“It makes them wanna stop and I’m confident – I’m always confident – that we play to a level and with enough heart behind it that it does pull people in, you know?” It had definitely drawn me in. The whole time I was sat listening to their music, I had struggled to get my head around it. Not only was it insanely complex and tightly-packed, but it also had a fire in it, an energy that was both alluring and overwhelming at the same time. This must have been achieved through a combination of the devotion of Simon and CaroMia (the core members of the ever-changing, rotating cabal of musicians known as the Siamese Sound Club) and their mind-boggling skill.
When I spoke to them after the gig, the sense of carefree improvisation so prevalent in the music came across in both of their manners. Clearly what they played acted as a natural extension of the personalities: a way to interact and communicate with others. “Something Simon’s particularly talented at is communicating to other musicians without overly telling them what to do. Anytime Simon is involved in a band, and we both play for a lot of different projects and stuff, literally everyone can not know what we’re playing, he has a gift of directing: letting everyone know in a fairly subtle way what’s about to happen. This means we can be kinda improvisational, we never play the same song twice, the same way.”
5 Walnut from the street. Image source.
Their music is a conversation. This is even reflected in the ‘band’ name, the Siamese Sound Club, and was definitely evident in the gig. People would turn up, chat easily with people in the audience who they clearly knew, then casually get their instrument out – possible a trombone, guitar, and even a weird scrapey percussion thing. I asked Simon and CaroMia whether their appearance was planned, or even if they knew the musicians turning up to play. She told me every week different friends come in: “sometimes there’s a three-part horn section that comes in and sometime’s it’s other singers-” “Violins,” cuts in Simon. “Violins,” agree CaroMia, “other guitar players”. “For a long time, for eight months probably, we had a percussionist every week”.
People are obviously keen to be involved with this pair (who have been dating for almost two years) and their music, and not just the audience. I told them what I thought about their music creating a sort of spontaneous community – I talked way too much throughout the whole interview – and they seemed to really connect with what I meant, it made sense to them. “Sometimes it’s us as a duo,” says CaroMia, definitely the less tired and more talkative, “and sometimes it’s us with five other people, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s like this singing, there’s intention behind it, it’s open to anyone: different interpretations.”
The Siamese Sound Club with their usual drummer (centre). Image source.
In this throw away comment about who’s playing being of little importance, she revealed the astounding level of skill existing in the musical community of Asheville. The idea of playing with the Sound Club was daunting, but the fact that people were just turning up to get involved, and that the numbers and configuration of the band changed so fluidly showed an incredible flexibility and and versatility. Even more startling, was the enjoyment Simon obviously gleaned from this aspect of changeability and spontaneity. “It’s a jam for sure. It’s a jam with organised, prepared sections, but we definitely, extremely, intentionally fuck with everything as much as we can. Especially ’cause we do this every week, part of my goal is to come up with new fun ways to do it, so some of the time it’s like ‘oh that was cool, I’m not gonna do it again, some of the time it’s like alright well that’s how that part goes now.'”
I suppose desire to mix things up so much goes back to and is facilitated by what I was saying in the last post about Simon being the keyboard player and bassist at the same time. “Being the bassist really allows me to easily switch things up, I can do one chord one bass note, do the exact same chord, different bass note and it’s this whole new colour.”