Sahara Beck: ‘I Want My Music To Go In Any Direction I Want’

16 June 2022 | 11:18 am | David James Young

Sahara Beck opens up on image, taking control and writing with purpose

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When Brisbane singer-songwriter Sahara Beck releases her new EP And Her Kryptonite, it's the completion of her most ambitious project to date. A direct companion piece to her 2019 EP Queen Of Hearts – to the point that combining the two names forms a new one – the five-track release will finally bring together the full creative vision of Beck's ever-changing and multifaceted indie-pop spectrum. “All of these songs were a real change in direction for me,” she says over Zoom from her Brisbane home.

“I started really caring about my image, and I was actually thinking about what I was writing – which was not something that was a big part of my previous records. I didn't really think about what things meant when I wrote them, or even why I was writing them. It would always just come to me. I went into making these songs with intention – what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to say it.” Beck also notes that her earlier material – at least from a musical standpoint – was more a reflection of her own abilities rather than a grander artistic vision.

“That was music that I wouldn't necessarily listen to myself,” she admits. “A lot of it just happened to come out sounding like that. I think my very first album [2016's Panacea] was much more a reflection of the people I was working with rather than of me personally. With my newer music, I wanted to make something that I would be really into – something that, if it came on, I'd want to boogie to.” She points to artists such as Santigold, David Bowie and St. Vincent as being key inspirations for this approach – artists that have consistently made a point of adapting, evolving and changing with each song and each album. “They're real artists in the sense that they've made music however they wanted,” she says.

“There shouldn't be this thing where it's like, 'Okay, you're really good at this, so you should only make music like this'. I really admire when someone can actually keep writing music in different ways. When I go to a live show, and every song sounds exactly the same, I'm kind of like, 'Well, I've seen it all now.' The thing that ties these great artists together is them. It's their voice. There's always something that they can do which no other artist can. I want my own music to be able to go in any direction that I want it to go.”

Beck worked on both the Queen Of Hearts and the And Her Kryptonite EPs with veteran producer Tony Buchen. No grand plan around how the EPs would intersect was formulated prior to them working together – indeed, Beck wasn't even sure what form the songs would take. “To me, it represents a journey,” she says of the double EP's creative process.

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“When I first went in and recorded with Tony, I wasn't really thinking about pairing songs together in any sort of way. After the fact, I saw what I'd done and I realised that it actually worked.” Beck's eyes suddenly widen, and a smile draws across her face. “I can show you, actually!” After a quick off-screen shuffle, Beck pulls out her personal vinyl copy of the double EP.

She looks over the packaging with pride, running her finger down the back as she looks at the songs that make up both the Queen Of Hearts side A and the And Her Kryptonite side B. “I think one side is a lot more aggressive – like, 'This is what think,'” she says – referring to Queen Of Hearts. “The other side, I think it's more me saying, 'This is how it is.' We're telling a story here.”

Buchen – whose track record includes artists such as Montaigne, Troye Sivan and The Smashing Pumpkins – is a key part of Queen Of Hearts/And Her Kryptonite. Not only does he serve as producer for the majority of the songs, he was also assisting in co-writing alongside Beck and her brother Ocean. “You definitely have to trust a person a lot if you're going to go into something like this with them,” says Beck of Buchen.

“I had written with a few producers, because I had a really specific sound in my head that I wanted to get down. When I tried Tony, I knew he was the one for this record. At the time, he was living in LA – which was super inconvenient, but I was adamant about making it work. He captured the sound the way that I wanted it to be captured.” Beck does admit that the process of making the EPs with Buchen wasn't without its own set of issues. “We're both very headstrong people,” Beck laughs, “so there were a lot of times in the studio that went back and forth between us. We both really wanted what was best for the songs, though, and we both had so much respect for one another.”

Beck has been performing several songs from the EP live in recent times, although the majority of her latest performances have been under a slightly unconventional guise. Rather than performing under her own name, Beck has been part of a collaborative ensemble known as Bite Club. The collaborative show sees circus troupe Briefs Factory International perform a series of dazzling routines, all set to Beck's songs – who is there performing them live as the feats of athleticism happen before your very eyes.

“I met them over two years ago, when we were both performing at Woodford Folk Festival,” says Beck of the Briefs Factory collective. “They would see my show every morning, and I saw them perform that night. They felt so far above me that I wasn't even going to say hi to them – I didn't want to waste their time! After the festival, though, they got in touch and asked if I wanted to work on a show with them. I immediately said yes. It basically plays out like a bunch of in-person music videos to my songs. There's burlesque, there's acrobatics... during Queen Of Hearts, Mark [Winmill] is up in the air, swinging over the audience! The performances and the acrobatics are so dramatic, and I'm all about a dramatic show.”

Bite Club is bound for the UK and Europe next, with performances at Glastonbury and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival locked in. Eventually, Beck will also tour – without any flying trapeze artists – in support of And Her Kryptonite and the double EP vinyl. No matter what guise you find her in, however, Beck is adamant about approaching each show with a fresh and unique perspective – just like her own music. “The whole reason that I'm doing it is because of the people that are watching,” she reasons.

 “Seeing the right performance at the right time... it can really do so much for you. I always try to be aware of the people that I'm performing in front of – where we are, what we're doing, what's happening around us. I really try and adjust whatever I'm doing up there to really suit the audience. Whatever you're getting that night, that's just for that night.”