Four years on from Savages last offering, 2016’s ‘Adore Life’, the first glimpse of solo music from their incendiary singer Jehnny Beth arrived last November in the latest series of Peaky Blinders. Polly Gray, the matriarch of the Shelby boys’ gang, is chauffeur-driven to a grizzly dockyard. She takes a final drag of her cigarette, flicks it out the car and struts through the smog to the thundering sonics of ‘I’m The Man’. The track in question, produced by Atticus Ross (Nine Inch Nails), possesses a haunting, self-destructive swagger, while its invigorating video finds the the singer adorning the coat of toxic masculinity; fights break out, cars are trampled on and drinks are tossed in a mesmerising one-shot sequence. It’s one hell of an introduction to her solo work.
“I was just getting pushed by necessity, it was something that I felt I needed to do,” she explains now of her decision to venture out alone. “This record particularly, it was something quite profound, quite deep.” Forthcoming LP ‘To Love Is To Live’, she continues, was forged in a spirit of “vital urgency” fueled by the notion that she might die tomorrow. The mass-exodus of musical legends in 2016 recalibrated the meaning of death and art to her, particularly David Bowie and his parting gift ‘Blackstar’.
“Death finishes art, it makes it complete,” she says. “Life and art makes sense because there is death, you’re leaving a mark and eventually this album will outlive me.” For that reason, Jehnny wanted to channel everything she knew into her debut solo offering. “It’s very eclectic,” she nods. “There’s a lot of contrasts in there. It goes from very quiet to very loud, from light to dark: all the extremes of life in the way I know it.”
“Death finishes art, it makes it complete.”
A community of voices are set to present themselves across the LP, including IDLES’ Joe Talbot, actor Cillian Murphy and Romy Madley Croft of The xx, who provides guest vocals and a hand in production. Meanwhile its striking artwork is the product of a yearlong collaboration with artist Tom Hingston (David Bowie, Young Fathers). “The pose on the cover feels like something I’d do on stage,” she reflects. “I think of music in a very physical way - we were looking at a lot of body builders and thinking about the ‘hero’ pose. The use of 3D solidifies it in this virtual package so it becomes immortalised in this weird space that doesn’t exist.”
As to the current status of Savages, Jehnny is remaining tight-lipped but their hiatus looks set to continue. And while it may or may not be the end for the band, from the sound of both ‘I’m The Man’ and recent teaser ‘Flower’, her forthcoming debut marks the beginning of something equally as intriguing for their frontwoman.
'To Love Is To Live' is out 8th May via Caroline.
As featured in the March 2020 issue of DIY, out now.
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