Interview: Savages: “We wanted to push our ideas as far as they could go”

Savages: “We wanted to push our ideas as far as they could go”

After time holed away, and their “beast” of a second album in the bag, the stage is calling out for Savages again.

With a “beast” of a second record apparently in the works, and on the evidence of the monstrous new songs they’ve debuted live recently, Savages are becoming more savage still. Following their Bo Ningen collaboration ‘Words To The Blind’, the band now have a summer of festivals lying ahead - including a slot at Suffolk’s annual knees-up Latitude - and there’s a new audiovisual project at The Barbican fast approaching, too. Oh, and Savages have virtually finished their second album as well, with just a few last mixing touches left to make.

“I think the first record, [‘Silence Yourself’] we treated very much like a document of the performance,” explains the band’s guitarist Gemma Thompson. “There wasn’t really any doubling of things, or anything that couldn’t be achieved live. The little ideas that we hinted at on the first record, we wanted to push as far as they could go with this,” she continues. While the band’s debut album was about quickly bottling the explosive live show energy Savages were in possession of at the time, this second one is more about…

“Honing it,” Gemma smiles, finishing the sentence. “I think so, yeah,” chimes in frontwoman Jehnny Beth. “Also, from touring and stuff, we became better musicians, and a better band. In various different things. We know each other better too. So in a way,” she adds, with a shrug, “I suppose you could say that this is maybe a bit more mature.”

Savages approached this new record in much the same way as ‘Silence Yourself’, with many of the songs finding their shape on the stage. “The idea of going straight into writing a record and recording it just like that just seemed like a really alien process,” admits Gemma. “It’s funny though,” adds Jehnny Beth. “One song on the second record, ‘I Need Something New’ - it was literally written on stage. At some point during the tour it felt like we needed,” she laughs, “something new. It was from an improvisation we were doing and it just carried on.”

Besides their new record, Savages have also been working on a new, separate project for The Barbican’s upcoming Station To Station installation series. “The Barbican is a building that has a real kind of spirit to it that means quite a lot to us,” enthuses Gemma. “Georg Friedrich Haas wrote a piece called ‘Haas: in vain’ - he’s a spectral composer, and he works with light and sound. The piece of music is kind of a protest piece of music, and he wrote it to throw the audience into pitch darkness, and used off-key sounds coming in and out, trying to create a really physically disturbing piece of music.” Savages’ contribution to the month long series is going to be equally chaos-filled, Gemma adds.

These other projects help to fuel Savages, Gemma and Jehnny Beth agree, and art has always been an integral part of the band, too. Today Jehnny goes several steps further. “Well,” she starts, “I’d go even further, and say it’s not really about life or art, I think the two are connected. It’s not one science for living and one science for creating, I think they’re both the same. The experiences that you have influence everything else.”

And as for festival season, Savages can’t wait to get back out on the road. “Sometimes,” laughs Gemma, “it’s a relief to play a festival! You have to accept a lot of the situation that’s there. Not having that control, and dealing with what you’re given is kind of exciting.” “What I like about festivals as well,” adds Jehnny Beth, “is when you travel around the world, it’s a great opportunity to meet lots of fellow musicians, and have loads of fun. We’re all doing the same things, and thinking about the same things. That can make you glow as much as anything else, you know?”

Savages’ best festival survival tip:

Gemma: Mind over matter. Thinking about your body? Stop thinking! It’s like when you’re running and you’re in pain. Just go through it.

Savages on Latitude headliners, Portishead:

Gemma: We really respect Portishead, very much. We’ve played a few shows with them.
Jehnny Beth: Portishead have been really great with us, from day one, and really supportive of what we’re doing. Wonderful people.
Gemma: They’re amazing to playing watch live, as well, because they use old analogue equipment, and they have back-ups of it. They have to have someone physically sat behind it, working, in case it fails! It’s like watching workmen from another planet.

Take from the July issue of DIY, out now. Savages will play Latitude (16th - 19th July), where DIY is an official media partner. Tickets are on sale now. Visit diymag.com/presents for more information.

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