Savages: A Fitful Forge Interview | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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A Fitful Forge

Oct 08, 2013 Issue #46 - June/July 2013 - Charli XCX
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Kicking off their debut album Silence Yourself with a snippet of Gena Rowlands’ dialogue from John Cassavetes’ Opening Night, Savages effectively lay down the gauntlet for the listener, foreshadowing what’s in storean uncompromising band making challenging, thoroughly engaging music that demands your full attention.

“Cassavetes, we kind of admire him as a filmmaker really and as an independent spirit,” says guitarist Gemma Thompson. “It’s just a great film that’s a question of age, a question of character, and a question of how to perform, no matter what you’re doing.”

The London band, composed of Thompson, singer Jehnny Beth, bassist Ayse Hassan, and drummer Fay Milton, seem as though they’ve assiduously pondered these questions; their LP brazenly tackles discomfiting issues worthy of a Cassavetes film, ranging from marital discontent (“Husbands”) to consensual sadomasochistic sexual encounters (“Hit Me”). Instrumentally, the songs recall the jagged edges of the pre-Joy Division group Warsaw, the taut rhythms of Gang of Four and Wire, and a blunt minimalism favored by No Wave acts such as James Chance & the Contortions and Suicide.

“We really believe in a repetition musically and lyrically,” explains Thompson. “It’s almost as though something becomes a mantra, on songs like ‘She Will’ and ‘Husbands.’ With the whole process, we had a lot of material to work with, and we cut down and cut down until we find a word that works or a sound that works and we try to repeat that as much as possible, just to get through to something with the repetition.”

This repetition lends Silence Yourself a lacerating edge, as the four protean members of the band cohere into a potent, singular unit. Thompson claims that their chemistry was palpable from their formation in 2011.

“I think we all felt it straight away,” she says. “Even though this is still a young bandit’s only been a year and a halfwe’d done other things and took those experiences and put them into this.”

Savages subscribe to the belief that music has the ability to transcend recordings and live showsthat it can indeed galvanize. They have a manifesto printed on the cover of their album that espouses “positive manipulations” and “understanding the wills and desires of the self.”

“It’s really to try and solidify the whole thing,” Thompson says of the statement. “Not just as a band playing, but to try and focus what we’re about. I don’t want to be so crass so as to say to give a message, but in the hope that if someone sees your show they can go away and think about their lives and the people they love in a different way. That’s ultimately the experience we can get from music. It is for me. Music can really change you and change how you think about something. These texts are how you can push that further. A lot of that is influenced by Genesis P-Orridge, for example, this whole idea to create your own mantra, your own kind of belief, and a process in which to work and live. That’s what art aspires to be.”

[This article first appeared in Under the Radar’s June/July 2013 print issue.]


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