to things and think ‘That’s cool’ and we embody that in our album or songs. So I think our style is always evolving but I think we had to come back to the things we did well and I think that’s the story-telling and these poppy hooks. We were getting pretty lost in some weird stuff, so once we worked out what was working for us and what has worked for us in the past five years that’s when Gracetown really came together.”
While they may have started young (the band were playing gigs at bars and clubs before they were all of legal age) it’s also been an eye-opener for Scarlett on the misogyny she’s experienced in the industry: though it hasn’t all been negative.
“It’s definitely there and it’s something that is deeply entrenched. I think I’ve had pretty positive experiences in the media but then I’ve had photographers who have told me to smile and then who don’t tell my band mates to smile,” she says.
“I guess they’re allowed to look stoic and strong and women have to look pretty, vacuous and ditzy or something, I don’t know what that’s about. So it’s definitely there on so many levels from the outside and people that work for you. It’s there and I guess we should all be talking about it.”
And talk they are; whether it’s Lauren Mayberry from Chvrches doing her bit or Scarlett sticking it to the photographers, things are changing and for the better.
“I think those people need to be put in their place, and when people tell me to smile on the street I try and fight back. We definitely need guys in the music industry to bring it to attention as well because I think it’s been going on for a long while,” she says.
While progress is slowly being made on misogyny in the music industry, San Cisco’s visit to regional cities is making much quicker headway, as they’ve just announced a 15-date tour that makes a few pit stops in regional Australia.
“I guess we’ve only scraped the surface of country Australia. When we do play those regional shows they’re always jut a lot of fun, super relaxed and just a really nice vibe. They’re just a lot of fun, so we’re really excited,” she says.
“And they’ve got good op-shopping!” she quickly adds with a laugh.
Written by Amanda Sherring
When & Where: Whalers Hotel, Warrnambool – October 23 & The Wool Exchange, Geelong – October 24