After spending a decade working with other musicians, Gideon and Viva Seifert decided to peel themselves away from their former band Bikini Atoll, and set sail on their own musical voyage. They went on to form Joe Gideon & The Shark in the summer of 2006, drawing their name from a whirlpool of influences and happy coincidences – admiration of the lead character Joe Gideon from the 1979 film All That Jazz and an appreciation of the works of Roy Scheider, namely his sterling performance as the Police Officer in the 1975 marine thriller Jaws. When they released their first album Harum Scarum in 2009, the sibling’s debut venture as a sonic duo received critical acclaim worldwide.
As children, Gideon and Viva were raised on a diet of Broadway musicals and movie soundtracks, which comes as no surprise when you learn that their late father Alan Seifert, was a music manager who specialised in solo female artists. The family home in London counted Marianne Faithfull, Toyah Wilcox, Elkie Brooks and Lynsey De Paul as regular afternoon tea guests.
What part did music play in your childhood and who are you influenced by now?
Viva: I started playing the piano aged five, I’d spend hours practicing everyday. Then when I got a little older I threw myself into dancing and gymnastics. I travelled all over the world taking part in huge international competitions. When I sustained a serious injury after taking part in the 1992 Olympics I was forced to take a break and that was when Gideon drew me into working with him on musical projects. He wanted me to help him bring his songs to life. I found that because of my piano playing, learning the drums seemed so easy – it was basically just like the piano, two hands and your feet! As for musical influences, I’d say Smog and Mogwai with a bit of Paul Simon thrown in. I also recently stumbled across a Japanese psych rock band called Yura Yura Teikoku. I guess I’ve always been into a weird selection of music. I once got a friend of mine to play the bongos while I recorded it on my dictaphone. I used it as part of my rhythmic gymnastics performance in the Commonwealth Games when I was 16. I ended up winning the Bronze Medal with it!
Gideon: The first instrument I recall playing was my voice. I can remember many trips to the South of France in the back of the car, bored out of my mind. I have vivid memories of singing my own made up songs and gazing out of the window. After I got kicked out of school, I had to find a way to fill the hours and that was when the notion of playing the guitar came into view. Although I was into Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground, I never had any interest in singing someone else’s songs and I wasn’t one of those teenage boys who listened to music and tried to repeat it. I just wanted to get chord shapes together so that I could sing my own melodies. Learning from other people’s songs seemed like the most unnatural thing to do.
It’s just the two of you – how do you manage on tour?
VS: Most other two piece bands hire other session musicians for when they play live. We thought it would be really interesting to have just two people on stage, but with all the sonic effects of an entire band, using loops and drums. Drawing on my love of musicals like West Side Story, I tend to concentrate on the visual aspect of playing onstage, whereas Gideon has always tended to focus on the stories and the musical narration.
GS: When we first started Joe Gideon & The Shark we didn’t have a clue, we had no idea how to do anything, how to tour, or how to pay for the equipment we needed. Pretty soon we realised that touring was actually all about screen printing T-shirts, and after dedicating so much time to writing songs it was a bit of a shock – we’re just T-shirt salesmen really – the music is just a side venture!
‘Anything You Love That Much, You Will See Again’ is a gut wrenchingly beautiful song from your first album. It’s a song with a dual energy. Like with all good love songs, it hurts to listen to such painfully accurate lyrics, and yet forces you to cling on to the bitter end. What does it mean to you?
GS: I’m always amazed to learn that it has such an impact on people. As a songwriter you draw on personal experiences and what others around you are going through. It seemed to hit a note with a lot of people around me. But, in all honesty, I think it was an accident: I’d chanced upon this song that people had thought had been written specifically about them.
VS: He first played the rough version to me in his living room. It was six minutes long, and when he’d finished playing he looked up and saw that I was crying. I was in a bad place at the time and although it was so heartbreaking to listen to, it was also a song of hope. We’d been unable to play it for a while because our father had died and we thought we’d cry in the middle of it. But then we ended up playing it this summer in the most outrageous setting – a high security prison in Belgium. The inmates sat and watched us quietly and intently. It ended up being the most intense show we’ve ever done.
Joe Gideon & The Shark play at The Lexington, London on 29th December 2010. Their new single, ‘You don’t look at a tidal wave, a tidal wave looks at you’ will be released in February 2011.
Photography Rick Morris Pushinsky