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Interview: Bad Sav Talk About Their Self-Titled Debut Album

Interview: Bad Sav Talk About Their Self-Titled Debut Album

Stevie Kaye / Thursday 8th November, 2018 3:21PM

Dunedin's Bad Sav, a power trio that threads the needle between swampy churn and shoegaze shimmer, released their long-time-coming self-titled debut album last month, nine years after debut single 'Ruiners' was released. Band members Hope Robertson, Lucinda King and Mike McLeod have kept themselves busy with other musical projects (Death And The Maiden, Shifting Sands, Birdation, Snapper), so what's made 2018 Bad Sav's year? Stevie Kaye had a chat with Hope Robertson to find out...

It's been nine years since you announced yourself with 'Ruiners' - what made 2018 the year for the debut Bad Sav album? Had you attempted earlier recording sessions, and what happened to some of your earlier songs?

I dunno, it just takes a while to get stuff sent off for getting pressed to vinyl. I didn't really know Ian [from Fishrider Records] year ago, I didn't know anyone who would help us put anything out on vinyl. We'd always wanted to do it, so I guess that's why we trickled little singles out online until something came up where we could just put a whole bunch of songs on a record and do it.

We've done a few recordings sessions before, I can't remember if that would have been one that would have ended up being almost an EP's worth of stuff, but I guess we just phased out songs we don't play anymore.

I think our songwriting style evolved a wee bit, so we actually had a cohesive sound rather than being a bit more messy. I think it's just taken a while for me to collect pedals and learn to play the guitar really, really loud and be comfortable with that - that changed the songwriting, definitely. Same with Lucinda, she's got a bigger bass sound than she ever used to have.

Everyone in Bad Sav plays in a handful of other bands - you and Lucinda are in Death And The Maiden together, Mike has Shifting Sands, you and Danny Brady from Death And The Maiden played together in Snapper, you've got Birdation as a solo project - when you're writing a song, do you write specifically for Bad Sav?

Definitely - I don't often write riffs for Death And The Maiden, sometimes if they're not quite Bad Sav sounding I'll save them for contributing a riff to an existing Death And The Maiden thing that Lucinda might have written, and sometimes she writes a riff that's a bit too, like, rocky for Death And The Maiden and we'll make it a Bad Sav song.

'Hen's Teeth' started as a Birdation song, but was a single off the new Bad Sav album - why did you bring it over to the band?

Birdation started because Mike and Lu went overseas for a bit, so I was just sitting at home by myself so I started doing that - it's always been a bedroom songwriting project and a way of getting stuff recorded, that eventually evolved into me trying to make electronic music, learning to use Ableton and all that. So sometimes if Birdation songs have turned into proper songs, then I can bring them over to be Bad Sav ones, but if they haven't I'll just leave them, as they're just weird collections of noises. You've all known each other for a long time, having grown up in Dunedin or Ashburton, but you've also all more or less stayed in Dunedin.

Lucinda and I went to different high schools - we actually met each other through MySpace, and started going to all ages gigs and hanging out and stuff. I think I convinced her to buy a bass because I didn't know anyone who played bass, and she joined our high school band a wee bit, towards the end of seventh form. We've kinda been a Hall and Oates songwriting partnership ever since.

All three of us, definitely, if we're in New Zealand, we want to live in Dunedin - it's something we all have in common. It's fun to go out of town, so that's always a good reason to keep doing band stuff and go on adventures - a good way to survive living in Dunedin is to get out of town often.

What's the local musical community like?

I find everyone who's from the Eighties scene is super friendly and genuine. Robbie Yeats from the Dead C, he's really blunt with us if we've had a good set or an average one. I really appreciate that - sometimes he's like "That was fuckin' awesome" and other times it's "That was alright," and every time his response is corresponding to how I feel about the set too. Michael Morley's really friendly - I have chats with him on the bus and stuff - so I think all that stuff's been quite consistent over the past ten years or so. Hanging out with Peter Gutteridge, playing in Snapper, I learnt a lot about playing music really really loud. [laughs]

I'm not sure what it's like in other towns; comparing it to what my friends seem to be up to in Auckland, people seem to struggle to find practise spaces and we've never really had a problem with that.

There's a few instrumentals on the Bad Sav album - something a little rarer these days for rock bands.

I'm quite into instrumental music, I like Mogwai and that kinda stuff. When I write a song if I'm so upset or angry or an emotion has gone beyond words, and just write some music and say, "Well, that sums it up", I don't think there's any words necessary. At other times, words are totally necessary; if there's an actual issue that's happened or something you wanna discuss with yourself in songwriting then I'll do that, like with 'Hen's Teeth'. I just like the repetition of finding a riff that makes you feel better about life and just playing it for ages.

I'm sorry to hear that your cat Junior Spesh passed away, who turns up in the lyrics to 'Pets' - was Sailor Moon another cat of yours?

That was one of Lucinda's cats, she lives out on the farm at her parent's house now, and Badger is Mike's dog who also passed away a few years ago. Kewpie is another cat that's still around, I'm not sure if she's at Mike's or Mike's ex's house but she's still alive ... that song is a breakup song even though it doesn't sound like it. It was a "I don't need to worry about this stuff because I've got my pets" kinda thing.

How do you split up the songwriting in Bad Sav?

Lucinda writes the lyrics in the songs that she sings lead vocals in, so 'Seven In A Row' is one of her ones; 'Buy Something New' is one of hers. You can tell because she's the husky one and I'm the yelling one, because she's got an alto range and I've got more a mezzo-soprano - the Alanis Morrisette range. My choir career in high school was not very glorious, but I learned a couple of things.

You've got a knack of piercing, observational lyrics, but can also drop a line like Parker's "I dreamed I got the credit I deserve". What informs your songwriting?

I'm always observing things, I've always been like that, ever since i was a kid, i think. Eating lunch by myself and watching people, thinking things; I've definitely got a favourite people-watching Japanese restaurant here. It's just interesting, watching people go about their business; interactions and behaviours that people repeat even though they think they're not repeating them. Working in bars, watching everyone get trashed and live out all their dramas while you're just standing there, pouring pints.

I wrote ['Parker'] quite a while ago - just everyone fucking around in their early twenties, everyone being silly - I didn't really care for it much, but [I was] trying to participate in what everyone else was up to. I dunno, it's hard to explain; feeling a bit out of place, really. I think at the time I didn't have very many queer friends around me, and I was still hanging out with people from high school as well; everyone was kinda straight. It's a lot better now, I've met different people, and have a tiny queer skate crew to go skateboarding with.

What does the future hold for Bad Sav or Death And The Maiden, having both dropped albums this year?

I can't really see us changing the really slow pace that we always do things at. It's not like it's been intentional to not be in a rush to do stuff, but it's quite expensive to go on tour - it's a lot of money to fly all three of us, doesn't matter which band it is, up to Auckland or to Wellington, and even then, because flights have gone up so much - people still don't quite understand how much it is - once you've added in accommodation and maybe missing some work... we have to time it right, and we have to save up for it, and make sure everyone can get time off work and all that stuff, because none of us are full-time musicians.

We've got our distribution in the UK with Occultation, we've got our records being sold over there and getting airplay - we're getting airplay in Latvia, and France, and Greece and so on, so there's definitely opportunities if we want to go and play in weird places.

The cost, sometimes, of going up to Auckland is about half the amount it would cost to fly to London, which is ridiculous. So now that I know that, and I know how little time it took me to save up to go over there, I might as well just go back and do that before it's too late.

We've hardly looked into funding since songwriting is the focus, just getting new songs ready and playing them until they're done to death, and then get new ones, and repeating that whole process - for both bands, basically. My cousin who lives in Wellington, Elise Lanigan, she's offered to do a video, so we might get the family involved. I'd love to do all the video stuff myself since I've done a wee bit of television work, but it's just so expensive to hoard all that video gear and use the right programs.

Death And The Maiden have just released a remix to Dudley Benson's 'Cook Beleagured' - how collaborative are the remixes in the band?

Those remixes are generally just Danny things, but he shows them to us! [laughs] It's kinda cool though, since Lucinda does a lot of the songwriting - well, it's quite collaborative, and then Danny's always been the one to record and mix us. So it seems appropriate that he's the one that does remixes, since that's the stuff he's passionate about - the dance music thing and the engineering of everything, the technical side.

'Bad Sav' is out now on vinyl, CD and digitally via Fishrider Records.

Stevie Kaye is a Wellington-based music writer and DJ.


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