The newcomer takes aim with a genre-bending debut single.
Providing us with a cocktail of neo-soul and hip-hop is multi-instrumentalist Saint Rien with his debut single “Tell The Truth”. Shining a light on how toxic the media can be, the singer croons over the simplistic melody before taking us into a calming retro soundscape with warming synths and subtle bass guitar rhythms. Layering his sugary sweet vocals with atmospheric electronic textures, the singer puts a spin on a typically sad topic and transforms it into single bursting with uplifting energy and chemistry. Taking aim with a politically-charged accompanying video, the singer poetically breaks down historical structures and reveals how they focus on their own agendas before the people who are in need of help.
“The message itself is neutral, not necessarily singling out a single party, affiliation or ‘side,’ but more so the whole system,” Saint Rien reveals. “The aim of this video is to be a symbol of the Youth pointing out how broken the whole system is as we’ve unfortunately found out the hard way this year.”
Formally a part of alt-rock collective Storm the Sky, the singer stepped out on his own in recent years, discovering who he is as an artist and navigating his ever-evolving sound. Set to put out 12 singles in the next 12 months, we caught up with the singer talking his struggles with anxiety, the meaning behind his debut single and how he doesn’t want to boxed into a genre.
Check out the interview below…
Hi Saint Rien – how have you been during this uncertain time? How has it impacted your music and creativity?
The lockdown was blessing in disguise for me… I moved to LA thinking I just had to, ‘find the right people’, but the lockdown stopped everything. There was no-one to find. So I was forced do it all myself. For that, today, I’m truly thankful, because that’s what made me grow. I was ready to release this time last year and had actually started planning to put out an EP literally the day before lockdown was called in LA. I had been preparing for two years. I slept on my friend Rvhu’s studio floor on couch cushions for six months so that I could learn to produce from scratch. Then I spent for a year in my little studio-bedroom-closet in an artist house in The Valley. If I had released music at that time, I wouldn’t even have my first three singles I’m releasing this year. I would know so much less about myself as an artist and where I wanted to go. I took the lockdown as an opportunity to meditate and get a lot more in touch with my vision and process. To be honest, I’ve been very lucky. I can’t imagine what it might have been like for some others, I’ve had it easy. I’ve moved six times in 12 months, been through two wildfires, some protests and a whole lot of panic, But I’ve been shacked up with the love of my life, Stephanie, the whole time. And after doing long distance the year prior, we’ve basically made up for the time spent apart during COVID and I’ve written some amazing music because of it too. I’m ten times the artist and producer I was a year ago and I never would have made that progress if I wasn’t forced to be more introspective and go through so many wild experiences.
How has growing up in Australia influenced you sonically? Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
I think Australia is one of the most talent-filled music scenes in the world at the moment. If you look at Kevin Parker, Kid Laroi, Tash Sultana, Tones and I, Sia, Flight Facilities, Flume – the list goes on forever. Some of my favourite bands were Australian too. INXS heavily influenced me sonically and emotionally from a young age. Honestly though, with Saint Rien, I do my best to let myself be more influenced by my life and what I go through rather than specific acts. I love how Hip-hop is turning punk and there’s mosh pits at every show. That’s inspiring to me… Humans writing music they are so passionate about that they have to fight, scream and cry to get their point across. That’s how I fell in love with music. But if I had to narrow it down, my main musical influences are: Love, anger, depression, joy and dreams… And Jeff Buckley.
Why the name Saint Rien?
There’s no place I’ve been on earth during waking hours that has felt more like home than France. I grew up feeling completely out of place as I’m sure most millennials felt… Because we’re the guinea pig generation thrust into social media, dating apps and internet porn without any research on the mental and emotional damage that may cause. But when I first went to Paris, years ago, that feeling, for the first time in my life was gone. I went to over 11 different schools and moved house every year from the age of 13 so, “Home” is not really a concept I’ve ever understood. But the closest thing I’ve ever felt to belonging happened to me there. So I knew the name had to be French. Rien means nothing literally. I have forever struggled with the paradox of wanting everyone to love me while never feeling deserving of love. So the ‘Saint’, is how I’ve always wanted to be perceived and the ‘nothing’, represents how I feel inside, my inner reality.
Your music fuses neo-soul, alt and elements of hip-hop – how would you describe your genre?
I don’t want to, that’s for the listener. I think genres are just as damaging to art as defining mental illnesses as singular diagnoses, based on lists of symptoms with little to no room for the individuals unique suffering, is to humanity. ‘Anxiety’ is such a generalised description of, in my opinion; A healthy and intelligent response to the current state of the world. The same goes for, “rock”.
You used to be the frontman of highly successful band Storm the Sky – what gave you the push to want to step out on your own?
I was so incredibly lucky to be in that band. They recruited me when I was 16 and within a year I was touring full time almost straight out of high school. To be thrown in the deep end like that, with no singing experience beyond my bedroom was the best lesson in life both as a performer and as a human. I had always planned to do explore what a solo career would feel like eventually. It’s incredibly lonely so far… But I hope that now I’m finally releasing the music I’ve been quietly falling in and out of love with for the last two years, it will connect with some like-minded humans and we can grow together.
Congratulations on your debut single “Tell The Truth”, which unpacks the corruption of mass media and political structures – what was the inspiration behind it?
I never wanted to write openly about my political opinions at all. My mother would tell me that sentence is a political opinion and that’s why she’s the best. But a Kurt quote comes to mind, “The duty of youth is to challenge corruption”. My interest and focus has and will never be tied to a certain affiliation, side or ideology. My concern is that, if we keep blindly moving forward in the fashion that we are, whether it be with the environment, the economy, social injustice, war, inequality, classism, fear, greed, obvious and evident corruption… The list is far too long to include all egregious abuses of power and ignorance. We will fail as a race. One of the biggest roadblocks when talking about these issues is; That loving and intelligent, good-hearted people from both sides and even neutrals are now even afraid to talk with each other about any of these problems for fear of being targeted or cancelled. I guess I’m probably a bit idiotic to release my first ever song in which I do just that… But that’s my point, we need to talk about this, all of it, or we will never progress. I made sure in the song and the upcoming music video to be as unbiased as I could. I am so uneducated compared to most of my peers when it comes to these issues but I am eager to learn, I am open to being completely wrong and will be the first person to admit my knowledge needs to grow. I am far from claiming to have any answers at all. I just know that we would find solutions to problems a lot quicker if we simply talked to each other without fear and express our true pain as well as our visions for a beautiful future. So I invite anyone that connects with this song, or even vehemently despises it, to message me and help me grow.
In 2021, your project ‘l’année’ will see you put out 12 singles over 12 months, a lot of these songs point at your struggles with substance abuse, depression and anxiety – how was it putting out something so personal to you?
I don’t know any other way to make music than to treat it like a diary in which I burn every page that I write. Brene Brown said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change”. I agree with that to my core. Having literally everybody know my shadow is like a superpower and when I finally get to bring Saint Rien to the stage, it will be like going to confession but my priest is the audience. I’m really fucking excited for that.
What do you hope your music brings at such a time of uncertainty?
What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to in 2021?
I’ll be releasing a new single every month for the next year. I’m looking forward to seeing how I emotionally cope with that and also eagerly awaiting what the universe has in store for me. Hopefully, I can jump off a few stages along the way too!