Los Angeles dream-pop band Siam Jem has been making moves throughout Southern California, from playing shows with artists like Current Joys and Inner Wave to landing a spot on Echo Park Rising. I had the chance to chat with them about their inspirations, goals, and the reason behind starting a band in the first place.
How did Siam Jem start?
MICHAELA: Siam Jem started after writing my own songs for a couple of years and wanting to create my own safe space in a band.
Who and what inspires your music?
MICHAELA: Over the years I have grown to appreciate different types of music. When making music, I keep in mind how fun it’ll be to play live. I really enjoy making pop music, post-punk, & shoegaze. Some artists I really admire are My Bloody Valentine, Television, The Strokes, etc.
NICOLE: I definitely draw a lot of inspiration from My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, and Sleater Kinney. I’m really into Afrobeat (Tony Allen, Fela Kuti, The Funkees) and hip hop and R&B (D’Angelo, Tom Misch, and Chaka Khan), so I try to incorporate a lot of those genres in my drumming.
Where do you hope to see Siam Jem one day? Your biggest goal as a band?
MICHAELA: I’ve always wanted to tour the US and Europe, or really anywhere outside of the US would be a fucking dream. And to play with other bands I look up to and admire is a huge goal of mine. I really hope to be able to make a comfortable living off making music so I can do it as a job and really focus on it full time because it’s what I love.
NICOLE: I think our biggest goal is to get signed and to be able to tour. We took a break in November to really emphasize on creating music, so we definitely want to release a full-length album eventually. We want to dedicate all of our time and energy into Siam Jem!
Why did you start a band, rather than join one?
MICHAELA: Before I started Siam Jem, I was always in other people’s bands. Most of the time around 2016, it was pretty rare to see other female musicians, and the scene was mostly male-dominated. I was in a previous band and did most of the work regarding booking, getting interviews, talking to promoters, scheduling a recording, and basically everything a manager does for a band on top of writing and actually playing in the band and got little to no recognition, just to have the males overshadow me. I didn’t expect praise but I also didn’t expect to get stepped on. I didn’t like it and I wanted full control of who was gonna be in my band. I just wanted it to be fun and to do what I loved! I made Siam Jem so it could be a fun, safe space and I still stick by that today.
What do you hope your lyrics and music do for your listeners?
MICHAELA: I write a lot about not ever feeling like you have a home and seeking security in others. I’ve had a couple of people tell me they really relate to my lyrics and it fills me with joy. I hope people can relate but I also write just to express myself. I’m horrible with a conversation and letting people know how I feel, or even comprehending how I feel. Sometimes I really don’t know how I feel, but writing it in songs gives me some insight.
In the past year, Siam Jem has grown immensely. What do you hope the band grows into in 2020?
MICHAELA: I hope we can open for more bands that I really look up to, cause that’s always very exciting. I hope we can record more music and find ways to release music faster and easier! I hope we can write better and better music.
NICOLE: I hope we grow as musicians and as closer friends. I definitely think we’re all capable of growing and becoming better musicians and I know as our friendship gets closer, we’re only going to become stronger as a band and as a team. I also hope that we grow a bigger audience in the next year because we really want to emphasize that an all queer band can make music and can be successful.
How do you want to develop your sound in the coming year?
MICHAELA: I really wanna add some more post-punk influences, because I feel like it’s so fun to play live. We have a new song called “Ringer” that captures a post-punk feel, and I hope to make some more music like that.
NICOLE: I’m constantly listening to a bunch of genres so I want to be able to implement that in our sound. Nico, Paige, Michaela, and I all have different musical backgrounds so it’s really exciting to see how our sound is getting more eclectic and dynamic.
What makes you stand out as an independent band?
MICHAELA: I haven’t seen any other shoegaze, femme fronted pop bands in the scene. Which I think is pretty cool to be in one.
How do you want Siam Jem to grow?
MICHAELA: I think as Nicole said, I wanna grow more and more as better friends. I already consider Nico and Nicole some of my best friends, and I’m hoping to get closer to our new bassist Paige.
Finally, what are your dreams as musicians?
MICHAELA: It’s always been my dream to tour with bands I admire and write music that I impress myself with. I’ve always wanted to inspire other girls and people of color to not be afraid to start a band and to write music and create art. I’ve had a lot of girls message me and ask me for advice about how to not be afraid to start a band or write music. I just want the message to be clear that the music scene is not just a man’s scene and to not feel dominated at any point.
NICOLE: It’s been my dream since I was 4 years old to tour and just play drums for people. My dream is that my existence as a queer POC female drummer inspires other queer and femme people of color to be inspired to make music or learn an instrument. There needs to be more representation for the queer community to show how capable we are of creating art that deserves to be recognized.