On A Time When Loud Rock'N'Roll Was Mainstream

12 January 2016 | 2:48 pm | Anthony Carew

"How do you talk about love, when you're a band like Savages?"

Jehnny Beth, the French singer of English post-punks Savages, is in Paris. Her band has just played their first show in Paris since the November terrorist attacks. "It was absolutely incredible," beams Beth (real name: Camille Berthomier). "The people in the crowd really wanted to feel alive, there was this sense of renewal. They wouldn't stop cheering, wouldn't stop shouting. You could really feel the joy that these people had to be at a show."

Savages' set included a cover of I Love You All The Time, an Eagles Of Death Metal song being performed in support of Parisian victims. "I was actually in LA a year ago, in the studio with Josh Homme and Jesse Hughes, when they were recording this song," says Berthomier. "Then, a few days before we played in Paris, I got an email from Josh Homme asking people to cover this song. So, for me, to sing this is like coming full circle. And, when we played it, people got really emotional, and incredibly cathartic."

"The people in the crowd really wanted to feel alive, there was this sense of renewal."

Love is the operative topic for Savages. Their second album, Adore Life, is filled with songs — like When In Love, and singles The Answer and T.I.W.Y.G. — on the subject. "Deciding to make a record about love, a few questions were raised," offers Berthomier. "Like, how do you talk about love, when you're a band like Savages? And I think the answer was that we would go to extremes, and explore every aspect of love, including the shameful aspects, the things we don't usually talk about, the things we do in the name of love."

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In doing so, the band drew inspiration from the dark, disturbing King/Goffin girl group ditty He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss). "It's the vulnerability of a character expressing something that is not going to be accepted," says Berthomier. "It's about admitting her weaknesses, this addiction that she has, and acknowledging that it was love that lead her down that twisted path."

In the lead-up to making Adore Life, Berthomier binged on grunge records by Soundgarden, Mad Seasons and Nirvana ("thinking about it now, maybe I wanted to go back to a time when loud rock'n'roll was really mainstream"). That informed Savages' other goal: to make a bigger, louder, LP than their 2013 debut, Silence Yourself, as a reflection of the band's growth over years of shows. "Touring brought us really more together. We really much felt like a gang," says Berthomier. "For the four of us to spend so much time together, to get to know each other, trust each other, love each other, to decide to love each other: we decided that was going to be the only way. That pact totally informed the new record."

And the album's sentiments, too, grew out of that experience, Berthomier wanting to use the platform for worthy themes and ideas. "I always felt like there was a responsibility to what you do on stage, to the sentiment you put in the music, the sentiment you put in the words. What you put out there is shaping people's minds. Art is powerful that way... Listening to music when I was young changed my life. Making music when I was older changed my life. So I understand the power that music has. We're conscious of that as a band, always."