Savages On Staying Match-Fit And Making Life Less Boring

23 May 2016 | 2:02 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

“If you have to think about the potential of a technical difficulty and how you might deal with it, it brings you back into the real world.”

There were some early Savages gigs when the band "sometimes didn't travel with a tech" and, bassist Ayse Hassan observes, "That made things a lot harder." Relying on "the in-house staff or the stage tech that was hired" on the band's behalf proved to be "quite stressful", she adds. "So we decided that we needed to always travel with a tech because, you know, the whole point of us playing is so that we can lose ourselves in the moment and to really give everyone our all. So if you have to think about the potential of a technical difficulty and how you might deal with it, it brings you back into the real world."

This scribe became obsessed with Savages after experiencing their performance at Primavera Sound in Barcelona, 2013. Gemma Thompson's guitar malfunctioned during that show, Hassan and drummer Fay Milton locked into a continuous, spontaneous groove as captivating lead singer Jehnny Beth rocked menacingly like a boxer preparing to throw a knockout punch. Their festival set was scheduled relatively early in the evening, but we already knew we'd seen the Act Of The Day. "We enjoyed that show a lot, even though there were technical difficulties," Hassan recalls.

"Our shows are so energetic and tiring that it can be quite stressful if we don't have a full day [off] at least, you know, once or twice in a week."

"Prior to going on stage, you're all hyped up and, you know, you wanna perform the best show ever. And then something goes wrong, you're like 'OH!'" she laughs. "But somehow you kind of communicate with everyone and, like, 'What do we do now?'" When these "challenges" present themselves, Hassan says she tries to remember how precious these memories of a band reestablishing control can be for those on the other side of the photography pit. "For me, if I'd ever seen those [types of shows] of my favourite band, it would be so exciting!"

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To ensure they're always match-fit for their famously fervent performances, Hassan tells, "I think we've all got kind of a formula that works for us, exercise-wise, because, you know, we're playing an-hour-and-15-minute shows now and you do have to be fit. Um, especially Fay," she chuckles, before continuing, "Our shows are so energetic and tiring that it can be quite stressful if we don't have a full day [off] at least, you know, once or twice in a week." On her personal fitness regime, Hassan enlightens, "I have a ritual and I try and go running everywhere I kind of visit, because it's the best way to see the town or the city or whatever... It's just really nice to get familiar with the place you're gonna play."

We discuss those hair-metal party bands back in the '80s — such as Guns N' Roses and Motley Crue — wherein some members were basically junkies while travelling the world and playing massive arenas every night and Hassan marvels, "I have no idea how they did it! Because, you know, few of us drink now, we don't take drugs — and it's insane! It's like, [I] don't know how I could ever do it if I was in that state," she laughs. "It's insane the amount of energy you use and... playing a show when you don't feel good is just awful.

"So I think we're all aware of how to be careful with trying to be as healthy as possible and to ensure that we're able to continue doing this for a while... Because essentially we're doing this to, you know: we're a live band — it's what we love doing — so to give it your all is the most important thing."

"When they go to shows they'll buy a beer and then they'll hang around for a bit, talk to their friends, but when it's at 8am..."

An insane amount of energy is also required if you plan on experiencing Savages from the front rows but, if you're game, you'll be rewarded by a incredibly cathartic experience; the band expels pure electricity. "The whole point of making the music that we make is because we enjoy playing the music live," Hassan shares. "So it has to translate, because it's the core of what we do. And that's why, for Adore Life, we went to New York for several weeks to try out the new material before recording [the songs], because it felt like we had to... It felt like part of the process that had to occur in order for us to be able to record. Because, you know, previously, with [debut album] Silence Yourself, we had been touring those songs for a year-and-a-half before recording them."

Hassan stipulates that "most of the songs were almost finished" before Savages headed to New York. "It was kind of just trying to be fearless and to finish writing them on stage, essentially, because we felt that that was the bit of excitement we needed after having 'x' amount of months in the studio; we needed that kind of adrenaline — that excitement, that fear — to actually really finish creating those songs in order to make those songs translate live. And it was great, because we found that, you know, when we were in New York, people were going crazy about the songs! And every night we would maybe alter some of the songs or try something new and, I guess in many ways, it was us also giving back to the audience that had been so faithful to us, in New York, and showing them a) the process, and b) allowing them to really observe the creative process that we go through."

For their hometown fans, Savages performed an album launch show for their latest long-player Adore Life in late January at The 100 Club in central London. But this show was given a typically Savages twist: an 8am start time. "We kind of thought it would be cool to actually allow people the chance to go to a show before going to work, which was a really interesting proposition," says Hassan. The band were interested to see "how people would respond" to this unconventional gig. "People have this ritual: when they go to shows they'll buy a beer and then they'll hang around for a bit, talk to their friends, but when it's at 8am, you know, the chances are — on a weekday — people have work to go to and it's early. So would they buy a drink?

"They actually did serve hot drinks at the club, which I thought was pretty cool because, I mean, none of us — well not all of us — drink, and I've never drunk, really... I found that really exciting: the idea that people would actually experience something kind of sober 'cause, you know, yeah! I just thought that was a really interesting — well, you know, hopefully they would be sober at 8am, but..." Thankfully there were no scalding incidents in the mosh when hot drinks were flung in the air and Hassan explains, "Most of the people we spoke to were going to work straight after." The idea of an audience clad in business suits sounds like the perfect premise for Savages' next video clip (although they've already kinda done the live thing in their superb The Answer film clip, which really does a good job of recreating the intensity of Savages live). "I think, as a band, we enjoy trying somethin' new and that's where, you know; the song I Need Something New comes from kind of experiencing and embracing something that you're aspiring to change. Your life is, it's essentially boring, and, for us, we kind of thought, 'Actually, let's do it [at 8am]!' I guess it's a gimmick in a sense, but it's a one-off thing; we thought it'd be really fun to just do something that we felt a little bit uncomfortable with because, you know, we had to be up at, like, 5am and travel into the centre of London. But it was worth it for the people that came to see us... We were so surprised that there where people queuing 'round the block to come and, yeah! It was a really great show."

Sounds awesome! Does Hassan reckon Savages could schedule in a pre-work, 8am show while they're in the country? Hassan laughs. A lot. Before hesitating, "I'll try and convince the girls again, yeah." Laughs again. "They do like to sleep in later than, like, 4am."