Jordi Davieson remembers the exact moment he began to take his band San Cisco more seriously.
The Australian pop quartet — featuring Davieson on lead vocals, guitar and keyboards; Josh Biondillo on guitar, vocals and keyboards; Nick Garnder on bass; and Scarlett Stevens on drums and vocals — began in 2009 as a way for four high school friends to hang out. That’s all Davieson and the others thought it was going to be until just a few years ago, when Australian young adult radio station Triple J got involved.
“The Triple J radio station back at home, I used to set that for the alarm to go to school — the alarm would go off and the radio station would go on,” Davieson said recently while on the road between Boston and Philadelphia, on the band’s second U.S. headlining tour. “One time the radio came on — it was at the exact time our single had just gone out to radio. I woke up to our song, and at that time I thought it was pretty cool. I thought we should probably start putting a little bit more effort into trying to go somewhere with it.”
San Cisco, opening for Youngblood Hawke
WITH: Lunic, Smallpools
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Upstate Concert Hall, 1208 Route 146, Clifton Park
HOW MUCH: $12 (doors); $10.27 (advance)
MORE INFO: 371-0012, www.upstateconcerthall.com
Since then, the group has seen its profile rise, in its native Australia and further afield. In October the band played the U.S. for the first time at the CMJ Festival in New York City, and appeared this year at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas. This week the band’s first full-length, self-titled album hit U.S. stores to coincide with the U.S. tour, which runs through mid-August. On Friday night, the band will play Upstate Concert Hall, opening for Youngblood Hawke.
The band’s four members, all under age 21, are making their way across the country by car — a first for a group used to traversing long distances by plane in Australia, where the gigs are much further apart.
“This time we’re doing the whole thing driving, and I think we all like it better,” Davieson said. “We hadn’t been here in the summertime yet; it’s lovely. ... You can’t drink here — the 21 drinking age gets a bit annoying. But it’s a bit more interesting this time, seeing things we’ve never seen before. The crowds in Australia are a little bigger, but the crowds here also — just last night it wasn’t a huge crowd, but everyone was getting into it and dancing, which is good.”
The band’s sunny, danceable pop stamp is all over the 13 songs on the self-titled album, which initially saw release in Australia late last year. Following in the footsteps of the band’s previous EPs, “Golden Revolver” (2011) and “Awkward” (2012), the album combines squiggly synthesizer lines, male-female vocal harmonies, stuttering guitar and simple pop grooves along with lyrics often darker than the music suggests — “Awkward,” which was re-recorded for the album after becoming a viral Youtube hit in its original EP version, brings an almost-stalker theme to the song’s bouncy verses.
The band once again worked with producer Steven Schram, who also did the band’s first two EPs, helping to create a logical progression in sound.
“He really knows how to mix a song, how to get the best out of a song,” Davieson said. “We really like the way he produced it because of what he does — he likes to keep it pretty raw and doesn’t like anything too perfect, which gives it character, something I really like.”
Biondillo’s interest in collecting and repairing instruments also influenced the wide array of sounds found on the album.
“Our sound guy, Clancy [Travers], is a bit of an electronic whiz, so when Josh gets cool old things that don’t quite work, Clancy will fix it,” Davieson said. “We were using this Minimoog [synthesizer] that kept going out of tune, it was so old — that was annoying. There’s percussion on one of the songs where we got the whole percussion box; we picked it up and we were shaking that around.”
While the album is new in the U.S., the group is already thinking about its next record. After the U.S. tour, the band will head to Europe for a month before settling in to do some writing. Davieson and Biondillo, the band’s founding members, are still its principal songwriters, although arranging is a full-band process.
“We haven’t had a chance to write any songs this year,” Davieson said. “For me personally as a frontman, I’ve seen a lot more bands and what people do, so I think that probably has an influence, even if it is subconscious. I’m sure when we do sit down and start writing, everything we’ve been listening to and seeing will come out then.”