Taking place on the opening night of this year’s Vivid LIVE celebrations, Siberian Nights will see Midnight Juggernauts showcase their new project Aerials alongside acts from their Siberia Records stable, plus a headline performance from special guest Andy Stott making his Australian debut. Speaking ahead of the eclectic showcase of talent, Juggers multi-instrumentalist and Siberia co-honcho Dan Stricker explains the genesis of their latest pursuit.
“We started thinking about what the next thing [was] we wanted to do. We were touring all over the place last year. I set up a studio up near Colo River, about an hour out of Sydney, and over the summer I finished it up and said to Andy [Szekeres] and Vinny [Vendetta], ‘Why don’t we go out there and do whatever, spending a week doing it, then that can become an EP?’ We had nothing to lose, the studio was there, so it wasn’t going to cost us much. So we got up there and recorded this new material and listened back once we knew where it was going. We thought we should do a series of EPs, and we came up with this concept called Aerials, where instead of us releasing a record and touring, we could do a specialty show that features different instruments than we usually use, with a lot more production – both visual and audio.
“We came up with the idea of a vertically based show. You go to a gig and the only perspective you get is looking at the artists. We thought, ‘What if everything in the room is about what’s above you and what’s below you?’ That was the concept, and we’ve been working on that ever since. We were thinking about what we’ve been doing in the past and synthesised it into one thing we wanted to do.”
Approaching a project such as Aerials as opposed to a full-length album, Stricker says it was important to explore visual elements and reach higher conceptual ground.
“We originally approached it as, ‘Let’s go into the studio and see what happens.’ We’ve always been open to the idea of the visual component of the record, always heavily involved in the artwork. Vince does a lot of the videos, as well as videos for other people. I guess when we look at projects, we’re always thinking about the visual idea. Aerials is very much a visual idea … We wanted something interesting for us, and the audience as well.”
The philosophy behind Siberia Records’ roster – for releases and events such as Siberian Nights – isn’t bound by style, but more so a curation of acts that are capable of bringing something new to the table. “The artists and bands we like to do stuff with have a really strong vision,” Stricker says. “It’s not a genre thing, it’s that the artist really knows what they want to be doing across everything. Whether they can make their own artwork or not, or whether they need help with production in the studio, as long as they have a clear idea of how they want it presented. That’s the most important thing for me.
“With the artists playing our Vivid night, with the artists on our label, that’s definitely the case. Also, artists that can stand up on an international stage, not just in Australia. We don’t put out many artists. These days, everybody has a label, there are so many. Great labels like R.I.P Society and Rice Is Nice – they’re all doing amazing stuff. But we don’t put out many releases – we do our own [Juggernauts] releases, we did Kirin [J Callinan]’s record. They’re the only albums we’ve put out. We’re about to do the Forces record; it’s almost finished. We’ve just started with Cassius Select and Black Vanilla, Alex Cameron, but we try not to rush things. The focus is that the act really knows their vision [and is] exploring an interesting mood or idea, so it’s that good that it doesn’t matter where it comes from. It stands up on its own.”
With Callinan currently touring the US yet again, plus Cameron’s recent barnstorming of SXSW, Siberia has been a livewire conduit between underground Australia and the States.
“I think America is obsessed with pop culture. They put everything in boxes,” says Stricker. “When you have a character like Kirin or Alex exploring this weird Australia, the Americans really get into it – it’s something they don’t have. If you send an artist that sounds like the xx, for example, to London, there are a million copycat artists that sound like that band. Most of the stuff that gets played on Australian commercial radio is just a copy of an international band, and they can get played on the radio here because they know they have an audience.
“But if you send someone like Kirin or Alex to the States, they get excited because they don’t have anyone like that. It’s similar to the ’80s when people were obsessed with Crocodile Dundee. It’s just been a while since that weird Australian larrikin thing has been explored. That’s definitely one thing I’ve found interesting with Kirin; I didn’t know how he would go down in the US. He’s kind of a weird guy that makes music that’s in one sense accessible, and in another sense it is weird music.”
Could it be that Kirin J Callinan could be Australia’s next cultural poster boy? “It’s funny,” says Stricker, “Kirin was offered a movie role the other day with Nicole Kidman and Hugo Weaving. It would be funny if all of a sudden he got into films and became the modern-day Crocodile Dundee.”
Siberian Nights will showcase Midnight Juggernaughts alongside Andy Stott, Black Vanilla, Forces, Cassius Select, DCM and Four Doors as part of the Sydney Vivid LIVE festival. Grab tickets to the show on Friday May 23 at the Sydney Opera House, on sale here.