So Savages blew apart the stage on Jools Holland last night in what must rank as the most ferociously meteoric rise for a British guitar band in, well, ever. Read our interview with them from our September/October issue.
Savages – [lead singer] Jehn’s gain-friendly post punk band with musicians Ayse Hassan, Gemma Thompson and Fay Milton – have whipped up a storm of buzz in recent months, grounded almost utterly on word-of-mouth, some guarded press coverage and a clutch of otherworldly, sublime live performances that seem to have intoxicated audiences.
Singles “Husbands” and “Flying to Berlin” are pointed, confrontational brooders – simmering at the seems with sexy, heavy-browed angst. The project started back in January 2011, when Jehn sent an email to founding member Thompson – who had played live with John and Jehn for the Time for the Devil tour – asking whether she could join the band. “She took two days to reply… I fully knew I wanted in after hearing the name. I knew I wanted it to be dirty, speedy, repetitive music.”
Had Jehn fancied herself as the band’s frontwoman? “No, I was too shy to begin with, I didn’t want people seeing me sing the words “hit me” – but I’d always dreamed about it. My musical education was listening to Iggy Pop, Bowie, Lou Reed. I remember at some point simply knowing that I wanted to front it. I was reading lots of poetry when I wrote our lyrics – lots of English shorts about the French Resistance and war; something fragile and precious being assaulted by an evil force.
“I wanted the music to reflect these ideas, too – we were listening to a lot of Black Sabbath and really wanted to create something tight and loud and very precise; something that could propel us through any wall. I see music as an armour: it has been written so precisely and so consciously, that you’re somehow protected [behind it].”
The main reason Savages’ rise has been so overnight is that the band’s breakout gig – supporting British Sea Power in Brighton venue The Haunt – was also their first. BSP’s Scott Wilkinson contacted the foursome to ask if they’d play a show later that day. “He called at 12pm, so we immediately started organising. It was like an adventure and turned out to be the best show we’ve done. When we got there, John asked the band’s manager how much he’d pay us for it, if anything. He said; ‘Let’s see how good they are, shall we?’ As soon as we started, I could see them frantically negotiating a price! [laughs] £110 was what we were worth that night.”
Though “Husbands” has solidified their position in the limelight – and has gone far in fleshing out the Pop Noire team’s contacts book – you get the feeling the project never needed justification. They won’t be signing a truckload of bands any time soon – John and Jehn alone have experienced the oily inner workings of labeldom, and quite vividly – but for a team bound at its core by such pedal-to-the-metal principles, let’s just be thankful they’re doing what they’re doing – Viva La France.
Words: Jack Mills
Images: David Shama