S.C.A.B. performs at Café Bourbon Street on Monday, December 5 with MAC and Abel. Doors at 7pm, show at 8pm. Cover is $7.
Thirty seconds into the first track (“Why Do I Dream of You”) from S.C.A.B.‘s sophomore, self-titled album, I knew I wanted to talk with the band and see them live. Fortunately, less than a month after the release of the album, I had the chance to speak with singer Sean Camargo just before the band embarked on a short tour which will fulfill the second wish I had, to see the band live. S.C.A.B. – named after the first letter of the band member’s names (Sean, Cory, Alec, Brandon) – have a sound that sounds like what I envision the night-time streets of New York City to sound like.
With the upcoming run of dates, including a stop in Columbus on December 5, are these venues you’ve played before or have some familiarity with or did a booking agent book the shows for you?
Hopefully in the future we will get blessed with a booking agent but so far it’s just been me outside Varity Coffee in New York pulling out my laptop with my sunglasses on and feeding myself a cookie. That kind of admin work, I just don’t have the personality to attack it the way I feel most people do. I feel like I’m Type B, more creative, less on the administrative side. But, when I have to do it, I have to sit down and have my mind clear. I’m on Instagram DM-ing venues and bands. If I have to email, I will, but I prefer DM-ing. Our manager is helping me, which is really nice, and sometimes Cory will have a contact here and there but a lot of it falls on me just reaching out like, “Hey, you guys want to play a show? We’re looking to play in your city, do you have anything on this date?” We’re still pretty new on the touring scene, it’s hard to find bands that you want to play with. You want to play with bands that you’re excited about but sometimes you just have to go with what the clubs are hooking you up with.
The Columbus show is at Café Bourbon Street with MAC and Abel.
MAC is a singer/songwriter. I checked out some songs, it’s cool. These shows are mostly all hand-picked. I feel like this is one of the better shows on this tour. Everything worked out, we didn’t have to struggle too hard. We’re good.
The “B” in S.C.A.B. is not touring with you?
Yeah, Brandon isn’t touring with us. We gained two people. It’s funny how things work out. It’s just as it was supposed to happen. We are trying a new drummer, Evan. He’s really sweet and he’s getting to know the music and starting to gel with us. And we have my friend Jordan who has played with me ever since I started playing in bands, ever since I started fronting bands. It’s nice to have him full circle here playing guitar and synth, being that auxiliary person. He’ll do whatever is needed to make the songs sound full. And, the songs sound amazing when we all come together because I feel like a lot of the songs on the record need a little more sonically so I think it’ll be a really good tour.
You’ve got some great videos for the album. Bands used to have to spend a lot of money to make videos but it seems like with modern technology – and the right people using it – you can make something that is MTV worthy at a fraction of what bands in the ’90s spent. How did the videos come about?
The holy grail for all our video work would be our friend, Matt Marino. He works in film in the city and has worked with bands a lot in the past. He’s even gone on tour with us to do photography. We always like to work with him for music videos because he has a great eye and knows how to get it together on a short budget. For some of the videos, we were like, “This is how much we can afford.” We had a very tiny budget for videos. He has a film camera and basically we were able to cover the cost for film. He was a real savior. he is a great key for us visually because I don’t think we would have been able to do any of those alone.
We never really had a strong vision for the visuals or what we wanted to do or how we wanted to look on film. Even the “Why Do I Dream of You” video, we were like, “Let’s walk around the neighborhood. Let’s get some train shots. Let’s do what we do best on Tuesday.” It feels very much like what normal life looks like here in New York City for us which is what I think I like about it the most. It’s very reflective and accurate. It’s a little more glamorized but it’s pretty bare bones showing where we are in life right now. There’s shots of us playing pool and hanging out at a bar. The photos for the press release we did recently, we were at the bar that I work at, Mr. Fong’s, which is an institution in New York City, it’s been around since 2015. People know about, it has a culture behind it. The feeling of the city is very intertwined in the videos and the songs. I was like, “As long as it looks and feels like it’s from New York City, I think we’ll be fine.”
S.C.A.B. has some ’80s new wave sounds but also sounds like what I expect a New York City band to sound like. Because you were born in New York City and moved back after college, is your New York City sound deliberate and reflective of where you live?
There are references that I was trying to hold and maybe glamorize a little bit in songs like “MTA Lux” and talking about a train stop. I didn’t have to talk about it but it felt like it opened the image more, you can see it. In the auditory world, I don’t know. I definitely like a lot of angular work and I was trying to explore and push where that angular, post-punk thing could really go. I guess it’s mostly energy from New York City. A lot of the bands here have a lot of pent-up energy. There’s this brutalness. Everyone who is from here works really hard to make it happen. It’s amazing that there are still bands coming up and doing their thing because rent is so expensive. You have to work to the bone to sustain yourself and then you want to go and play music? It’s insane. All of that fits into what the sound was. I wanted to make it aggressive but I also wanted to make it pretty. I don’t know if it was a goal to make it sound like New York City but, in the lyrics, I tried to paint more of “What does New York look like to me? What does it feel like to me?”
I’ve been really into reading anything about the punk scene in New York City, like Meet Me in the Bathroom and Please Kill Me, looking into CBGBs and any old guitar work from England and Scotland, Creation Records and things like that. I was watching documentaries to see what it felt like then and I was trying to figure out how I can do that now. What can I do to really push like those bands did? How can I be there mentally and sonically? A lot of it is romanticization. If you hold yourself to that higher standard and push yourself, something can always come out of it. I’m glad the record came out the way it did and that is sounds like New York City. I’m hoping it’ll be able to be a little capsule for post-pandemic indie rock.
In New York City, do you have a “home” club, some place you play regularly or feel the most comfortable at?
That is a good question. I feel like we haven’t really built a real relationship with venues around here. We like playing Baby’s All Right. We always feel very welcomed there. I guess it’s like what the modern CBGBs would look like. TV Eye is super close but we’ve never had a good show at TV Eye for some reason. We have a little club called Bar Freda that’s really, really close. I like that venue because it’s kind of scrappy, like anyone can play there. I like that vibe. And then there’s another venue called Sundown, they just opened their downstairs club that has really nice vibes. I don’t know if we have anywhere that is our home base. If we were to do a residency somewhere, I don’t know where that would be.
What is something about the New York City scene that you weren’t old enough to witness that you wish you would have been able to?
Honestly, it would be great to go back and see a great CBGB’s show, like the early Talking Heads or the New York Dolls maybe. Early Sonic Youth. I feel like I would love to be there. Or even going back to the ’40s and Harlem and being able to see Billie Holiday at some jazz club. That’s like the same feeling, it’s all very punk rock. It’s all against the grain. It’s all about taking chances and trying something.