Savages don’t mess about. The first, carefully chosen glimpse of the band’s new record arrived as ‘The Answer’ - the very definition of a confident statement by title alone. Agitated razor blade guitars collide headlong with drums that pound the living shit out of everything in sight, with no relent. Sheer mechanical brawn smacks into the heart headlong, on the teetering edge of obliterating everything. In their second album ‘Adore Life’ Savages also unearth something less towering, that is subject to poor decisions, and vulnerability amid the onslaught of white noise. Savages write music that is completely human. They seem to provide an answer or remedy to the chaotic, tangled-up web of life. There’s nobody else around quite like this.
The band rock up in their customary all-black uniforms, cutting the formidable sort of picture you’d expect. When Jehnny Beth and Gemma Thompson order a cuppa, they make it seem swiftly efficient. Wrong-footings aren’t shot down in flames, but receive a far more cutting reply; the air of being mildly unimpressed. Frighteningly ambitious, and willing to give every ounce of their being to this magical beast that they’ve created together, Savages have more than earned their right to be imposing, and they are imposing. Truly scary, though? Nah.
Today, drummer Fay Milton is busy sparring with her granola bar wrapper. “Morning!” she exclaims chirpily, neglecting to notice that the clock has already chimed midday. “I don’t know what I’m saying,” she laughs, “a bunch of words. Let’s talk about food?” she eventually suggests.
“It’s not even that early,” concedes her band mate, bassist Ayşe Hassan.
Fay’s granola-based crisis surely marks out one of very few instances where Savages have been unsure of exactly what to say. Upon forming, the band set out with intense focus; eyes keenly trained on a single objective. ‘Silence Yourself’ was a debut concerned with insular hyper-concentration. Its end goal - amid everyone else outside their bubble trying to pull the new band in different directions - was total artistic freedom.
“If you are focused, you are harder to reach. If you are distracted, you are available,” declared the part-poem-part-manifesto printed on the debut’s cover. With the barriers up, and all outside interferers violently opposed, ‘Silence Yourself’ - by name, and nature - was a bolshy, confrontational first record. Intentionally so. “You have to fight a bit for your own space,” states Jehnny Beth. “I think every band that starts has to do it. It’s your first totem.”
The band certainly fought for space and control over the dialogue, and then some. They were unwilling to be shaped against their wills. As the first rave reviews began to come out, Jehnny Beth calmly took a biro to every press clipping that referred to Savages as an “all-female band” - quietly taking down the empty categorisation, and marking it out as irrelevant. When their debut was nominated for the Mercury Prize, Savages didn’t just zip up and sip the complimentary champers. Though they were grateful for the wider acclaim, they also openly debated what the nomination symbolises, and how it lines up with what they want to achieve as a band. That’s Savages, all over.
“I don’t want to carry any flags, I’m just doing my thing,” Jehnny Beth once told DIY over the phone, speaking from a bustling Italian restaurant shortly after that Mercury nod in 2013. “I will just carry my own armour,” she stated, gleefully, “and do my own shit!”
“I think we were very guarded on the first record,” admits Fay in a similar vein, today. “You have to establish yourself in the way you want.” Ayşe’s on the same page, too, though she insists that much of their debut’s confrontation was less to do with anger, and more concerned with survival. “‘Silence Yourself’ was about us having focus,” she explains. “We needed to protect ourselves as a band from everything; to learn how to be a band together. To keep what we had together, as a band.”