Interview :: Savages
December 11th 2013
In just two short years, London four piece Savages have done some pretty incredible things.
Clad head-to-toe in black, the all girl band has played at iconic international festivals, supported legendary bands and just recently got the nod for their debut LP Silence Yourself with a BBC Sound of 2013 nomination. Come 2014, these wonder women are bringing their unique live show down under to perform at St Jerome’s Laneway festival and a handful of sideshows (including one at The Metro, presented by FBi). In amongst this busy schedule, guitarist Gemma Thompson had a chat to FBi’s Georgia Hitch about some of the highlights from this year.
FBi: This year has been huge for you guys, playing the likes of Glastonbury and Coachella, I know it might be a bit tricky but do you have a standout moment or show for the year?
Gemma: Oh wow, I know, we’ve been all over the place! Yeah we played Glastonbury, we’ve been to Tokyo, Iceland, all over America, it’s been a bit crazy. I think a couple of the best places were Japan and New Mexico, we had the craziest crowds there you could ever imagine. New Mexico was absolutely amazing! There were some gigs in North America where we met people that we’ll never forget. We met young women who were telling us about their bands and things like that, it’s really nice just meeting people in places that you wouldn’t go to as a tourist.
You just mentioned you did some shows in America, one of which was a show supporting Queens of the Stone Age, how was that? You’ve done a lot of headline shows, does it feel different to do support shows and in particular for bands so iconic?
We’re massive fans of QOTSA and we very rarely support other bands. We’d much rather headline our own shows and think about our own shows that we’re playing. We did a couple of support shows during our European tour and then about 3 or 4 with QOTSA because we really respect them and like what they do. Selfish reasons really. The audience was great as well, it was just really really good fun.
On your latest European tour you were supported by a bunch of different people including Aussies HTRK and Dead Forest Index, how did those support come about? Did you know them before they came on tour?
HTRK just came over to do one show with us recently and that was at the BFI Southbank in London, and we put on the documentary Autolumiescent. We watched it a year and a half ago just after it came out and I was dying to see if it would come out on the big screen or anything around the UK, but was really disappointed that it didn’t and that it wasn’t shown really. So we set about trying to put on a night anywhere to show it and to get HTRK, who we saw many years ago when they were based in London and Jen and I absolutely fell in love with, to come and play.
Dead Forest Index – we just happened to meet them and just thought they’d be really great to have on tour. It’s great because we really think about the sound as people come into a venue and the links between that and the sound they leave with. We’d spoken to Dead Forest Index a lot about their influences and the music that inspires them and what they come from and stuff and it’s intriguing to hear that and to try and make connections to what we do. We’ve had performance artists dancing to very electronic music before, we always try to find something that’s all linked together and it all makes sense. The whole night is the whole night and we always try to make it all somehow connected. You know instead of you go out and you hear some music and some bands, and come home, we want ours to be a whole experience.
You guys are also playing some sideshows after Laneway… you’re obviously very dedicated to finding new and unique ways to perform live, I was just wondering if there’s anything different on the cards for your Australian audiences?
I haven’t been able to look at the venues yet so I’m not sure! It’s so crazy to be thinking of next year just yet, it’s looming in front of us but we didn’t expect it to be here so soon. We’re all so excited to come to Australia as well so just being able to make it down there will be great. We’ll have to see!
Have any of you ever been down here on personal trips?
No, this is the first time for all of us so it’s going to be a very new experience. We’ve been talking to the Dead Forest Index boys a lot out in the van about what to do and stuff, so we’re definitely excited.
You guys have a very distinct sound and a very distinct look. Was that something that you kind of decided when you formed, or has it just evolved naturally over the course of time?
It did evolve naturally I think. We try to use a repetition and minimalism in the sound and we wanted to have that as an aesthetic as maybe a form or process of working. Just by wearing monochrome it allows you to just think about the music instead of us as these four individual women. It allows you to focus on how they’re playing and what they’re playing and the sound you’re creating rather than anything else. It’s the performance that’s important. It became a very natural thing actually. We wrote the music as a kind of force that would influence everything and that just spread to our appearance as well.
On the topic of song writing, I know Jen writes the lyrics, but how do you all go about creating the rest of the songs? Is it a collaborative process?
Yeah it’s definitely collaborative, but we’ve never really had a set way of doing it. There’ll be one catalyst if you like, a word or an idea or a drum pattern that will link to a word, it’ll all start to link up behind one idea. Everyone works together towards that idea but it’s never really had one way, there’ve been lots of different ways that songs have come about.
You’ve released a couple of videos for songs from Silence Yourself, the most recent of which is ‘Marshal Dear’. It’s a truly amazing piece of art, can you tell me a bit about who the director was and how that concept came about?
The creator, the animator is called Gergely Wootsch who’s Hungarian but he lives in London. The idea for that video came from a paragraph in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel ‘Slaughterhouse Five’. This book about the recounts of a world war 2 veteran and basically this scene in which he goes into his living room and there’s a movie going backwards. It shows these bombers taking up the bombs from the ground then the fire depletes from that, and the aircrafts fly backwards and land backwards in the airport and get taken away and taken a part and all the elements of the bombs are returned to the earth. It’s only a very short paragraph in the book but I always remember when I read it many years ago I always imagined it as an animation you know, something that really flowed as a hand made animation. So I went on the search for about two months for an animator who hand made animations and eventually found Gergely. We sat down and went over it and then I left him to it!
The clarinet player Duke Garwood who does the clarinet solo on ‘Dear Marshal’ actually also supported you on some of your September shows, how did that collaboration come about?
We really admire and love Duke Garwood, he’s an amazing musician and he’s a really good friend of ours. He’s just an absolutely amazing guitarist and an amazing singer songwriter but we had this part at the end and he was the only other musician that we had ever thought about including on that record. We were like, “what if we do this and get Duke Garwood in for this clarinet solo?” I remember the day perfectly when we got him in. We kind of all just sat there and got him to do it over and over again because we just love listening to him play. It’s so much fun to play with him as well!
WHO :: Savages + Kirin J Callinan (Laneway sideshow)
WHERE :: The Metro Theatre
WHEN :: 5 February 2014
HOW MUCH :: $55 here – or free for some lucky FBi supporters! Enter here