Crashing the Party
Oct 26, 2016
Photography by Semi Song Issue #58 - The Protest Issue
There's a glam swagger permeating the self-titled debut album of Nashville's Savoy Motel, twisting serpentine psych with Roxy Music-esque flourishes. It's unlike anything released in 2016, with a steadfastly crafted image to complement the music, and that's by design according to the band's producer, bass player, and leader, Jeffery Novak.
The band—also composed of drummer and co-lead vocalist Jessica McFarland, other co-lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Mimi Galbierz, and lead guitarist Dillon Watson—had plenty of time to think about their presentation as they've been a band for a few years. But they're just now hitting enough of a creative stride to craft an album strong enough for the public at large to hear, an accurate representation of what Novak envisioned they had in them at multiple levels.
"It was like Television for me when they had to make up their own myths and self-promotion and hype," he says. "That's where we got the idea of putting out your own record in a classic tradition sort of way. The way bands weren't doing things, like why you don't see real promotional photos anymore or promotional 45s."
Those are what ultimately catalyzed the band's signing to the NYC label What's Your Rupture?. Label head Kevin Pedersen emailed the band to ask if he could buy their debut single "Hot One." Novak initially declined to sell him one, as they were intended only for promotional purposes, but when he realized Pedersen had included his label information on his email, he sent him one immediately, packed with an old school promo photo, both largely now anachronistic items.
"I like old promotional 45s, and I have a lot of them in my collection," says Novak. It's talk for trainspotters only perhaps, as they vary little from the actual 7-inches, if they're released, but this sort of thing excites people like him and Pedersen tremendously. "I sent [our full record] to him, and it took awhile, but he eventually decided he wanted to release it."
Savoy Motel is a kaleidoscopic journey that seems utterly detached from modern music, amalgamating The Rolling Stones' cacophonous blues phase and riotous George Clinton-esque boogie down P-Funk.
"To me, it's got a real 20th century vibe. It's the characters that came to exist in the 20th century," says Novak. "That's where I was at, and I see the album in a weird '60s sort of world."
The late singer/songwriter Jay Reatard, whom Savoy Motel also resemble to some degree spiritually and sonically, was a mentor to Novak, who toured and lived with Reatard for a stretch. "I don't go out of my way to talk about him in interviews, but I often wonder what Jay would've thought of our record," he says. "He probably would've been critical of it, but he was critical of everything. But I think he still would've liked it." There's a pregnant pause, and Novak adds, "It's strange to me that I just turned 30 and Jay never lived to be that old. I miss him a lot, and he did so much for me. I wish Jay was still around. The musical directions he was headed were gonna be amazing. And he might've not come out and said it, but I think he'd have been proud of me with where I've gone."
[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's August/September/October 2016 Issue, which is out now. This is its debut online.]
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