Twelve questions

Sarah Stuart poses 12 questions to well-known faces

Twelve Questions: Samuel Flynn Scott

By Sarah Stuart

The Phoenix Foundation's Samuel Flynn Scott is one of the finalists for this year's Apra Silver Scroll songwriting awards, alongside pop sensation Lorde. The son of cartoonist Tom Scott says he's a far more cynical man than his father.

Samuel Flynn Scott, of the Phoenix Foundation, says he's nothing like his cartoonist father, Tom. Photo / Richard Robinson
Samuel Flynn Scott, of the Phoenix Foundation, says he's nothing like his cartoonist father, Tom. Photo / Richard Robinson

1. What is the Thames Soup that you write about in your nominated song?

The song came out of the experience of being in London and away from my wife and child. Thames Soup is a metaphor for the excess of partying that New Zealanders get up to on the other side of the world. We were over there, having people buy us drinks and stuff but we're a bit too old to fully immerse ourselves in that culture. My son Ralph was about 18 months old and we'd play a gig then go out to the pub and I'd leave the bar to Skype him back in New Zealand about 11pm from out on the pavement. It was a very disorienting, fragmented existence.

2. Was your own childhood non-conventional too?

Until I was about 9 we lived in this huge house on the Kapiti Coast that was built in 1860 and had been burned down by Te Rauparaha. It had a crazy feeling to it. I remember seeing ghosts in that house, they were wearing these big feather cloaks. It wasn't scary, just weird. I don't believe that I really saw ghosts but something made me see it.

I wrote a song about it on my solo album called Your Own Head. We had a big family in this big house, six kids from a complicated bunch of divorces. I'm a bastard child myself.

3. As a political cartoonist, did your father teach you to be cynical?

He's not a cynical man at all. That's just his job - to take the piss out of everyone - I think I'm far more cynical than he is. I don't think we're that similar really. He has a lot more energy than I do. What's amazing is that he was a young journalist and could buy these huge old houses for his family.

People could afford houses like that then.

4. Are big families good for children, do you think?

They're great in a sense and I love having all those brothers and sisters. But I freak out about the population of the planet. None of us should be having that many children.

We used to do things that drove Mum insane at home, like my three teenage brothers and me, when I was about 10, having milk-drinking competitions where we'd drink six litres of milk for the fun of it.

5. When did you learn to play music?

Mum was a great piano player and I started playing piano and violin at 5. I met [Phoenix Foundation band members] Luke and Conrad in French class at Wellington High School when we were 13. Conrad was the confident cheeky guy and Luke was Polish so he was a bit more than your average awkward teenager.

I'd come out of [private school] Wellesley College so I was a bit of a dork. A bit of a nerd.

6. What's the most difficult thing about being in a band with chaps you went to school with?

I don't really think there are any negatives in this department. Bands are pretty grumpy co-operatives in general, doing it with your old friends just means you know them well enough to forgive their (heinous, rage-inducing) quirks.

7. What's the best line you've ever written?

"Dying in their bungalows, villas in the myst, in the valley of the saggy where the sun will never kiss".

8. Name a lyric you wish you'd written.

San Francisco B.C. by the Silver Jews. Absolutely the best story-song ever written. David Berman is one of the true greats but he has retired from music now. Definitely a very underrated band.

I like lyricists who can write stuff which sounds shallow and meaningless but reveals itself to be quite shrewd.

9. Have you wanted more commercial success than the Phoenix Foundation has provided?

Of course, but I'm not about to whinge about it here. There are plenty of New Zealand bands making astounding music that don't do as well as us. Success in music is luck as much as anything else and I am supremely grateful that the universe has made it so we can keep putting out albums and playing gigs. Not to mention that we occasionally get to fly around the world. I like to remember what our aspirations were 10 years ago which were to get a gig at [Wellington's] Bar Bodega and spend a week in a recording studio.

10. Is Lorde worth the hype?

Probably. Anything that becomes this popular without any conventional marketing is pretty special.

11. Her music and publicity was described as a "scam" by a reviewer last week. How did you feel about that?

What [the reviewer] wrote is what a lot of people are thinking. I'm not thinking that but I can see why people would think that. It's good for that stuff to be voiced, though, and she has the right to prove him wrong and keep making good music. ... I think we all know who's going to win the scroll next month.

12. Does being in a band really get you all the chicks?

It seems to get you wives and children and joint bank accounts. Which isn't part of the rock 'n' roll narrative but much more rewarding.

- NZ Herald

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