The Sam I Am
Southend’s The Sam I Am don’t fit into a scene. The closest they get to the Arctic Monkeys is their youthful looks; the only comparison you could draw between them and The Long Blondes is that they have a stylish female vocalist, in the shape of Natasha Fox, who, believe it or not, can actually belt one out. As far as the art rock and indie fad-scenes go, The Sam I Am are outsiders, their heavy rock and experimental alternative influences setting them apart from the masses of Fred Perry-touting boy bands in the charts. But that’s exactly why you should love them…
‘People find it hard to put us on a show,’ confirms bassist Mark Saunders. ‘Like tonight, we’re playing The Ark and we are pretty much absolutely nothing to do with their scene. We’re going to play first and their crowd is going to be going ‘what the fuck is this all about.’ Now and again we’ve played with bands and it’s really worked out, but with most of the shows we go to we’ll turn up and it’s like, ‘the indie rock scene.”
Guitarist Daryl Tattoo finishes: ‘We just turn up and do our thing and do it as best as we can and if people like it, great, and if people don’t then it’s not our show. We get a lot of gigs where people don’t like us, you either like us or you don’t.’
However, their back catalogue of gigs suggests that most are overlooking this Marmite-like quality. So far they have supported the likes of KT Tunstall, Ed Harcourt, Babyshambles, Larrikin Love and Ladyfuzz to name a few. It seems that people are still willing to take a chance on originality. Their high-profile hometown gig with Babyshambles at the end of last year especially sparked a great deal of interest for the band. ‘Yeah that was during the week that Pete was in the paper every day, so the show was well over capacity, completely rammed,’ reminisces Mark.
‘It didn’t finish ‘til about 1 and in Southend that’s tense, ‘cause usually they kick everyone out at 11,’ continues Fox. ‘It’s one of the main venues in Southend that they played and we got the support for it, and it was really exciting.’
Drummer Toby Gore agrees that the gig was definitely a turning point for the band. ‘We were saying before that people aren’t really here to see us, people are here to see Babyshambles,’ he says, ‘but we went down really, really well.’
But for The Sam I Am being an unsigned band, despite its exciting unpredictability, is not easy: ‘We’ll do our day jobs and then try and do as much of the band as possible and it wears you right down because you’re trying to hold down a job and push the music,’ confides Toby, ‘We’re committed to playing shows, so we’re doing like 14, 15 hour days and by the time we get home it’s three in the morning. It’s hard, but its good fun.’
The rock minxlets are starting to go down well with the music press, but the band have a particular distaste for the way that journalists represent them.
Daryl: ‘A lot of reviewers pigeonhole us ‘cause we’ve got quite a unique sound and a lot of people take the easy way around and go, ‘they sound like this, this and this’. They can’t put their own finger on it. Everything’s pigeonholed nowadays; we’re just whacked into several pigeonholes every time.
Toby comments: ‘It’s always the post-punk thing along with PJ Harvey ‘cause there’s a girl and a guitar.’
Mark: ‘What’s cool about the way our songs turn out is everyone’s got their very heavy influences, whereas other bands will really be into certain things, like rock bands that are into new rock bands, but with us we’re really into quite different things. It’s really cool for us because we don’t end up coming down sounding like a band we’re all into. Daryl’s really into progressive and experimental music and Natasha’s into her abstract vocals and me and Toby are into stomping, more pinned-down, hard beats.
Natasha: ‘It’s difficult for us sometimes because at the moment there aren’t many main female-fronted bands at the moment, where there are so many male singers. There’s only really Shirley Manson from Garbage and Karen O and PJ Harvey and [people] think you sound like that just ‘cause you’re a girl. To me it’s a bit frustrating because they’re all cool people that have made such a difference to rock music and how female singers are perceived, but I kinda wanna be another one of them. I’m not saying I’m that good or anything but I find it difficult because I don’t know who people want me to be or who I want to be. The PJ Harvey thing does come up quite a lot… ‘
Live, it’s easy to spot The Sam I Am’s appeal: the wailing, heart wrenching vocals that mirror the strength of Harvey’s, but are truly Fox’s own, the genuine musicianship, the overall style and flair of the band, from their bohemian scarves to Daryl’s Jack Sparrow boots, and the real tunes that the band possess that worm their way into your head and make your toes uncontrollably tap.
Perhaps it is their sheer determination that they really are just about the music that keeps them firmly in people’s hearts.
‘A lot of signed bands get pushed into playing stuff,’ says Daryl, ‘That’s not what we’re about. We have a wide variety of music tastes. The Sam I Am is what us four members play and put together; there are no boundaries. We play what we wanna play.’
‘Nuff said. The foursome are currently recording their album and sorting tour dates to coincide with their single release on London Beach Records.
The Sam I Am