Infamously coined as one of Melbourne’s ‘best kept secrets’, Big Words has taken off in the Australian music scene in a big, nay, HUGE way.
No longer local knowledge, the five-piece soul/R&B/funk/pop outfit has grown from its initial cult fandom to play at headline festivals across the country including: Beyond The Valley, Strawberry Fields, Ability Fest and Pitch Music & Arts in Victoria alone.
I recently had the opportunity to have a pick at the talented brains of band member Jaime Ruiz Serra in the lead up to their show at Grapevine Gathering 2019.
When, where & how did Big Words begin?
Big Words began circa 2010 in Melbourne, when Kieren and Will were in their mid teens and would get together and rap. They are the immutable core of this ever-evolving band. Their casual jams started taking shape and the band was soon playing gigs around Melbourne’s inner-north regularly and gaining a following… by the time we released our first EP Hollywood, a Beautiful Coincidence, we had songs clocking over 5,000,000 streams on Spotify alone.
What do each of you bring to the band?
We each have our strengths and weaknesses, and it is really interesting to see them at play when we are in the band room. They interact and shape our creative output, and although sometimes there are personality clashes, these are part of our sound and presence, and it is a beautiful thing.
How did you find your way into the band? Had it always been a vision of yours to be a musician?
When I was given a choice of instrument to start lessons at age six, I picked the guitar (classical guitar was the only option) with the intention to become a “rock-star”. About one week later I wanted to change to piano, but it was too late!
Fast forward to when I was around 15, the music school I was in started offering electric guitar and I jumped right into it. That’s when I thought I would actually try to “make it” as a musician. I played in a couple of bands in my hometown in rural Spain, and eventually formed my own with my younger brother and neighbour. We played a few small gigs and were given what was essentially a “cuteness award” at a regional band contest where we were the youngest.
After that I was caught in the whirlpool of finishing high school, and shortly after I moved to Australia by myself so I didn’t have much time to play (or people to play with). Eventually I made a friend and busked with him a few times, playing folk tunes mostly.
A couple of years later after a night out I ended up picking up a guitar at another friend’s place. He was a close friend of Big Words and knew they were looking for a fifth member. I was pretty drunk but I guess I could play well enough for him to tell the band to give me a shot. I knew of the band since I had worked with Will in the past, but we had never played music together. After a short jam with them I was in!
For those who aren’t yet familiar with Big Words, tell us what kind of music their ears will be blessed with at the Grapevine Gathering? What makes your sound so unique?
The fact that we don’t try to box our sound into a defined genre. All of us come from different walks of life, with different musical interests and experiences that blend together yielding pop, funk, r&b, hip-hop, soul, jazz, folk and indie-rock sounds. In addition to that, we craft each set as a composition in itself — with interludes between songs and a flowing narrative from beginning to end.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
With a Hip-Hop focus in its origin, the band has acquired a more eclectic sound from a variety of sources of inspiration, most notably from the 70-80’s funk masters (George Duke, Prince, James Brown) to today’s Neo-Soul/R&B gurus (D’Angelo, Anderson .Paak, Frank Ocean).
What have been the most rewarding and the most challenging aspects of being a member of Big Words?
A lot of time and effort goes into preparing for shows, and a musician’s ego can be vulnerable under pressure, so learning to give and take feedback graciously while in the bandroom can be challenging but critical to growing as a musician.
Through Big Words I have learnt not only to be comfortable, but to engage and entertain a big audience. It has also let me meet a lot of cool people and served as a creative outlet for my otherwise rather analytical mind.
Music and Big Words aside, what would we find Jaime up to in his spare time?
I am finishing a Bachelor of Engineering in robotics full-time while I work part-time as a cloud infrastructure engineer. Somehow between lectures, exams and meetings I rehearse and play gigs. Shout out to the rest of the band for putting up with me when I’m stressed!
The little spare time I have I like to dedicate to learning, reading and yoga. Occasionally, when the schedules allow, I indulge in travel.
Which gigs have you enjoyed playing at the most so far?
We had a blast playing Beyond the Valley on NYE! We also really enjoy more intimate shows like our last single release (TTYDTM) at a sold out 170 Russell — our Melbourne fanbase is such a groovy bunch.
Sometimes we put on smaller, more unorthodox shows at unlikely locations with limited tickets for our diehard fans (see Big Words, a Winter’s night at the Chapel). These entail a complex narrative, atmospheric location and immersive show, and they have become a trademark of ours.
Do you have any interesting (or just down-right whack) stories from your gigs you can share with us?
At one of the smaller shows we played last year, the sound engineer happened to have his sax with him. We asked him if he would be keen to play a solo in one of our songs. We didn’t know what to expect. When he jumped on stage, he ripped an incredible solo and the crowd — as well as we — lost their minds. To this date the crowd continues to go crazy whenever he makes an appearance.
Which state do you think has the best crowds and why?
Funny you should ask that — we are used to Victorian crowds, which are definitely a bit tough to crack sometimes. When we played up on the Sunshine Coast the crowd was really down to earth and keen for a boogie from the get go! We can’t wait to see what the crowds are like in other parts of the world.
You’ll be performing alongside Two Door Cinema Club, Flight Facilities, Late Nite Tuff Guy and many more incredible artists at Grapevine Gathering; are there any acts you’re particularly excited to see?
I used to play Undercover Martyn when I started playing electric guitar in high-school, so it will be a blast from the past to see Two Door Cinema Club. Look out for me having a boogie to Touch Sensitive and Late Nite Tuff Guy.
What can fans look forward to seeing from Big Words in the up and coming future?
Check out our first ever film clip, TTYDTM directed by Harry Deadman. Our first full-length album is well on its way, and it will not leave you indifferent.
And finally, seeing as Grapevine Gathering is all about mixing fine drops with the tasty beats, I have to ask; what will you be drinking?
Of course that will depend on the weather, so we will be keeping our fingers crossed for a sunny day and a chilled glass of white. Say hi if you see us, we’re a friendly bunch!