Poor Samiam. The Berkeley band has been playing the role of punk rock bridesmaid for far too long. Green Day, Blink-182, the Offspring, No Doubt, hell, even a younger Creed—long before they became the vile Christian rock beast they were at their godly apex—all played the role of opening band for Samiam. Yet while their peers where rolling around in large piles of cash, Samiam spent their peak years in the '90s being suffocated by a horrible Atlantic Records contract.
This is especially tragic seeing how it came on the heels of the release of 1994's Clumsy, one of the few examples of a punk band going corporate without checking their soul at the door. While their single for "Capsized" climbed the charts, the band's sound fell between the pop culture cracks. Too rock to be punk, too punk to be rock, and emo enough to scare most anyone else away.
This realization isn't lost on the band's soft-spoken, and very sincere guitarist, Sergie Loobkoff. "We were complete failures in the music industry. Really, we were just not that great of a band." How's that for honesty? He continues, "I don't want to sound like some self-effacing moron, but we were just doing what we were doing and we were very fortunate to have thousands of people who really like our songs. So while this band is basically a failure in the punk scene, and defiantly a failure in mainstream music, you can't ignore everything we've done and what we've gotten out of it."
What they've gotten out of it has been impressive—festival tours with their longtime pals in Green Day, a legacy that portrayed the band as one of the few acts that could tour alongside the likes of shoegazers Swervedriver and the political mall-punk of Bad Religion, and a ravenous fanbase throughout Europe. With a lineup that is scattered throughout the country, domestic Samiam shows are a rarity (their last Portland show was in 2000), but Loobkoff takes offense at the title "weekend punk band."
"I wouldn't call us that. Instead of being a typical winding-down band that plays weekends, we've, like, toured Europe eight times since 2000." He continues, "Are we a wound-down-do-it-for-fun band? The answer is 'yes.' But are we a weekend band? No. Because what other weekend band plays Berlin?"
For a band that always seemed to teeter restlessly between two separate worlds—punk and rock, DIY and major label, stadium and dive bar—Samiam seems content with never quite capturing the brass ring, and are just thankful for their devoted following. Says Loobkoff, "I would say in a lot of ways we're successful, we've gone places, done things, met people, and have had such great experiences. It's all how you look at it."
Samiam perform at the Ash St. Saloon (225 SW Ash) on Saturday, February 2.