Savages interview: ‘The songs weren’t finished until they were played live’

They may have lost out on the Mercury Music Prize last week, but Savages are still one of the most exciting breakthrough acts in British music.

[Savages at the Mercury Prize ceremony last week – AFP/Getty]

Formed in 2011, Savages have carved out a unique sound pulling in influences from late-70s post-punk and the New York ‘no wave’ scene of the early-80s.

But far from being mere copyists, an attitude of innovation and experimentation are at the fore of Savages’ music.

“We wanted to focus on writing lyrics for the stage, writing for the performance and we didn’t speak about musical influence or anything like that – we kind of just started playing together,” says guitarist Gemma Thompson.

“We just started working on an idea behind a word or drum rhythm and just worked on how we played our instruments – not what to sound like, but to try and focus on how to get a certain sound out and to play with an intent rather than technical ability.

“There is so much more to explore in that sound and we like to perform it in a really physical, emotional, violent way.

“I think there’s a lot more that you can explore in that rather than just pure entertainment”.

The group’s first show was supporting British Sea Power in January 2012, and from the beginning all of the songs were put together with an emphasis on live performance.

“We decided to really focus on the performance aspect,” says Gemma. “The idea was that the songs weren’t finished until they were actually played live.

“The energy on the stage would complete the song, so that’s what we concentrated on. They would grow as a live thing.”

With such an emphasis on the live performance, the group were in a quandary as to how to translate their energetic sound to record.

The group decided to record their debut EP ‘I Am Here’ live during their first UK tour.

“The idea was to get the live energy recorded,” says Gemma. “From them we worked out how we could do that in the studio by thinking how each musician could capture that energy as they were recording.”

The debut album Silence Yourself was released in May, and saw the band receive a nomination for the coveted Mercury Music Prize, and while they lost out to James Blake, Gemma was still happy to have been in the mix.

“I’m pleased that a band like us has been nominated because up to the end of the first album we did everything ourselves”.

Originally published in the Yorkshire Evening Post

Savages play the following shows:

9 Nov: The Ritz, Manchester
10 Nov: The Classic Grand, Glasgow
11 Nov: Vox Warehouse, Leeds

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