The world used to be silent. Now it has too many voices and the noise is a constant distraction. They multiply, intensify, they will divert your attention to what’s convenient and forget to tell you about yourself.
These words grace the cover of Savages’ debut (namely titled Silence Yourself), which was released earlier this year to a barrage of praise from every corner of the musical circus. The record has been hailed by Pitchfork as “one of rock’s most commanding and ferociously poised debuts in recent years”, with an en-pointe message for the masses: silence yourself.
“I guess in a way, what we’re saying is nothing new”, muses bassist Ayse Hassan as we chat on the phone, “that text is an awakening, I guess”. This awakening, it would seem, is from the distractions of every day life, that rut we’re stuck in but we don’t even know about; the message of Savages is to get rid of all that unnecessary background noise that makes life so convoluted.
“One of the things I’ve learnt over the years is a lot of the time people don’t really listen. And it’s amazing: even when when you think someone’s listening, they’re not actually taking it in and I think that’s because there are so many distractions nowadays.”
It comes as no surprise, then, that Savages like to do things their own way. Artistic freedom and control over their work is staunchly important to the four-piece, in everything they do. “I think that’s so essential, not just in the music that we make but life in general; to be responsible for yourself and be in control of whatever you create. You know, with the gigs we really think about it and want to make that entire gig into an event, into a party, into something that has been thought out by us. I mean, even really thinking about how we’re gonna release an album – just everything. It’s so important to really know what you want and to trust your instincts and just go with it”.
Its hard to liken a Savages gig to the kind of joyous occasion that you associate with the word ‘party’, but it is certainly an occasion that shouldn’t be passed up if given the opportunity to attend. Clad all in black, lead vocalist Jehnny Beth stalks the stage with an intimidating swagger like she’s gearing up for 10 rounds in a boxing ring, whilst Ayse, Gemma Thompson (guitar), and Fay Milton (drums) fill the room with a ferocious musical outpouring which, Ayse says, is a huge release of built up tension. It’s an intense experience, to say the least.
It’s all part of the artistic expression of the band, though, who allow fans to be privy to their creative process and thinking, whether it be through the spaces they chose to fill or the evolution of their music. “During a show we might put a song in that we haven’t played before and over time that will develop into something different. We have a song called ‘F*****s’ which changes every time and I really find that so interesting because it gives you space to play it in a slightly different way and that’s so interesting not only for me, but if I was in the audience and if I saw a band more than once I would love to see that evolution of song.”
To be a band with a message is certainly somewhat of a bold decision, but what makes Savages so important, essentially, is their audacity to say what they think and practice what they preach in an industry obsessed with the “package deal”. For this reason, it seems, they have been branded with a brush which paints them as stand-offish, aloof and even sometimes unlikeable; an image which seems completely detached from the person I speak to on the phone – warm, chatty, passionate, despite the early morning interview.
“I think that people have to acknowledge that we are something that we do take very seriously, because it means a lot to us. And when you invest so much of your time and your heart, I guess.. you know, it’s perhaps when you come across as being serious. It’s very hard to talk about yourself or describe yourself as a band, or what we’re like. We’re just four people who are making music and depending on how we’re approached you’ll get a different response. It’s like anything in life, right?”
Just like their dedication to hard work and passion seems to misconstrue them as hostile, the fact that Savages is four women also brings some misconceptions, an example I’m given being that they can’t play their instruments properly. “It happens, but not all the time. You have to be assertive about these things and if you put a stop to it when they try and mess you about then there is an element of what you can do to stop that kind of bullshit.”
Savages, though, have never set out to be ambassadors of feminism, not for any lack of solidarity with their gender, but because why should it matter that they’re women? “We’re in this band because we love making music and I guess for me the fact that we’re four women.. it really doesn’t cross my mind. If something good comes from that because we are women then that’s great, and I don’t think musicians should be scared of approaching things like misogyny, but we just happen to be women who are making music together and yeah… that’s it.”
It’s another stand-point which resonates with their overarching message. The question is, are YOU ready to silence yourself?
photos: NME, Guardian