Savages Talk Playing ‘Fast and Loud,’ Losing the Luxury of Time and Hate-Reading Ayn Rand
It’s been a breakout year for Savages, the U.K. post-punk foursome that released a fierce and riveting debut LP, ‘Silence Yourself,’ in May, and stirred up a killer beehive’s worth of buzz with taut performances at Coachella, Glastonbury and the Pitchfork Music Festival.
They’re not letting up yet: The band has live dates scheduled into November, and they’re already working on new songs, drummer Fay Milton tells Diffuser.fm by phone from London during a break from the studio.
With all the acclaim and bookings come increased demands on the musicians’ schedules, and the band — also including Jehnny Beth, Gemma Thompson and Ayse Hassan — has quickly learned to make the most of every minute.
“To be honest, it’s great to have attention. You play music, you want lots of people to come to a show and talk about it. I doubt anyone really in their heart of hearts would want it any other way,” Milton says. “The difficult thing is time. We had time to work on our music to start off with, and then everything took off. We made an album, and it didn’t feel rushed. It was great. It would be so nice to have the luxury to disappear again and have the time to write new songs.”
The songs on ‘Silence Yourself’ are so lean. How much of your songwriting process is about reducing the music to its essential elements?
Really, it is stripping things down. I think the process often involves — you have to play the music that comes out of you naturally. You want to make honest music, so you play and see what comes out. But you can’t necessarily stick with the first idea you come up with. You work on it, and often, that process involves taking things out and getting to the ideas you think are the most important so they have more space to realize themselves.
How brutally honest can you be with each other without feelings getting hurt?
[Laughs] It’s the only way you can be, really. We can be completely honest with each other, but with any working relationship, there’s ways of being polite. It’s not essential, but you’re going to have a much nicer time in the rehearsal studio if you don’t destroy each other if you don’t like each other’s ideas. Fortunately, we really like each other, so that’s not too much of a problem. We’re not afraid to say if something isn’t working.
The band has been described as “three friends and a brutal drummer.” Does that sound right to you?
[Laughs] Well, it makes it sound like I’m not their friend. But no, it wasn’t a really a band formed of a gang of friends wanting to form a band because they’re friends. The band formed really for the idea of the music. The idea of the music came first, and then it led to various members joining and hooking up together to play some stuff. I was the final piece of the jigsaw. We’re all like family now. We spend all of our waking hours together, and most of our sleeping ones, as well.
You had played with other groups before. What was different about Savages?
The first thing that struck me with this band was that everyone was really focused, and it was just like a big energy burst; writing and ideas and everything flowed very quickly, and everyone was 100 percent involved in the project from the start. I mean that in the way that everyone put everything into it from the start. Lots of different groups of people get together to play music, and it’s very hard to make things happen because everyone’s got their lives, everyone’s got work, and it’s quite a slow process in a way. It seemed very fast with these girls, myself included, but we all wanted to make something happen. And we haven’t changed: We still really love making things happen. The only way to do that is to work fast, and work hard.
How much discussion was there at the outset about how the music should sound?
When I first met up with Gemma and Jehn, they just said they wanted to play fast and loud, and that was basically it. Simple as it seems, that said it all, really. It’s a simple aim. You can’t overthink things sometimes. If you just want to play fast and loud, that’s already two really good things to do. The instruments that you’re playing and the people that you are will shape the details.
Is it true you showed up to meet them with a copy of ‘The Fountainhead?’
I was reading Ayn Rand, ‘The Fountainhead,’ and that may have been at that point. [Laughs] Ayn Rand is a psychopath. I don’t really represent her. She’s an Objectivist. Her ideas are horrible, her philosophy sprung from a really disgusting, selfish mindset. But I enjoyed reading that book. I like reading things that I object to, because you don’t just want to read about things you agree with. You know that stuff already.