Published Aug 22, 2011Samiam just won't go away. Over the past decade, uncertainty has been the one constant for the five-piece, but they've kept their name alive the old fashion way: endless touring. Finally, after a five-year recording hiatus, they're back with Trips, featuring 13 tracks in 40 minutes, which accentuates just why Samiam became a beloved punk staple for fans throughout the' 90s. "80 West" is an upbeat opener, with simple, sweet melodies that remind how well singer Jason Beebout can deliver a hook. "El Dorado," one of the strongest tracks, is a power-pop gem that rides a bouncing bass line and soaring vocal runs. It's a number that could easily find a home on their 2000 album Astray, but sounds more confident and sure than anything they've previously done. Trips doesn't stray too far from the Samiam of the past, but long-time fans will notice a darker tone throughout, as they tell tales of less-than-pleasant times. This difference brings enough separation from their previous two decades of work and sets them up to move forward with strength.
How do you feel about the record?
Vocalist Jason Beebout: I'm not surprised by it, but really pleased. Obviously we started out in a good situation; we had a killer studio [Green Day's in San Francisco, CA]. When we walked in there, I thought we were in the star ship Enterprise! And then having Chris [Dugan] record us; he was really great. I was excited before we even recorded ― at least I knew it was going to sound good. When we record a Samiam record, I'm really excited right away, but after a month I'm embarrassed about half the songs and like the other half. But I'm really excited about all these songs; I'm optimistic.
What were you able to accomplish on this record that you haven't been able to in the past?
At times, in the past, things have lacked a bit of follow-through. But this time we had a lot of time to work on it and I was pretty happy long before we went in the studio with how [the songs] were structured. Maybe it just comes from experience, but I feel like it sounds more refined; it sounds more like what I wanted it to sound like than how things in the past worked out. Sometimes you have a sound in your head and you think it's going to sound rad, but then you put it down on tape and it's a little watered-down, bastardized version of what you heard. This record is much more a reflection of what I envisioned when we were writing these songs.
What did you envision?
Well, it's cool when you write a song and think, "Wow, that sounds a little like Smashing Pumpkins and Swervedriver," and then when you record it you think, "Damn, that sounds like Smashing Pumpkins and Swervedriver!" Whatever I'm listening to at the time inspires me. I'm a product of the '80s and '90s, so I tend to revert back to that stuff. I like the idea of putting clicks, buzzes and keyboards in songs, and I like Broken Social Scene and bands like that, but if I tried to do that it would sound retarded.
Trips has a darker feel than past Samiam records, would you agree?
Yeah, it's coming from being shit-canned from the place I'd been working at for the past ten years and acknowledging that I'm getting older; I'm 41 now and that's a trip. Plus, we were writing it in the winter and that always adds a gloomy vibe. Initially, I got fired when we were in Australia and was just thinking, "Are you fucking kidding me?" And that's when I wrote the lyrics to "Free Time." "Crew of One" is about my boss. Growing up, both my parents smoked and my dad would always leave a cigarette butt in the toilet. I would wake up and piss on the butt and as I'm blowing apart the filter and the little tobacco bits come out I imagined those are the crewmembers of the submarine, screaming as they get flushed down. My boss pretty much fired me so he could buy a sailboat. So I was just thinking, "Fuck, I hope that fucker dies" and I was playing that game and pissed him down the drain. I don't want anyone else to die with him. I just hope he goes on a solo sailing trip and gets hit by the worse fucking storm in the world [laughs]. But I'm much better now! I have a big tour on the way and a record I'm really stoked about.
"Clean Up" and "El Dorado" are two songs that stick out. What are the stories behind them?
I was kind of gloomy for a couple years when the job market wasn't that hot. I had a tough time finding work. I had usually worked New Year's Eve as a bartender, but I wasn't this time, so I didn't wake up tired and hung over. I just had this vibe thinking, "This is not going to be a shitty year! This is going to be pretty good, " and I manifested it [in "Clean Up"]. I have had a pretty good year. I have a baby on the way, a record I really like; I just put my focus on something positive instead of being really bummed out. "El Dorado" is about getting a DUI in Lake Tahoe; it's a cautionary tale! I was working for the bar and we'd have these learning experiences and go to a cabin for a week and get fucked up. One of the guys was leaving the job and he had never been to a casino. I just said, "That's crazy! We're fucking going!" I decided to drive; I had been drinking for a week though, so I had no concept of sober or drunk. We went about five miles down the road and a cop pulled me over. He told me to get out and the car reeked of whisky. I failed the test and I spent a night in jail. But that was a wake up call for me as well. It's funny, those two songs together are a bit of a before and after picture.
Your LinkedIn page, under the Samiam section, says you keep it "really, really real." How do you keep it really, really, real?
I continue to surf as often as I can, and it's been really often since I have more free time. I often skateboard, which I stopped doing for a long time because when you're fat you fall a lot harder. But I just said, "Fuck it, I'm going to just pay the price!" I fall more frequently and awkwardly than I ever have before. (Hopeless)