“‘Last Nite,’ and then we’re done-zo,” I heard someone murmur. I had just enough time to process a quick warning from bassist Damian Mcglothlin: “This is gonna get loud, guys.”
Siberian Front then proceeded to blow up the Stern Dining Music Room.
The tiny space, touted as soundproof and practice-ready, actually trembled as wave after wave of The Strokes’ “Last Nite” blasted out of amps scattered across the floor. I was sitting by guitarists Gio Jacuzzi and Walter Torres, thrown off by their high energy—the band had just spent over an hour practicing, but you’d never have guessed it. It’s that same defining energy they bring to shows, and it comes from, first and foremost, just loving to play.
“It’s really easy for us to get lost in music,” said vocalist Thomas Reidy. “We really enjoy that.”
That’s likely Siberian Front’s driving mantra, because that’s the perfect way to describe their origins. “It started off that we would just kinda jam on stuff, for fun, not really with any purpose behind it,” explained drummer Shamik Mascharak.
It all began two years ago, when then-sophomore roommates Shamik and Walter were began jamming out together. They looped in Damian, a fellow sophomore on Walter’s club soccer team, as bassist and soon after Gio, then a freshman, joined in on the jam sessions.
At our round-table interview, the band members’ overlapped commentary began to paint a picture of Siberian Front’s beginnings: they realized, the summer after that initial year, that their jam sessions could become something bigger. The four would play music together in their spare time and began to develop what would become some of Siberian Front’s first original content.
“This is when we wrote the core base of our songs, I’d say,” said Walter. “We were massively prolific for a couple of weeks.”
Something was happening, something they knew had potential. There was just one tiny little detail left that was quickly becoming an obnoxious thorn in their side: they didn’t have a singer.
“Thomas was just a twinkle in our eye then,” joked Gio, referencing the fact that Thomas hadn’t come into the picture just yet because he hadn’t been at Stanford until last year. A series of events led the guys to CoHo’s fall quarter talent show last year — from Thomas: “Let’s call it an open mic, okay?” — where, after hearing him perform an cover of country music hit “Wagon Wheel” by Darius Rucker and a cheeky acoustic rendition of Lil Jon’s “Get Low”, they were convinced that they’d found their guy. “Walter came up to me and was like, ‘Yo, dude, you gotta come check out my band,’” he explained as the rest of the guys laughed and shook their heads at him.
“The rest, as they say,” Thomas said, holding out his hands in mock surrender, “is history.”
Their rendition of “Last Nite” was an impeccable Strokes cover, to be sure, but the resulting song was also distinctly Siberian Front’s. Maybe it was the resounding grittiness in their treatment of the song, maybe it was an rhythmic urgency more intense than the original, or maybe it was simply due to the fact that Siberian Front’s sound has become all kinds of confident and, most importantly, all their own. That inherent originality is exactly what’s setting them apart.
On that note — and I’m editorializing here, but still — it appears that this StAR profile is very overdue. I say this because the evidence of Siberian Front’s growing popularity is overwhelming: for starters, the Stanford student body has been having a love affair with Siberian Front and their music (both covers and originals) ever since a strong debut performance last year at Sigma Chi. The band instantly became a crowd favorite at everything from Wine and Cheeses to annual all-campus parties like Columbae’s F*ck the Man to pop-up events across campus and the Bay Area at large. Lately, they’ve been looking at an audience of an even larger scale, kicking off this school year by recording and releasing an original EP.
However: when Siberian Front first started out, they had no clue what to expect. They kicked off their musical career with a small set of unnamed songs that, while in development, were dubbed such things as “The Young The Giant ripoff song” or “The Strokes song” in homage to their indie rock influences. Armed with their freshly penned music, the band lived by the “fake it till you make it” mentality as they continued to find themselves musically.
They were encouraged by the student body’s support, even though they admit it was surreal at first. “I kind of felt like an imposter,” said Shamik. “I mean, like, people were coming to our shows and actually listening to us?”
“And not just our friends, who were coming on, like, good faith?” added Walter (in reality, though, the band cites their close friends and Stanford student families as their biggest fans and strongest support systems).
“Oh, god, just thinking about it… we sound a lot better now,” said Damian, laughing.
The guys made sure to emphasize the amount of work it has taken to gain this level of confidence with performing: it was all a matter of experience, of learning what works for them onstage and what doesn’t. It was often a blow to the pride — “Sometimes it takes bad shows to make the good shows as good as they are,” said Thomas — and a test of patience.
But their biggest test of patience thus far has manifested itself as their self-titled debut EP, which just about trumped any live performance when it came to pacing themselves and really tuning in to what the band needed. Recording added a completely new dimension to the band’s understanding of what it meant to actually produce music as opposed to just performing it.
“It’s funny, because after every song was actually recorded, we were probably at the 10% for how done it was,” Shamik explained, “because then we spent seventy million hours — a rough estimate — just going back and forth trying to figure out what final forms we wanted the songs to take.”
Their schedules alternated between work, sleep, and three to four hour-long recording sessions spent either singing the same lyrics or playing slightly modified bass lines or looping guitar riff after guitar riff in the efforts to get their sound just right. The band describes this process as tightening their music.
“It was kind of like finding their final form,” said Gio. “You discover songs, you don’t really write them.”
Siberian Front’s newly discovered, fully-formed songs are going to be on display for the first time tonight, as the band is going back to where it all started with an EP release party and performance at Sig Chi. With their EP already circulating among the Stanford populace and even garnering special attention from the Stanford Arts Institute (they featured one of the band’s singles, “Seattle”, in a promotional arts video and have been stirring up buzz about the party), it’s expected to be a full house.
“I don’t know if Sig Chi can even hold this many people at once. Holy shit,” Walter said, looking at the Facebook event on his phone and letting out a low whistle. He looked up with a slightly dazed smile on his face. “And they’re all coming to see us.”
Our interview ends with the expected question: what does the future of Siberian Front look like? The band looks at each other warily, and then Gio explains carefully, “Honestly, we’ve been so busy with the party and the EP that we haven’t had that conversation yet.”
However, even in the face of potential issues — not the least of which being the impending Spring graduation of three band members — the band remains confident in their future together. After all, they’re going nowhere but up: their music is circulating out-of-state, getting more and more hits on Soundcloud and garnering the attention of the Internet at large. The buzz around Siberian Front is growing and, if their plans to play a show in Austin, TX next summer is any indication, the scale of their reach is increasing. “We intend on pursuing this to the nth degree,” Thomas said, “’n’ being a large positive number for now.”
It appears their minds are set: Siberian Front’s going to keep playing music to both familiar and new audiences (the general sentiment was along the lines of “if they want to listen, we’ll be there.”). Most importantly, however, it’ll be on their terms—the way they like it, Strokes covers and all.
Siberian Front’s EP Release Party will take place on Friday, January 23 at the Sigma Chi house. 9 pm.