A Chat With…TFC

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Sam Ciavarella creates high intensity electro acoustic music as TFC. We had a chat to Sam to find out more about the project and his upcoming launch.

Hi Sam, thanks for the chat! No worries! E Tu.

You produced, engineered and mixed your forthcoming concept album “To Get There -2GT” yourself (with the help of Mr. Society). Can you talk us through some challenges you faced doing this all on your own? Oh just my sanity slipping through my fingers. Nah, I’ve always been a ‘finger-in-each-pot’ kinda guy.

When it was sport, it was football, soccer, trampolining, karate, boxing, basketball, netball, swimming, surfing, diving… I’ve worked around 8 different jobs from 13 years of age and up. I blame my curiosity.

I just wanted to hear what it would sound like. 2GT is an experiment in self sufficiency, a calculated and deliberate one. It’s a reflection on Sam the writer, musician, producer, mixer and engineer.

But it’s difficult wearing all those hats. Jumping in and out of the different mindsets, and toolsets, setting boundaries for each position, knowing when you’re actually hearing something in the mix, and just hearing something in your creative ‘producer’s head,’ it is tiresome. Just to learn the workflow for each job, and then to execute it well enough, to put it on record. I’ve learned a butt load about making music with this album, and most of all, never do it like this again!

Already on 2GT I’ve got Melbourne producers Mr. Society and Arizon lending a hand, and some musicians performing trumpet and choral vocals, but I’d like to go back to where I’m from, playing in a group, or being part of a big team, with people that are better than me doing their individual jobs.

Speaking of the concept album, it’s been released in parts. What made you decide to spread the release? Breaking Bad. When I got my tonsils out, I finally sat down and watched the whole thing through. I loved the pace, and the drama in the characters. I have a note on my wall that says “I want to write like a TV series,” and so I decided to release like one too.

Also, I read a lot about the changing nature of music consumption. With streaming taking over from album purchases and all that. I chose to release an ongoing stream of content, rather than one big dump.

Most importantly, I haven’t finished it all yet! I’m releasing parts as I finish them, so it’s a ‘necessity breeds creation’ kinda situation.

In your bio you make mention of hoping the project gains some momentum so you don’t have to go back to university. What were you studying? I started a Bachelor of Business straight out of high school, and oh boy I did not like it. Going from a tight knit, and arts specialised school at Sandringham college, to a huge business lecture hall, where no one knows you and no one really cares, learning about things no one really care about either, it wasn’t for me. I planned to major in Entrepreneurship, to learn about running a business and fitting into a market space, but the 1st year content was too dry. I left after one semester and started working on the music.

Actually, I auditioned to study a Diploma of Music Performance in voice at the start of this year, and I got knocked back. And rightly so, I did a terrible job at my audition! Anyway, some time out of structured study gave me the chance to learn about exactly what I wanted to, and thus undertaking this solo album, alongside some improvised comedy, and acting training. Two left field, but important processes I’ve gone through. For approaching performance, and my own mind, a whole lot better.

I also had the time to go backpacking for six months, a hugely transformational experience. I highly recommend it!

When it comes to gigs do you predominately play solo, or do you have a band? I play with a band of mannequins. So I guess that’s a solo show? I like to add a bit of theatre to my sets, so I’ve currently got 4 female mannequins, Polly, Lolly, Dolly and Molly, on stage with me, playing percussion, flute and jaw harp. We are a very eclectic band. they each get a moment in the limelight too, as I’m a generous band leader.

I just like making people go WTF?

It also comes back to my first musical inspirations, being the rock groups of the 60s and 70s. I like to play bills with bands, and I try to sound as HUGE as a loud live band does too. To me, the modern archetype is the Bloody Beetroots Live outfit, circa 2013. Live drums, guitars, with huge synths, and the masks, and tuxedos, and Sir Bob running around geeing everyone up. Their set at the Big Day Out that year remains one of my favourites.

Thus, I’ve been experimenting with splitting and processing my guitar and vocals through different signal processors, to fatten my live sonic output, and the addition of the mannequins. It’s a bit of banter, and helps add to the ‘WTF?’ moment for the crowd. If I can be so absurd, that punters go with it, rather than laugh it, than I might be able to win a few more fans. I think.

Can you tell us about your favourite Melbourne acts? My vote for Most Potential For Global Domination goes to DeadVandals. Mr. Society and Realname (aka DeadVandals) are making the most disgustingly sweaty electronic hip hop I know of. Add to the list of awesome left field beatmakers Teether and Isere. Arizon has been working on some weird J-Pop stuff for some guy in anada. If you’re into that, it pops.

I first saw Jakubi open for Animaux at Ding Dong Lounge a few years back, and now they’re taking over the US. And perhaps my favourite band no one has heard of is The New Caledonia. Take some of Melbourne’s best musicians, get them to make a jazz/prog/rock/electronic album, and don’t tell anyone it ever happened. That’s there album Lotus. Stan from TNC was nice enough to let me use on of their tracks on my high school media film. Thanks man!

And Melbourne venues? Top of the list is Ding Dong Lounge. So much debauchery has happened in that room, and the surrounding Chinatown area. It holds a residency in my heart. I also made an early dent on my bucketlist when I got to headline DDL on a Friday last month. Sometimes, dreams do come true.

It’s cool to see a couple more venues springing up on the Southside. Eddie’s Band Room saw my first two performances, so thanks to them and Realname for organising those bills.

But the bestest was probably a house party at Realname’s. I’ve tried to convince him to turn his pad into a full time gig space, but he’s holding out on me atm. Maybe if I throw some money at him, he’ll turn.

Oh, and everyone is waiting for The Espy to come back.

What’s in store for the remainder of 2016? TFC has an album to finish! I’ve released the 1st of what I think will be 8 episodes, so I’ve gotta get on my bike with those!

I’ve been making some weird stuff with Arizon, don’t know where that will end up.

As Sam, I’m making a short film on my backpacking experience last year. I wore a go pro on my hat for most of the trip. I got some funny footage I can tell you that.

And I’m planning to launch a DJ persona too. I’m super passionate about sharing music, so I’d like to step into that field when I have the time. Can I buy more time? what’s the cost? Who’s selling?

Thanks for your time! Give it back! I need it all! I joke. Thank you.

TFC launches Substance Abuse, Episode 1 of the To Get There Series, this May 15th at Bar Open. Details here.

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