San Cisco

Published in Treadlie Issue 10, March 2013

“Hipsters have all the fun,” says a YouTube comment below the video clip for Perth band San Cisco’s “Golden Revolver”, in which the band mates are seen building a raft out of barrels and pallets, sailing it down a mangrove river, gleefully falling in the water when it tips over, and then finally having a picnic. It might look like it’s all fun and games, but the truth is it’s hard work being a member of San Cisco. DIY is San Cisco’s middle name – they built their own rehearsal studio in Fremantle and run their own record label, Island City Records, home to their self-titled debut album.

On top of all that, guitarist and synth player Josh Biondillo and bassist Nick Gardner also like to build bikes. Not that there’s much time left for that sort of thing. “If you can fit in an 8 hour sleep that’s pretty good, let alone building a bike,” says Nick.

“Before the band took over my life,” says Josh, “we use to be interested in bikes. I had a really cool old bike – it wasn’t that old, it was probably ‘80s or ‘90s. It was a track bike.” The frame was made by now-retired Perth frame builder Milton ‘Spike’ Jones, and Josh built it up from locally-sourced components. “I got some cranks off a local guy. I pretty much had a full Campagnolo track groupset. Then I got a Brooks saddle and built it up from the ground.”

Josh ended up selling the bike to help fund a trip overseas with drummer Scarlett Stevens, but he’s recently started working on a replacement. “I found a really cool old Italian frame on the verge collection, which I’m going to work on building up into something,” he says.

Nick used to get around on a 1980s Concord that he built, and also used to dig a bit of mountain biking in the Perth hills. “There are some good little trails,” he says. “There’s actually a pretty strong mountain biking culture, which is pretty cool. They’re very supportive and helpful.” These days, though, he’s all about the motorbike. “My Concord kind of stays on my wall most of the time. The motorbike’s kind of taken over.”

Nick also built a bike for the band’s front man, Jordi Davieson. “I built Jordi’s bike from the wheels up,” he says. “It was a frame Josh found, an old Italian frame with Columbus tubing. I built some pretty sturdy wheels up for it and it’s still going, so that’s the main thing. He stills rides it because he hasn’t got a car. He’s a dedicated cyclist.”

The band’s love of all things retro isn’t restricted to bikes – a lot of their instruments are old school too. Vintage instruments such as the Minimoog featured heavily in the recording of their debut album, on which the band’s sound departed from the folksy vibe of their first two EPs to take on a brighter pop sound. Since forming in 2009, San Cisco have gone from strength to strength, constantly touring and playing gigs when they’re not in the studio writing and recording catchy tunes about life, relationships, and, according to Nick, “the fights Jordi has with his girlfriend.” In 2011 their summer tune “Awkward” hit number 7 on Triple J’s Hottest 100 [, and this year…]. Currently the band is in the middle of an 11 week tour of the US and Europe with English indie rockers The Vaccines, including an appearance at the part festival, part trade show SXSW Music and Media Conference in Austin, Texas.

Here’s hoping that when they return there will be time for a ride.