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Savages Talk Touring, New Music, De Sade
The Quietus , May 15th, 2012 13:24

Goth-pop four piece Savages - one of our favourite new bands - are set to play a co-Quietus & Stool Pigeon sponsored show at Shacklewell Arms on May 29th. In advance of the show, we spoke to them about touring with the Vaccines, new music and the language of the body

Since we caught Savages at their first ever gig back in January - at British Sea Power's inaugural Klub Krankenhaus night in Brighton - the London four-piece have swiftly become one of our favourite new bands. Thankfully that's not been limited to the Quietus offices, as across a number of reportedly brilliant shows and a recent tour with The Vaccines, they've attracted a great deal of love and attention across the board for their dark, post-punk-infused goth-pop.

The band - vocalist Jehnny Beth, guitarist Gemma Thompson, bassist Ayse Hassan and drummer Fay Milton - are set to play a co-Quietus and Stool Pigeon sponsored show on May 29th, at London's Shacklewell Arms. In support are Electrelane's Verity Susan and Micachu (who will be DJing).

We first interviewed them back in February, but in advance of the show we caught up with them for a quick chat, to find out about their recent touring escapades, current influences and the way their new songs are shaping up.

Hullo Savages. Is it fair to say that things have been a little bit crazy since we last spoke? What have you been up to?

Jehn: Well, we've been working hard, playing shows and recording tracks at different places, trying to find the right place and setting for Savages. It's been very interesting to consider that new aspect of things after we've been concentrating on playing live essentially. We are happy with the recording and ready to go forward. Gemma is working on the artwork.

Gemma: We have been trying to tighten our live performance and test ourselves - throwing new songs into the set, keeping everyone on their toes. Definitely my favourite show was the Fuhrer Bunker in Salford at the beginning of May, surrounded by the audience whilst we played in a wooden cage. There was a crazy energy at that one. Recording wise, we are always trying to think about how we can translate the live performance into a recording - I think that is a question that will never be completely solved, but will maybe spark other ideas. 

Have you been surprised by the response?

Jehn: I remember calling Gemma on the phone before we played our first show with BSP in January, and it was clear to both of us that nothing was going to be the same after we start playing our first gig. We were very conscious that our secure and happy creative environment was going to be exposed, nothing would be the same again. But I think every artist has to face this change at some point. In a romantic way, I will always remember that original time as the happiest for Savages.

Gemma: Ha, I will never forget that phone call, so romantic - 'things will never be the same again' - but very true. When I consider where we were last year, the band was nothing but a notion really, or an obsession that was still waiting to take physical form, the response has been very unexpected.

How is the tour with the Vaccines going? What's it like playing that size of venue? have the crowds been nice, and what's the best memory of the tour so far?

Jehn: Playing seaside towns in massive Victorian halls was an experience. I remember walking through Bridlington in the morning under the rain and thinking there are no options for people here, only the smell of grease... But the best memory of the tour was in Manchester when we played our headline show in what was called the 'Fuhrer Bunker'. It is more interesting for us at the moment to play in front of 100 people in a small club. You see people walking out with something changed in their eyes...

Gemma: It was certainly a very different experience playing to the Vaccines crowd, you have to stay closer to each other in a way, whilst trying to reach more people. I think by the end of the tour you can't help but become a better musician.

  When we spoke, you were very much all about trying to do things your own way away from the evil cogs of the music business. Has that been difficult to continue?

Jehn: Haha, I don't remember saying it in those terms! It's funny how you make us sound like rebels [laugh]. I think it's very easy to seem rebellious these days when actually we're just trying to be clever about things. Has it been difficult? Well... we're trying to bring a freshness and keep love in the center of everything we do, hopefully we will make it through...

Gemma: Things change as soon as other people become involved, generally for the best, but as long as we are in the rehearsal room or on stage as the four of us, it is very clear to see the reason we are doing this.   You've clearly not slacked on the new music writing, though. What's currently shaping new material? What new directions might you be going in?

Jehn: I've been reading some erotic poetry from Anais Nin to Dennis Cooper, or the contemporary writer Johnathan Kemp. Also, Gemma lent me the biography of the Marquis de Sade which I'm enjoying very much. My all time favourite remains 'Darkness Moves' from the french poet Henry Michaux which explores a lot of the unconscious mind and 'distortion of reality' kind of poetry. In terms of erotica, I'm interested in transgender writing, it's been difficult for me to find something completely satisfactory with that, maybe because the language of the body is a very hard thing to translate into words... There's never a right word for physical emotion, is there?

Gemma: I think we are really still playing around with dynamics at the moment - holding back, letting go, trying to create a tension, and each song in writing has its own little process at the moment. I think we have been going back to Led Zeppelin at the same time though, thinking about the relationship between the guitar and vocals. We all tend to influence each other with whatever we are reading and listening to at the time.

What's the best new music you've heard lately?

Jehn: The most amazing piece of music I heard recently was from the contemporary Australian composer J.P.Shilo who wrote this piece on violin called 'Sleep'. I thought it captured perfectly the melancholia and beauty of death and it made me cry the first time I heard it. This was the most perfect piece of music I heard in a long time. It was written and performed for the funeral of Rowland S. Howard in Melbourne. There couldn't be a better music for that moment. It contained all the nuances of life, with repetition constantly evolving and dear to my heart.

Gemma: I have been listening to Mark Lanegan Band, Blues Funeral, which came out early this year, and basically have it on repeat.

And what can people expect from Savages at the Pop Noir night we're all working on?

Jehn: I'm very excited about this night, Verity Susman (singer of Electrelane) is the living reason why I started singing again few years ago, her presence that night means a lot to me. There will be film projections between the bands as the London Short Film Festival and Suitcase Cinema have kindly agreed to join us. They will start the evening (around 7pm) projecting a mixture of music videos and short films with music soundtracks, there’s no traditional music videos in the selection, such as just featuring a band playing (except for the Ebsen & the Witch one, which has the band miming). Micachu will also DJ - I am a massive fan of her!

Gemma: Well, we are hoping to have some shiny new songs in our set, some pyrotechnics, the drum kit will spin around and it may well rain blood. Seriously.