Stowaway – Samiam (Pure Noise Records)

It’s been 12 years but finally Samiam are back. The current lineup includes longtime members Jason Beebout (vocals), Sean Kennerly (guitar), and Sergie Loobkoff (guitar), as well as newer additions Colin Brooks (drums) and Chad Darby (bass). They came blasting out of the DIY punk scene way back in 1988, then tasted moderate success in the mid 90’s with the pop punk boom, that lapped up every band that sounded remotely ‘punk’ but ultimately this fizzled out by the time noughties hit. Their last album ‘Trips’ came in in 2011 and whilst the band didn’t break up and they continued to sporadically play shows, the demands of band took their toll and they put the Samiam on the backburner. This actually forms the backdrop for their new album ‘Stowaway’

“A very slow accretion of pressure over many years led to the decision to make a new record,” explains Kennerly. “We had been lazily working on a few new songs here and there for years–as far back as 2014, when we tried and failed to record a little demo after Riot Fest. But Sergie and I just kept writing the beginnings of songs and sending them around to everyone, and suddenly one day about four years ago we were like, ‘This is enough for an album!’” After joining up with Pure Noise Records, the band began to get more serious about polishing their material, booking time at Billie Joe Armstrong’s Otis Studio in Oakland and beginning to hammer out the initial recordings in February 2020. A month later the pandemic turned the world upside down, and like everyone, Samiam’s plans were once again on hold. 

“We didn’t have any idea then what was happening, when it was going to be over or whether it was going to just kill everyone and destroy the world,” remembers Kennerly. “It made the recording process take a ridiculously long time, even longer than the ridiculously long time that it was already taking.” Over many months, the group chipped away at the instrumentals, recording sporadically in various studios in various locations: Brooks found his way to Savaria Studios in Brooklyn, NY, where he recorded the drums with Jon Markson (Drug Church, Koyo, Soul Blind); Darby, Loobkoff, and Kennerly flew down to Gainesville, FL, to keep working on the song skeletons they’d started back in Oakland; eventually, it Beebout and Kennerly headed back to Otis to record vocals. “It was just Jason and I,” says Kennerly, “I was doing background vocals and Jason was doing main vocals, but he didn’t have any material. We were stuck. We’d gone through all of these hoops and hurdles, and there was nothing to record. We spent a week there and came back with nothing.” It was another discouraging false start, but Beebout was not deterred. “Maybe people over 50 in bands should admit that they’re probably too old to be in this business,” he says. “Most of them are–I’m not. I never worried whether or not I could sing. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to.”

But any doubts as to whether this resurgence was worth it are quickly put to bed as soon as the needle drops on ‘Lake Speed’ and ‘Crystaliazed’ you realise this is what’s been missing from your life for the past decade. Despite the band looking to confront failure on this record it’s also the sound of a band coming to terms with their place in the world again and has actually resulted in a very upbeat piece of work, whcih can sit proudly next to anything they’ve put out previously. It’s literallly anthem after anthem by the time ‘Scout Knife’ and ‘Monterey Canyon’ hit. This is clearly the sound of a band reconnecting with themselves, eachother and their music ‘Stanley’ hits differently offering a slightly harder edge and ‘Something’ sees the band in full on punk rock mode before they finish off with the album’s title track, which harks back to the good kind of 90’s alt rock. A happy Samiam is a good Samiam. It’s so nice to have these guys back and ‘Stowaway’ is nothing short of anthemic….Chris Andrews


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