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Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Monday 6th January, 2014 9:25AM

Savages are an English post punk band who released their critically-acclaimed and Mercury Prize-nominated album, Silence Yourself, early in 2013. The album gained attention for both the assultingly earnest musicality and the persuasive manifesto that accompanied it; encouraging people to release themselves from superfluous, technology-driven information and communication and connect with people, events and ideas more viscerally. Savages are playing Laneway Festival later this month and we caught up with Ayse Hassan to discuss how the experiences and interests of the four members influenced both the music they create and the messages they deliver with it….

What are you up to at the moment?

We just came off a European tour, it was a fairly short one just because we needed a break but we go back out in the next few days and then we have some time to write and do the other 110 things we have to do in December.

It must have been a crazy six-to-twelve months for you, yes?

Yes! It’s been an immensely exhausting six-to-twelve months, that’s for sure. I think it’s certainly been a lot of hard work, yes.

It must feel surreal to reflect on all of the experiences you’ve had since you released the album Silence Yourself

In some ways I don’t think we’ve had a moment to sit back and reflect. We’ve had things planned for almost every day of this year so you’re constantly thinking of the next thing rather than thinking backwards. There’s always something new to plan for. Thinking about it now it’s definitely been interesting.

Have you found the media attention difficult to adjust to?

I don’t know if I would say it was difficult but when you make music and the main focus is writing and performing music you don’t really think about the additional things that come along such as the press and interviews, and personally I don’t really like doing interviews so I rarely do them. But, at the same time I do feel like that is part of what you have to do, too, so we have been a little bit more flexible on doing interviews. It’s quite interesting to see how we’ve changed over the two years.

I find it interesting that a lot of the media attention has been focussed on the manifesto that accompanied the music, which was about removing oneself from meaningless information driven by technology, and experiencing things in real life instead, and by saying that in your work you’ve been caught up in it, right?

Yeah. Because we don’t say things that often but when we do say something it’s something that we’ve thought about a lot and it’s something that is of value. Everybody wants to know so many mundane little things about people’s lives and when we say something there should be a point to it and it should be relevant. I feel like the manifesto was relevant and to like the band you don’t necessarily have to connect to the manifesto, although it would be incredible if someone who loves our music did. I feel like nowadays there is so much distraction, everywhere! When we recently have told people to ‘Silence Your Phones’ because we want the audience to experience live music. Yesterday I was at a Queens of the Stone Age gig and a guy had his iPad pointed at the stage and I could see his iPad and I was thinking “just sit back and enjoy the show, rather than trying to capture it on your iPad which will sound shit and look terrible – why waste your time when you could be immersing yourself in the moment?” I feel like that is so relevant to nowadays. How many times have you been on the train and everybody has their face down looking at their phones. Before long will people actually talk to each other at all? I say that jokingly but it feels like nowadays, because of technology, it’s so easy to be distracted and to waste a lot of your time doing nothing.

What I find admirable about you guys is not only does the manifesto talk about experiencing things in a more truthful manner, but it’s also about removing all of the superfluous information that floats around and getting to the important point...

Yeah, exactly.

How did you guys formed these ideas, and how do they fit together with the music that you’re creating?

I guess everything that we are as a band has come from the lives of four people who are connected together and are making music, be that from the books that we’ve read or the music we listen to or the lives we’ve lived. Our experiences along the way all contribute to how we hope the people will listen to our band or experience our live shows. As an example it’s what you were saying about modern technology and how it is a big distraction and I feel like because we’ve all been people who have witnessed that person in front of them holding up their camera and I feel like everything that we do is also because maybe we’ve been that person who has had a bad experience with that person in front of us who is blocking our view because they want to capture it on their mobile.

It all relates to what we do with the music because ultimately we want people to be able to immerse themselves in the music and leave any stresses or worries at the door and go crazy and have a great night and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks and don’t give a fuck if you dance silly – just have a good time and enjoy it! All of that leads into the sonic stuff because you won’t have someone blocking your view by holding something up or there won’t be people talking and I think everything we try and do is because we have been in that situation or because it’s something we feel strongly about. Hopefully the audience will realise that everything we do is an attempt to show them respect and allow them to experience something in a way they would like to experience it in.

You’re an English band who sound, while being distinct, comes from this pretty socially and politically poignant post punk sound, and a lot of the bands who developed the sound came from a politically-motivated place. Are you inspired by those sorts of bands and movements and do you feel like you’re a part of that lineage?

Firstly, I don’t think we’re political. I think we’re a band who have certain things that we want to say but that’s not necessarily a political thing. In terms of connecting with a lineage I feel like what we’re creating is the four of us, I don’t feel affiliated with any particular scene or group.

The recording process for Silence Yourself sounds pretty intense…

It took a lot of time thinking about how we wanted to do it. We had a lot of people saying “you should release an album earlier”, and we didn’t want to. I’m proud of that album, particularly because we got to produce it in the way we wanted to. Everything we wanted to do around that album was done how we wanted to do it without any massive outside influence and I feel that that was quite poignant for us because of situations that happened beforehand which potentially could have caused us to break up before even making that album. So that album was a snapshot of that moment in time of the music that we had written.

During that time we decided to block off two weeks and go into a studio and we would completely focus ourselves on producing that album and we did do that and it was very intense, but it was done in the best way we could have done it and I feel like it was a really good experience. You’d wake up every morning and you knew you were going to be exhausted at the end of the day but you didn’t care because you knew it was worth it. We put things in place that made it a pleasure to finish that album.

We worked with Johnny Hostile and during the recording process he tried to do things that would inspire us in certain ways. Johnny Hostile would project movies onto the walls while we were practising or playing to try to inspire us, and that was really inspiring because I’ve not been in that environment before. We felt really immersed in that moment which was brilliant.

Speaking of films, the video clips that have accompanied the songs are pretty profound. How important is the visual component of the music to you?

It took us a while to produce some of the videos because we didn’t just want to produce run of the mill videos – we’ve always tried to do things slightly differently, in a way that felt true to ourselves. We’ve worked a lot with Giorgio Testi who is an incredible creative and he’s done a lot of our live videos too. I don’t know if you’ve seen the video for 'Marshall Dear' but that is my favourite. It was a collaboration between Gergely Wootsch and an idea that Gemma had over the years and there are one or two videos that are in the pipeline that I’ve seen and are incredible because we’ve chosen people who’s work we believe in. We’ve also worked with Antoine Carlier who is an incredible video director and John Minton who has done a lot of Portishead’s live images so I think everyone we try and work with we have a connection with in some way. There is something there, be that because we believe in their work or because we just know that when we give someone an idea they’re going to get it.

Catch Savages at Laneway Festival this month - it will be their first appearance in New Zealand.