The veteran songsters are back, bringing us some good-old LA sunshine and nostalgia with “Synesthesia” off their newly released album “25th Century."
What do you get when four friends start a band and stick with it through their other professional careers? The answer is Siggy. Composed of Galen Buckwalter (Vocals), Ryan Howes (Guitars, Backup Vocals), Paul Netherton (Drums), and Deborah Buckwalter (Bass, Backup Vocals).
Siggy’s blend of proto-punk rock goodness is a delightfully polished, nostalgic, and simply fun testament to what can be achieved when you have an infectious love for music and have like-minded friends who both get along swimmingly and share the same passion.
Siggy’s band members enjoy working together. Having released their first studio album, Harlow’s Girl, in 1999, each member of Siggy has faithfully met up once a week to jam and rock out, providing both a temporary respite from their primary vocations and an outlet for their significantly prolific artistic tendencies.
Their latest release, “25th Century,” is also the product of Siggy’s collective artistic vision, underlined by the proto-punk rock style that has become the band’s calling card. Don’t mistake a signature style for stagnation; Siggy’s guitar tones and sound have constantly shifted throughout the years, evolving as the band members have.
Synesthesia, the opening single for “25th Century”, is a testament to where Siggy has come from and where they’re going. There’s never a time when Siggy isn’t having fun. When Galen spits lines like “Synesthesia! She always knew / What reality would be”, there’s a feeling of triumph, of effortless, nostalgic energy reminiscent of one of Siggy’s biggest influences, Iggy Pop. A passion project that has spanned 25 years and counting, we hope Siggy is around for far into the foreseeable future.
As December rolls on and we approach the new year, why not have a blast from the past? Channel some LA sunshine and tap into Siggy’s new release, “Synesthesia,” from their freshly released album “25th Century,” available now on Spotify.
Welcome to BuzzMusic, Siggy. We loved “Synesthesia” and “25th Century,” they definitely gave us a dose of good old-fashioned rock-punk nostalgia in all the right ways! We have to ask, what was the inspiration behind Synesthesia? Did you draw from any personal experiences you had in your personal lives or even professions?
Thanks, BuzzMusic! So cool to hear that what you aptly describe as "good old-fashioned rock-punk" still hits you, beautiful young people, in the right ways. Siggy tries to stay closest to the proto-punk sounds of Velvet Underground and Television, and the Stooges and the like, music as timeless as anything rock and roll has ever produced. Raw, rhythmic, and challenging, with calculated, at times dramatic, hubris; we're hoping that's the dose we serve.
The idea of inspiring Synesthesia is drawn straight from my career as a research psychologist. Part of what I do is apply theoretical neuroscience to AI. The scientist I currently have a complete mind crush for is Karl Friston, who has developed a theory that turns everything we think about how the brain works upside down. He theorizes the brain is a predictive processing machine that predicts everything that will happen so our regulatory systems can be ready for whatever shit is coming our way. Every prediction is a simple statistical guess (otherwise known as inference) based on our brain's prior guesses and how wrong they were. When you start to get your head around this, you realize that even our perceptions are predictions.
A perfect example of this is everyone remembers the dress that was the social media rage a few years ago. Is it black and blue or white and gold? People freaked out about this. Synesthesia extends the freakishness of perceptual prediction to the observation that some people perceive one sense with another like when they smell something, they perceive it as color. It's a song about this cool woman who felt her dreams in green. But it is also about my belief that we will eventually figure out how the brain does this and experience it, and other trippy states of mind ourselves.
That's where the words came from; Ryan describes how the music came to be, “I’m forever on a quest to create the best punch-you-in-the-throat, barre-chord-driven song, with the Ramones, Green Day, The Undertones, and the Kinks’ classic “All Day and All of the Night” in my crosshairs. Synesthesia is our latest attempt, with two verses, three choruses, and a guitar solo served up at 132 bpm for 1 minute, 45 seconds (well, 2:05 with the meandering outro). This song starts our album and many of our shows for a reason - it reminds our listeners and us that our roots are punk, even if we occasionally meander into the realms of the melodic, the orchestral, or even the honky tonk. Give us three distorted chords, a straightforward, sturdy drive from the rhythm section, and Galen’s profound/absurd lyrics, and we can hold the stage with the best of them.”
What was your vision for “25th Century,” and what would you like your fans to take away from this project?
The 21st century has left folks of my ilk in a real quandary. I have never cottoned to the party line as a somewhat old punk. Institutions, like academia and government, have always been the antagonist, slowing down innovation and creativity and quashing individuality. Now we have a bunch of lunatics running around that deny much of the fundamental knowledge on which society relies. So in comparison, the institutions seem downright heroic. But fuck if I’m going to laud that which I have always found despicable. Anti-creative and anti-individualist forces have, and always will, suck. But we must have a set of first principles that we all start with. I think our best chance for human development is the scientific method; building on first principles and relying on probabilistic hypothesis testing, falsification, along with collaborative criticism is my religion. While institutions have never facilitated this process, at least they aren’t denying the existence of first principles. '25th Century' reflects how f*cked up things are, being stuck between anti-factors and moribund institutions. Yet you'll hear a glimmer of hope for the collaboration, compassion, and support for the diversity of humanity that so many of you younger people value. If we don’t all start living in accord with the basic moral principle “it’s not me against you, it’s not us against them, there can be no other side,” we’re f*cked even to think there’s going to be a 25th century.
You’ve been jamming and performing together for 25 years which is obviously amazing and a little shocking. How have you managed to maintain that kind of consistency?
Sometimes a band is more than a band. Our music and the creative process of co-creation is as much a social process as it is a cognitive one. Initially, we were just four people writing some songs and playing at outrageous clubs, but we truly had fun doing it, so we kept it up. Now, after 25 years of doing it, the band has become a huge source of strength, support, and acceptance for each of us, I dare say. Humans are social animals. People forget that learning to live in functional groups was as important to successful human evolution as learning to escape the proverbial tiger nipping at our heels. Siggy allows us to continue to develop that part of our brains. Long-term groups have become harder to maintain in our mobile world, but our experience is that bands are a great way to make it happen.
Do you have any advice for other bands out there regarding longevity?
I suggest you consider more than the music and sound each person brings to the band when you are putting it together. Not that skill isn’t important, but so is each member's character, humor, and collaborative style. A band is a social experiment; it should add richness to your life, not drain it. No one should look to the band as the place to meet all their psychological needs, but it shouldn't trigger your needs either. Music is all about adding joy, positive challenge, and good old-fashioned fun to life, So put it together with the people that are going to enjoy the process, do not bring their shit to every rehearsal, will cover your back if needed and have absolutely no fear of an empty room. Looking cool as shit never hurts, either.
What was your favorite part about bringing the “25th Century” project to life?
The recording is one of those pinnacle experiences for Siggy. Every bit of the process, from deciding what songs we’re going to play and what we hope to express in the album to where we will get breakfast before we walk into the studio, are all things we savor. But most important for us is who we work with and where we record. We were freakishly lucky to stumble across Dave Trumfio and his Kingsize recording empire a couple of albums ago. Dave is totally our recording guru; he knows every sound-capturing and processing machine ever made. He is also a solid musician and composer, but he doesn’t force any of his opinion on our process. Instead, he is just available, chill like Buddha, when we need the wisdom of experience. Dave also sets us up with the perfect engineer; in '25th Century', we worked with Ruddy Cullers. If you were to create the perfect rock ‘n’ roll musician/engineer, it would be Ruddy, cool like Keith. So then it’s just a matter of putting down our best effort at that particular time. Every session starts with a shot of Fortaleza, and it is not forbidden to have additional shots throughout the sessions. Deborah is a one-take marvel on the bass, and Paul nails 90% first try and dances on his drums. Ryan has written all the parts he wants in his head and, in the process of putting them down, is often struck by his muse with new sounds. Everyone stays chill. The mixing with Dave at the exclusive Chateau Trumfio, secretly located where Hollywood royalty should live and work, makes it all seem real. That's the magical part for me. Another Siggy gem represents where we are at this time doing the Siggy thing. We all are digging into '25th Century.'
What’s next for Siggy? Do you have any musical goals you want to achieve in the new year?
The only thing I can say for sure is that we will be together almost every Friday night to do the Siggy thing. We are putting a little bit of effort into trying to get more people to be aware of the music we have put out in '25th Century,' so we'll see if the social media approach to getting people to hear and dig Siggy does any better than our past efforts to get a label. We are considering putting together a little tour for Siggy this summer. We have yet to experience the road and dive bars in the middle of nowhere, but it seems like a memory we should have. So if anyone has any ideas where we should play and speaking personality, I would give my left nut to open for The Mekons when they bring their new album to LA and for Iggy anywhere.