Savages: Creating Friction
Savages deal in extremes. Dark and light. Loud and quiet. Hot and cold. With the release of Adore Life, their self-proclaimed “beast” of a second album, they’re taking things further. Darker, louder and hotter.
Savages’ Mercury-nominated debut Silence Yourself built upon the fierce reputation they had forged on stage, which they admit is their natural environment. After consolidating and expanding their audience with over a year of further touring in support of the album, the London-based foursome went away to ponder their next move. As is the case with every aspect of the band, ambitions for the album and how they could be achieved were seriously considered, and the conception, recording and release of Adore Life has been a process lasting over 18 months, as lead singer Jehnny Beth explains.
“We knew we wanted contrasts, and to push the ideas of the first album to another level,” Beth says. “Lyrically, I wanted to write a record about love. I told that to the rest of the band early on and we were all interested to see how that could be integrated into Savages. The idea was to cover every kind of sentiment attached to love, and often love comes accompanied with its opposite. With love comes fear.
“We’ve always liked to put opposites together and create friction. We like to show that extremes aren’t very far apart, that life and death are very close and connected. We like to bring that element of surprise, that breathlessness into our music.”
With a handful of lyrics Beth had written on tour, the album’s creation began with the whole band locking themselves away for six months, concentrating and honing their ideas into fully formed songs. But that was merely the first stage in their development.
“It would feel weird for us to just and write and record without getting out of the studio, it’s not natural for us,” Beth says. “That’s what to led to our time in New York, where we played three shows a week so the audience could come and hear the new songs.
“When we started Savages, we played our first show within a few months. We’ve always played unfinished songs live and developed them that way. Sometimes I’d have a book of lyrics in front of me. That feels natural, to be constantly working on them. And it leads to songs being reshaped entirely, or cut, and New York gave us that.”
The nine-show New York residency took place in January 2015, allowing certain songs to flourish and some to be scrapped, and from there it was back into the studio. But simply recreating the songs the crowds had enjoyed the most wasn’t the idea, with the band fully embracing the opportunities a studio and a trusted producer offers.
“To be in Savages has been a transformative experience – it has changed the four of us forever.”
“You need to listen to the music and let it tell you what to do. It’s about acceptance of the recording process and the surprises that come with it. It’s not like, ‘that doesn’t sound like it did live, let’s get rid of it’, it’s more about embracing the interesting differences. It’s not necessarily what the crowd wants either, it’s more our feelings when we play the songs,” Beth explains.
“Our producer Johnny Hostile knew us and understood our ambitions. He wanted all of us to have space to realise our ideas and knew that was what we needed. We started recording each song by being all together, then once we had a version we all liked, we all went off to record separately.”
With the album finished by mid 2015, the band were back on the road almost immediately, playing many of the new songs at shows across Europe and the US.
“There has been some really strong reactions already, even with people not knowing the songs, so I can’t even imagine the reaction when people know them better. There has been something happening beyond music. We’ve noticed the connection with the crowd getting more and more warm. There has been a perception of Savages as a cold band, which isn’t the case at all, and so we wanted that to be known. The video for ‘The Answer’ is an homage to our audience and a way to show the world what we witness at our shows.”
That video, accompanying the album’s first single, rawly captures a live performance of the band in Lisbon, showing the barriers between the band and the audience falling away in a sea of headbanging and crowdsurfing. This growing connection between band and fans has had a profound effect on Beth, and is heavily tied up in the album’s standout message.
“It feels liberating, to express an openness that wouldn’t happen outside [a gig]. That sense of kindness and fun is wonderful to experience as both an audience member and a band.
“I can’t remember how I first wrote the lyrics ‘I Adore Life’, but I can remember the sentiment, the conscious feeling that you can die any time, and to think about death makes you more appreciative of life. And it made me realise that the most important thing about being in this band is to connect with each other and love each other, and not be afraid of that.
“It also came from the reception we’ve had from our audiences around the world; it makes you realise that you’re being listened to and need to give back. If that doesn’t change you then you’re probably blind or stupid. It gives you purpose. To be in Savages has been a transformative experience – it has changed the four of us forever.”
Adore Life is out January 22 through Tiger Reid/Matador.