Exclusive MP3: Savoir Adore's "MERP"
Savoir Adore's CD release party is tonight Friday, July 17 at Cameo Gallery 93 N. 6th St., Brooklyn, at 8pm. They're also playing Glasslands on Saturday, August 29.
Discussed: Timber nymphs, Blue Moon beer-bottle percussion, and the Miami Vice theme.
On paper, Savoir Adore epitomize everything irritatingly late-aughts hipster indie. They're privileged twenty-something Williamsburg residents with a moniker that doesn't actually mean anything in French, and are responsible for this terrifyingly twee video. But though you would expect a fantasy-pop group with an EP called The Adventures of Mr. Pumpernickel and the Girl with Animals in Her Throat to make you angry, their music is actually terrifically inspired and charmingly executed.
Their debut full-length In The Wooded Forest features Paul Hammer and his friend-not his girlfriend-Deidre Muro taking turns on guitar, synth, bass, drums and vocals. He's short and stocky, she has bangs and a permanent smile, and their album, which just came out Tuesday digitally on Cantora, is full of sweet-but-substantial pop. Album highlight "MERP," whose video, again, you are advised not to watch, concerns a sort of Matrix Reloaded-style bacchanal held before a war breaks out in the album's next song, "Sarah's Secret." (Unlike the EP, which revolves around the story of a professor's encounter with a suicidal student and a timber nymph, In The Wooded Forest is not really a concept album but rather a "general landscape/ soundscape where a lot of our song-stories take place," Muro explains.) The track's many layers of auxiliary percussion include the tapping of a Blue Moon beer bottle. The pair developed the beat organically, almost subliminally, over a 20-minute improv jam session.
"Over that time we honed the exact musical phrase that would become the main musical theme -- the drum beat and chorus keyboard part," Muro says over email. "We [thought] the rhythm and mood of the piece would be perfect for a kind of 'primal dance celebration' song."
After being unable to name the track they called a friend, asked her to say the first word that came to mind and subsequently decided that her choice of "MERP" means either "Most Experiences R Precious," or "Middle Earth Role Playing." Yes. But their whimsical decision-making and fairy-tale narratives start to make a lot more sense if you spend a Sunday at Hammer's folks' place in Holmes, New York.
Located an hour and a half north and lying, indeed, on ten acres of wooded forest, the homestead features a barn-cum-recording studio, which Hammer's dad Jan converted many years ago, flush with funds from composing the Miami Vice theme. Jan Hammer is a Czech immigrant and former jazz fusion keyboardist whose group released a live album recorded at Angel Stadium featuring Jeff Beck; he's also the balding guy being chased by Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas here. (THAT'S how you make a video.)
Hammer the elder went on to write TV and movie scores and then semi-retire. He still lives there, but doesn't use the studio as much, and so his son and Muro have the run of the place. They record so often that they've made more songs than Cantora can release.
Which is why, though they've ostensibly come up on this Sunday to lay down some tracks, we spent most of the day playing ping-pong on the porch, tennis on the honeysuckle-surrounded court, and eating brownie sundaes from the local dairy's ice cream shop. "This is one of my happy places," Paul Hammer says as we plop down on a nearby bench overlooking a wetlands area, just before sunset. Precious, indeed, but if you can't appreciate fresh whipped cream, pure pop and cavorting in the woods on a sunny day, then it's you, my friend, who are the dreaded late-aughts hipster.
Download: Savoir Adore's "MERP"