Siam Jem, founded in 2017, is the darling dream-pop project of one Michaela Rabina. Shoegazing, an unfathomable adoration for both Kevin Parker and Kevin Shields as well as incredibly memorable synth-laden melodies encompass all that Siam Jem has been percolating on for this past year of 2020 in relative hibernation. We got the opportunity to speak with her on the imminent release of her upcoming double single release for the songs “Rite” and “I Saw A Swan.”
Hey there! So with Siam Jem, how long has this project been going on for, where did it emerge from and what are you attempting with it?
Siam Jem started in 2017. I was in a band, more like a collaborative band where we would write all together, but to be honest, Siam Jem was kinda made out of spite. They were a bunch of big meanies to me, a bunch of mean boys, so I was like “I’m gonna write my sound myself and do my own thing!” I just really wanted to be a good songwriter, both musically and lyrically, do it all and pull a Kevin Parker: produce it, mix it, record it, everything. That’s kind of my aim with Siam Jem.
How has 2020 been for your production efforts?
Dude, 2020 has slowed. down. everything. I can’t always record at home and I’m trying to be COVID-safe. I feel like I’m finally at a place where, now, I can record at home because I live somewhere else, it doesn’t bother the people I live with now. It feels like the band doesn’t really grow without shows that much, but other than that it’s been a big bummer.
Any speedbumps aside from the pandemic itself?
You would think since I’m sitting in my room that I could make music all day, but I feel like there’s this mental block processing 2020 and the world and everything. It really stopped me from creating.
Was songwriting a more natural occurrence this past year with all the afforded time?
These songs came pretty easy, but it took me 8 months to put together. The minute I sat down to actually write, it came easily, it still took me a long time to sit myself down and write them.
How is it producing all your music; mixing and playing from home? Has this always been the way past singles and projects were recorded?
First off, it’s really fun doing it myself because, like I said: Kevin Parker. The wonderful Kevin Parker. I really enjoy putting together and making a song, piecing all together where it sounds like an actual song. It brings me a lot of joy. Before, I used to write all the songs, but I wouldn’t record them. I’d go somewhere else to record them. I have to give credit to the other past drummers who’ve helped because like… I can drum, but I feel like that’s my weak spot. I don’t feel confident going in the studio and drumming, so I’d always ask friends who’re better than me to record drum parts. For the most part, I love recording everything else!
What’s the story behind your sole 2020 release, “Desert Picnic?” Was recording it all smooth? How did it factor into our most recent releases?
I remember just one day, sitting down thinking “I want to make a synth-y song.” I didn’t even plan on releasing it, I just wanted to be creative, but after listening to it for a while I felt really proud of it. I kind of did it on impulse. I recorded it all in one day, came back to it with fresh ears and said I was going to release it.
Is all the album art for the upcoming release DIY or do you still have friends helping in some areas?
The girl who did it, I’m going to shout her out because she’s so talented, her Instagram is @cassidymater!
What kind of tone, both on the guitar and emotionally, were you attempting?
And, for “Rite”… what was I going for? It’s a pop sorta song that ends on a shoegaze note. That song, believe it or not, I sat down and recorded the whole thing in about 2, maybe 3 hours. “I Saw A Swan,” people are probably going to disagree with me, but I’m a huge fan of Title Fight’s Hyperview and I really like their shoegaze-y approach. Or, My Bloody Valentine because I apparently copy everything they do! Anyway, it’s about being infatuated with someone and how scary that can feel so I think of that song as it’s really pretty in the beginning with the guitars becoming fucked up and scary.
How was producing these singles and did any life events take shape in their creation?
I’m just going to talk about “Ringer” since the others are too personal. *laughing* It’s about having a friend who is behind your back obsessed with you in a stalker-ish way… a scary stalker way. I won’t get into detail about it, but I wanted to write a song about having a friend like that.
Where do you see 2021 headed for Siam Jem and the local scene as a whole?
With Siam Jem this year , I didn’t update the Instagram, [or] really do a whole lot at all. I’m feeling hopeful for the upcoming year. I have a couple pictures, photoshoots scheduled because I know it’s important to keep up with the ‘Gram even though I’m fucking terrible at it. I feel like I finally got the hang of recording at home and making all these songs by myself fast. Fast and cheap, that’s exactly what I need. I have so many songs recorded, like demos. I just need to get them up to par for myself. I really don’t want to play a show unless it’s safe either.
For fun, what are some of your favorite: Musician inspos? Animals? Particular favorite chip flavor? Candles, flowers or perfumes?
- I think I’ve already said it before: My Bloody Valentine, I love everything they do. Billie Eilish, I freaking love her. Obviously we don’t sound anything alike, but her whole process is so impressive to me. Like I said, I record everything in my bedroom and so does she! And she won five Grammys!
- My dog, Soko.
- Ketchup. A guy that I know from Siam Jem from Canada sent me a box of all these different ketchup chips and, yes they sound disgusting, but they’re really good!
- I love candles. I go to Walmart and smell all the candles.
Bath and Bodyworks by any chance?
No, that’s for bougie bitches, I go to Walmart!
Are aliens real and will they invade this year?
Uhh yes I think they are real and hopefully. Like, can they please help us, we are struggling.
Follow Siam Jem on Instagram here and listen to “I Saw a Swan” and “Rite” below.