The Collapse Board Interview | Screaming Match
Words and photos: Carmen Juarez
Brisbane’s Screaming Match are two girls and a boy. They’re into metal guyz, dogs and The Raincoats. I found the girls (Sarah Byrne and Drea Lam) under some cushions and took the opportunity to ask them a few questions. It turned into a bit of an, erm, screaming match.
CB: Why do you do what you do? You’re not allowed to just roll your eyes!
S: That’s how I answer most questions! [Laughs]
D: We can’t honestly really say why we’re doing what we’re doing.
S: Creatures of habit?
D: Well, my parents…
S: Shut up!
D: You shut up!
S: You shut up.
D: You start talking!
S: I don’t know, well we started [now defunct Brisbane girl band] Stag, and…
D: Well, before Stag, we used to go to gigs and go “THIS IS SHIT!” “Let’s sing over it!” And be like [claps hands and chants] “I know what/I know what/I know what you’re going for!” [laughs] – just chanting over everything.
S: Yeah, ridiculous things.
D: Like a free jam for us. So, there was that. And then we just started, we were singing together for a while.
S: Well, we actually started – remember when we were intervening on Katie and Chelsea’s busking nights?
D: Oh yeah! Yeah, Katie [Martin] from Stag and Chelsea [Charlton], they used to do Brainbeau and busk.
S: They still do Brainbeau…
D: Well, they used to busk with Brainbeau, do they still do that?
S: No, they don’t do that anymore.
D: Well, they’re making legitimate money. We used to go and see them busking and just kind of start drunkenly yelling over it – “Can we jam with you? Can we busk with you?” And once some guy came up to Sarah and offered everyone else money if Sarah shut up [all laugh]. “You’re good, you’re good, you’re good – you? Shut up!”
S: That was the start, but then Stag happened. And I guess clearly this is just us continuing playing together.
Why Screaming Match?
S: Why are we called Screaming Match, Drea?
D: [Makes noise like flames sparking.]
S: Indicative of our friendship? [All laugh]
D: Two moles fighting to be heard… over each other. [Laughs] Plus, it would be really easy to logo-ify. You know, I’ve got a vision of the logo being a match with its head on fire, screaming. Literally a screaming match. Like, it could be because of the visual pun that… I hope will happen. Drawn by Nick French. I think, like, on the shirts, Alex [Szorkovsky] will just be holding it, and like the match’s head will be made up of Sarah’s face screaming and my face screaming and our hair is on fire. Yeah, no, there’s a vision.
S: I just think it’s indicative of our friendship more than anything.
D: Yeah, but I thought of it! [Laughs]
S: That’s what it is!
D: Yes, yes that’s true as well, that’s true as well.
You both sing, so I guess it’s kind of a screaming match in that you’re both yelling vocals?
D: Yeah, that as well. “The fractured harmony.”
S: Fractured harmony, more like, rougher than previous bands, I guess.
D: Yeah, we’re trying to be a bit rougher than Stag, I guess. Well we’re not really trying, it’s just turned out that way [laughs]. We’re missing Katie’s “zen”.
Do you think you have progressed as songwriters?
D: [Comically] We’ve got no bitches holding us back.
S: I think it’s just that we’ve just found a different… well we haven’t found a different way of playing, we’re just playing in a different formation so things occur differently to what they would with Stag.
D: It’s basically, in Stag there were like four really strong personalities all wanting their musical voice to be heard. Whereas in Screaming Match, it’s Sarah and I, then Alex just comes along for the ride. You know? He’s not like “OH but I really need, like, my guitar to sing out as a strong voice!”, because of… we’ve been playing so long together that it’s not a like, punishment or effort to… come up with new shit, I guess. And it’s just easy and, yeah. Just smoother, I guess, with two people.
S: And I guess we’ve just gotten into the practice of doing it, you know. I remember when we were with Stag, things were kind of like starting off and…
D: No one could play their instruments.
S: And no one could play their instruments very well…
D: Except Katie.
S: …Maybe that’s where the “maturity” comes from.
D: And also legitimate practice spaces.
S: Yeah, we practice now!
D: We practice!
That’s maturity, right there!
D: We take things more seriously…
S: Who does that?
Is that on or off the record?
D: On the record!
S: That’s totally off the record!
I’ll put in every second word.
Comparisons have been drawn to The Raincoats – but with more distortion, Kleenex (S: Yes!), The Fire Engines…
D: We’re totally fucking original! [All laugh.]
D: Whoever said that… I’m going to find your name – Carmen’s not giving us your name but I’m going to Hunt. You. Down. [Laughs]
Those are some pretty rad bands, though.
D: Oh yeah! Yeah, that’s true [Laughs].
S: They’re good bands, but it’s always such an obvious thing to go for. Like, “it’s some female singers”.
D: Yeah, they’re not saying we sound exactly like them. There are probably, definitely influences. We listened to The Raincoats every single time we went to Stag practice.
S: That’s true.
D: Like, Every. Single. Time.
S: Yeah, ‘Lola’ was our driving song.
D: Yeah. It was pretty much a solid rotation of Raincoats and ESG. It’s not surprising. Not really new. We’ve always kind of been compared to those bands. Like, style wise. “Funky bass”. “Dual female vocals”.
S: Yeah, post-punk kind of stuff.
D: Yeah yeah yeah. Scrappy aesthetic.
Do you think Screaming Match is more melodic than earlier musical projects of yours?
D: [To Sarah] Is it more melodic?
S: I think the songs are structured differently, but is it more melodic?
D: I don’t know. That’s really hard for me to comment on because I don’t feel like it’s that different.
S: I think it’s more different because we’re churning through more songs than we did with Stag. You know? And I guess it’s more melodic… more straight up than Stag was. And there’s not as much craziness going on as what we’ve previously done.
D: There’s not as much atmosphere.
S: I think we’ve just gotten into the habit of how to play around each other.
D: And like, we’re also reasonably confident enough in our friendships that like, saying “Oh, I really strongly feel that this song should only be one minute long” and being up for asserting, “this is how I feel about this song” without anyone losing it or getting over-defensive – not that that would happen with Stag – but like, that’s just like a confidence thing with how the three of us…
S: …we’ve got a better understanding as to how to construct…
D: Yeah, but also we’ve got enough respect to listen to the other person’s opinion and give it a go, and that makes everything run really smoothly.
Sarah, this one’s for you – in a Greg Boring review [another one of Sarah’s projects], you’re said to be “in at least 13 of the most interesting music projects in SEQ”. Response?
D: Oh yeah. [All laugh.]
S: Oh, no, I can’t respond to that, that’s a really nice thing to say, but I don’t think I’m in 13 bands [laughs].
D: [Volunteers] I’ll respond for her.
Why do you end up in cool bands?
S: Why do I end up in cool band… no one said that they were cool [laughs].
S: Or interesting! I don’t know. I think I know a lot of weirdos… I think we just end up making stuff. I don’t really have a good response for that one.
D: You could just put a quote from, umm, the London Sunday Times in there. [Laughs]
D: “Sarah’s the country’s most interesting vocalist.”
S: Oh, that’s what Crawlspace said.
D: Basically, Sarah’s dick has a lot of room for sucking.
S: Oh no.
D: Yep, that’s why I’m your PR girl.
On the record.
D: We’re in shock, just by the way, ‘cos of the gunman.* We watched TV for like two hours.
D: We were trapped inside the house.
That was going to be my closer – “do you reckon the gunman would have succumbed to a screaming match?”
[All laugh. A lot.]
S: That’s another reason why we’re called Screaming Match, the puns.
D: I’d rather read my opinion on the gunman than Channel 7’s “we are looking at an awning” [all laugh], “can I get an interview with the chair?”.
Who does what?
D: Vocals, bass.
S: Vocals, drums.
D: And Alex plays guitar.
Do you always stand when you drum?
S: Yeah, ‘cos I can’t play kick drum [laughs].
I thought you were going to say “so I can sing better!”
D: It’s also that.
S: It’s better for the diaphragm, and it’s also so I can move around more.
D: [Impersonates Sarah drumming, flailing her head around.]
S: Yeah [laughs], so I can throw my weight around.
D: Throw her hair around.
But mostly because you can’t play kick drum.
S: Mostly because I can’t play kick drum and also because I’m really used to doing it and getting into the [imitates playing a kick drum] is just not really going to work out for me.
The band started out as just the both of you, how did Alex get involved?
D: Yeah, we started, and we played a couple of shows that were… not disasters… they were very good… They were really tight. [Laughs] And we got approached by a variety of guitarists from a bunch of Brisbane bands, all of whom were friends, but like “Hey, so, does Screaming Match need a guitarist?”.
S: Just gentle suggestions.
D: “Hey, so, maybe I could play with you?” And we kind of like, yeah, and we kind of jokingly said we’d audition everyone. And then we were just like, “Hey! Alex lives with me, and he has a car!” [Laughs]. On the record. No, but he’s also heaps keen and he’s a good guitarist.
You guys played at Alhambra [notorious teen hipster hang-out]?
S: Harmony asked us to.
D: Harmony asked us to.
S: That was a really weird gig.
D: It was a really weird gig. Umm, we like Harmony though, respect to Harmony. I’ve never actually ever been inside Alhambra before. I don’t think I will ever be inside Alhambra before… uh, I mean, again.
S: When were playing there were like what, 10? 15 people?
D: Yeah, we played to like 15 people, most of whom were our door list. A lot of the rest were in other bands and maybe two paying punters who weren’t like [directly related to us]…
S: And we got lumped in with a lot of other bands that we wouldn’t normally play with, like from a different kind of a scene…
D: Like Keep On Dancin’s and Shifting Sands…
S: I’ve forgotten what the other band was. [Because there wasn’t one!]
D: It was like, different vibes?
S: They’re more like the garage bands I guess.
D: We get thrown on some weird bills, but I guess that’s because, you know, Brisbane’s only so big? Like, we can’t have that many sub-divisions of the music scene, like Melbourne or whatever. Like you can’t always play with bands that sound similar to your band.
S: Yeah, exactly.
What are your day jobs?
D: Bollywood dance teacher. Bollywood small business owner. Come to Bollywood! [All laugh].
S: Don’t sell it! No!
D: h-t-t-p… [all laugh] colon, double-slash, bollywoodbrisbane dot com dot a-u. Mention my name, and I will say G’day personally. $10 a class.
S: Drea, why?
D: It’s one of the glittering facets of my personality.
S: It is.
D: The glitteriest.
D: [To Sarah] what do you do?
S: What do I do?
D: [Mischieveous laughter]
S: …I’m a visual artist. When I make money… [laughs].
D: w-w-w dot…
What influences Screaming Match?
D: Metal guyz. Metal guyz influence Screaming Match. I don’t know, all those ones that we like. All those ones.
S: All those ones.
D: All those bands that we like. Do we have to say bands?
You can say anything.
S: Hating things.
D: Wanting to do something different and, we might as well do it ourselves.
What are you hating against?
S: We’re just people who have a lot of hate for a lot of things.
S: Maybe it’s just me!
D: We have lots of opinions!
S: We have lots of opinions. Yeah, that’s true.
D: We don’t like basic men, we don’t like basic friends. Pretty into dogs.
S: Both like dogs.
D: Pretty into other people’s pets. Largely influenced by beer. Strong influence of… cakes. We do like cakes… My Kitchen Rules.
S: Oh my God! What?
D: [Laughs] You’re giving this question to me, I’m just going to go on!
S: We’re going to give you nothing but dumb answers.
D: Also influenced by boys.
D: Breakups, girl talk… “the sisterhood”. [To Sarah] No?
It’s all going in, I’m sorry.
D: That’s what I said to my date.
D: We’re hungover. Hungover and traumatised. Life will never be the same.
Why aren’t you world famous yet?
S: Why aren’t you world famous yet, Drea? You’re out there enough!
D: I hate you. Two failed reality TV shows.
S: Such a ridiculous idea.
Anything you’d like to add, to redeem yourselves?
S: I think it’s too late to redeem ourselves.
D: We want to be bigger than The Beatles.
S: No we don’t!
D: Yes we do! I want to be rich!
S: That is off the record!
D: We’re never going to be bigger than the Beatles because of my big mouth. People are never going to take us seriously because I’m just too spastic.
* This afternoon Brisbane’s CBD was locked-down due to a gunman appearing in the Queen Street Mall.