I spoke with Sergie Loobkoff, guitarist of Samiam, back in 2010 as the band was about to hit the road for a string of East Coast dates.
During the interview we talked about the band's upcoming show in NYC, which at the time was their first in close to a decade, new music, and more. Read on!
How did Orphan Works come together?
It wasn’t our idea to do. We played at The Fest in Gainesville. We had a really cool show [but] it was a total disaster because our bass player didn’t come so we had to teach the guy from Less Than Jake and Chris Wollard from Hot Water Music how to play Samiam songs five hours before we went and played in front of a couple thousand people. It turned out well but it was crazy. I didn’t really have that much fun because it was so crazy. They both did a fantastic job. I could never learn that many songs in a few hours. Regardless, after the show, I reconnected with Var [Thelin], who owns No Idea Records who I met on our first tour back in the 1800s [Laughs]. We sort of kept in touch a little bit. We put out a 7-inch when No Idea was actually a fanzine and not a label. They put out 7-inches every once in a while and we did a split with Jawbreaker. For the last fourteen years or so, every once in a while, I’d be in Europe and see some graffiti on the wall. He’d be on tour with some band like Small Brown Bike and he’d notice that we were playing three weeks later and he’d go,” Hey Sergie, what’s happening?” When we played The Fest and I saw him, it was like, “we totally known each other for years but we haven’t been face to face in fifteen years.” But we talked that night and the next couple days about maybe recording a record. Which is kind of a big, hard ordeal with Samiam because we’re such a ragtag group of assholes. The more realistic thing was to put out our two 90s records that were on major labels, that were out of print for the last decade or so. We hired a lawyer to deal with that. We were talking and since making a new album fizzled a little bit and it’s obviously going to take a long time to deal with a major label to try and weasel your records back, [No Idea thought] “why don’t we put something out in the interim.” It was actually just my idea just to do outtakes and live things. There’s two songs were from Clumsy that we recorded then but they never came out. I thought it would be kind of cool to limit the songs to be songs from that era of Clumsy and You Are Freaking Me Out. So when those [reissues] eventually came out, it would be a trio of records that documents that little time in history. It’s not going to sell a million copies. It’s not like “let’s try to squeeze some cash out of some dorks that buy everything.”
Do you plan on reissuing any of the other records besides those two major label ones?
As far as our first three records, no. It’s already out if anyone wanted to find it. We’re not particularly proud of our early days. We have some good songs here and there. We were kind of dumbass songwriters at the time. I don’t really care about those records so much.
Like you said, creating an album must be hard with everyone scattered across the country. Is it still even an idea?
It’s a total idea. Two of the guys live in Brooklyn, one lives in Manhattan. Jason [Beebout, singer] and I live in California. So that’s a hassle. Everybody except for me went out a couple weeks ago and recorded some songs. Jason and Sean [Kennerly, guitar] have this real driving ambition to make a record. I’m a little bit hesitant just because I wasn’t that happy with the last one. I’m just apprehensive of opening this whole can of worms. Hopefully, we can get it together.
Now that you guys aren’t super active, do you enjoy being in the band more or do you sort of long for those old days?
I definitely don’t long for those days. This band is like a garage band. Somehow, through weird twists of fate for a couple years there, we toured constantly, made records, had managers, and were on some big label. Speaking for myself, that wasn’t my intention at all. When Samiam started, I was going to college. I wasn’t like, “I want to be in a band for the rest of my life.” I wouldn’t change anything. It had it’s up and downs but I would never want to go back to that place where I depended on making music for money. Being forced to take it more seriously than I ever intended to. There is no money involved in Samiam. We don’t do it for money. It’s only for fun. We just pick and choose what we do. Since 2000, when we basically broke up, if you look where we’ve gone, we’ve gone to Europe nine or ten times. We’ve gone to South America a couple of times. Gone to Australia. We’ve only gone to big cities or fun cities around the States. Just being in a band, in general, is really hard. The unfun part of being in a band definitely keeps up here and there. There must have been times in the 90s when it was day 200 on tour, playing the old songs we played ten thousand times, where we inadvertently looked a little bored. Where now, I haven’t played these songs since our last show in Rio last December. When we play in a couple weeks in New York, that’ll be the first time in almost a year that I’ve played it. I’m definitely not bored playing that song. I feel privileged to be stand in front of people and play a song rather than being bored of doing it.
When was the last time you played New York?
Sean and I were talking about it the other day. I thought the last time we played was at Brownies, which was in 98 or 99. He said we played at Mercury Lounge after that. I actually don’t remember a thing about that show. It’s been ten years. Long enough for everyone to forget us.
After NYC, you go over to Europe. How do the audiences over there compare to those in the States?
Our last real tour in America was in 2000. In smaller cities, we felt the pinch. Meanwhile, when we were going to Europe at that point, it was just getting more and more popular for us. The shows were getting bigger. It grew to a point where we could average about 400 people or 1,000 some nights. I wouldn’t say Samiam is big in Europe because we definitely aren’t but we do consistently well when we go there. In America, we did a tour in 2005. We’d play in Philadelphia and there’d be 400 people but then we’d play the next night in Delaware and 75 would come. I think it would sort of be depressing certain nights because we’re a little bit forgotten. The main reason I think bands go to Europe is not because their more popular. It’s just that when you roll into a town in America, [promoters are] like, “Ok, go set up. Alright, sit over here. Here’s three drink tickets. Now shut up.” And that’s a nice club. In Europe, you go on tour and every club you play they have this group of people, an organization in the city, that are really welcoming. They cook for you, are very friendly and they want to hang out with you. It’s a little less of going on tour, struggling, and feeling like nobody wants us here.
You guys went through the indie to major back to indie game in the 90s, like so many other bands did. Do you think bands will stop eventually signing to majors with indies getting stronger over the last few years?
I think it’s going on a lot less now. I was actually surprised that a band like Against Me! signed to a major because they really didn’t need it. I didn’t understand what a major label would do for them that didn’t already have. I think they had a bigger fanbase then that they do now. You can’t really foresee what’s going to happen but I can’t comment about them. Our situation is a lot different then them because when they signed to a major label they were a pretty big buzz band, where Samiam was a band that was either going to sign or break up. We were just sort of struggling at that point. We weren’t some big band. You can’t even compare it because then there was a lot of money. I bought a house. We didn’t earn a lot of money but we sure got a lot of money. Now, I don’t really know what the incentive is because I’m sure they didn’t get that much money. [Against Me!] are a band that probably average 500-1,000 people everywhere and they spent like four years doing that. Just seeing the same faces, not seeing it get one inch bigger. They were the darlings of their scene but they weren’t really grabbing anybody outside the Punknews.org thing. They are a band that’s a little bit smarter and better songwriting than the average flat-out punk band. They probably felt, “I want to reach more then what I’m reaching right now.” I don’t think they have any intentions of “fuck these people. I want to alienate these people.” You might just get to a point where you feel like you’re treading water. You want to do something different to keep on being interesting. I think less bands sign to major labels now because they realize major labels are out of touch and aren’t actually giving out that much money to bands they sign anymore.
Look at a band like Arcade Fire. They had a number one record on an indie. Or even No Idea Records and all their bands. Those are examples of an indie treating bands with respect and bands are sort of flocking to that.
I agree totally. We never dealt with a guy wearing a gold chain when we were on Atlantic. We dealt with a lot of clueless people maybe but definitely never dealt with any evil people. Dealing with a couple of joes like Tony [Weinbender] and Var at No Idea and Louis [Posen] at Hopeless, its nice. Especially when you’re not doing it for a living. Why are you going to deal with a bunch of schmucks? What’s the point of it?
You do design work. What are you working on right now?
I just finished a NOFX record and a Fat comp. That’s my freelance. I also freelance at a yuppie job. I’m at an office and then I work at home on nights and weekends on records for Epitaph, Fat or Hopeless.
Samiam has toured sporadically since Sergie and I spoke. He also joined Knapsack in 2013 for a reunion tour. Samiam has reissued a bunch of their records via No Idea, Hopeless, and more. Get them from their official website.