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Part of the Bay Area punk revival of the late '80s and early '90s, Samiam specialized in the catchy, anthemic punk-pop typical of the Warped Tour crowd, but separated themselves with a greater debt to hardcore and a more introspective lyrical bent that won over emo audiences. Formed in 1988, most of the band's founding members had played in other Berkeley-area punk groups: vocalist Jason Beebout had been in Isocracy with bassist Martin Brohm; guitarist Sergie Loobkoff had been a drummer for Sweet Baby Jesus; and second guitarist James Brogan had been in Social Unrest. Drummer Mark Mortinsen — the first of many — completed the charter Samiam lineup, which caused an immediate stir on the Gilman Street punk scene with its local supergroup pedigree.
Samiam signed with the indie label New Red Archives and issued their self-titled debut album in 1990. Once the record was completed, drummer Mortinsen left to finish college and was replaced by Dave Ayer for the band's first European tour. Their sophomore effort, Soar, appeared in 1991 and was produced by Bad Religion's Brett Gurewitz. Its follow-up, Billy, was released in 1992, after which Ayer decided to leave the group. The breakout success of Green Day, meanwhile, sparked a major-label feeding frenzy in the punk-pop arena, and Samiam wound up signing a contract with Atlantic. Not wanting to get that serious, bassist Brohm left and was replaced by Loobkoff's longtime friend Aaron Rubin (also of the Mr. T Experience). Meanwhile, original drummer Mortinsen returned for a brief period, but he was replaced during sessions for the band's major-label debut by onetime Redd Kross drummer Victor Indrizzo.
Samiam's first album for Atlantic was Clumsy, issued in 1994 and produced by Lou Giordano. The video for "Capsized" was a hit on MTV, and the group toured with the Toadies and later Bad Religion in support. While the album sold decently, it wasn't a smash hit on the level of Green Day's Dookie, and Atlantic quickly lost interest. A second album was completed in 1996, but Atlantic refused to release it, dropped Samiam, and prevented them from signing with another label for some time. In the meantime, Indrizzo departed for a career as a session musician (also joining the Masters of Reality), and was replaced by a drummer known only as M.P.
Finally, in 1997, Samiam secured the rights to their unreleased album and took it to the Swedish label Burning Heart, which issued it under the title You Are Freaking Me Out. The following year, it was picked up in America by the short-lived Ignition label, and the U.S. radio hit "She Found You" helped the band win back some of its following. Moving on to the Hopeless label, the band recorded Astray in 2000 with a new rhythm section of bassist Sean Kennerly and drummer Johnny Cruz. They toured Canada and the U.S. several times over in support before abruptly calling it quits about a year later, as members started taking other projects more seriously, like Lobokoff in Solea and Kennerly in the Fakers.
However, over the next few years, Samiam would prove not to be broken up, but more like on a weird quasi-hiatus, since they occasionally toured overseas. But they finally got it together in fall 2005, deciding to record another album, their seventh overall, to satisfy fans. Brogan had long since departed, so Kennerly switched over to guitar in his place, as fan-turned-bassist Jeremy Bergo joined on as well. The five members now lived all across the country, so marathon writing/rehearsal sessions were booked in the Bay Area to ready the band to enter the studio in early 2006 with producer Chris Moore (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio). The result was the dirtier, more organic-sounding Whatever's Got You Down, issued that fall through Hopeless. After five years, the band made a return to form with 2011's Trips.