Q&A: Greater Sirens

in SF Local Bands by

How did you come up with the name of the band?
We actually started the band under a different name, Younger Dryas, which was a historic climate event Greg had been learning about in a geography class at the time. We were never really happy with that name, though, and people didn’t know what it meant or how to pronounce it. After considering countless other names, we came across greater sirens, the animal, in a book on reptiles and amphibians. We liked how it sounded, and the multiple potential meanings it could take on.

How would you describe your sound?
Our sound is new wave/postpunk-inspired indie rock with both pop and experimental tendencies.

When did you first become interested in playing music?
Greg and Tim’s cousin, Chris, was one of the main reasons both of them became interested in playing music. When Tim was ten years old, Chris showed him a few things on drums and he was pretty much hooked from day one. According to Tim, he wouldn’t be a drummer if it weren’t for Chris. Greg started playing bass in high school because he wanted to be able to play music with friends, most of whom played guitar, and with Tim on drums.

Before forming Greater Sirens, Greg and Tim played in an instrumental psychedelic rock band called Pablum for a few years with their friend, Don. Bobby was four years old when he started messing around on the piano after his sister’s piano lessons. He would mimic the songs his sister learned and after a while the instructor recommended he go into lessons as well. Two decades later, it’s one of the biggest parts of his life. Steve started playing guitar during his first year of college following an elective music theory class. Matt started playing the trumpet in fifth-grade band class.

What’s the strangest or funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at a show?
We started adding visuals to our shows a few years ago. We were playing at Milk Bar in San Francisco one night and the projector we brought with us was set up on a sketchy looking shelf next to the sound booth. About two or three songs into our set, the projector fell on someone’s head in the audience. Luckily he was okay, and that show ended up being one of our best performances.

What are you listening to these days?
Steve recently got into Grizzly Bear and has been going back through Interpol’s early albums. Bobby has mostly been listening to Nine Inch Nails. In fact, most of us have been following the last few EPs NIN has put out. Tim has also been listening to Blonde Redhead, Starfucker, Ohgr, and pretty much everything involving Les Claypool. Matt has been listening to Cate Le Bon, Black Moth Super Rainbow, and Holy Fuck. Greg has been listening to Severed Heads, New Musik, Talk Talk, They Might Be Giants, Wire, Stereolab, and The Cure.

What are some of your favorite Bay Area music venues?
Some of our favorite Bay Area venues are Great American Music Hall, The Independent, The Chapel, Rickshaw Stop, Cafe du Nord, Starline Social Club, and Bottom of the Hill.

How’d you guys first get together to play music?
In 2007, Greg asked Tim to drum on some home recordings he’d been working on. With a specific instrumentation already in mind, they started looking for a second bassist, a guitarist, and a keyboardist. Matt was Tim’s friend from high school and had never played bass before, but he was a musician and he liked the sound, so Greg taught him to play bass for the band. Similarly, he taught keyboard parts to another high school friend, Nastaran Amini, who was replaced by Bobby, Tim’s friend, and coworker, in 2013. Steve joined the band on guitar in 2009 after being the only person to respond to an ad placed at a local music store.

What inspires you to write?
Our inspiration for writing comes from many different places, especially other music, but it’s mainly a compulsion for us. It’s something we will continue to do regardless of how people respond to our music.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to find out about you?
Aside from mastering, we made our latest album, Unnatural Causes, without any outside help. We each played our own instruments, and Greg recorded, mixed, and produced the whole thing.

Is there anything you’d like to plug?
Our new album, Unnatural Causes, was released on June 1st and is available on Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, and other sites. Carly Perkins of The Bay Bridged describes the sound of the album as follows: “Blending twin bass guitars, toy keyboards, and percussion that pops with precision, Greater Sirens have created a multifaceted album that floats across the periphery of ’80s new wave, while remaining grounded in modernism. The band’s founder, Greg Andresen, engineered and produced Unnatural Causes, and experimented with the eerie side of pop cut with a post-punk edge, evolving into a sound that can be enjoyed in a variety of settings. Unnatural Causes will consistently surprise its audience by unveiling myriad layers with each listen.”

An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.