No Future: Savages' Silence Yourself is About the Present
Read up on Savages and you'll rake in a list of adjectives that peg them as the latest band to redefine "punk"--pop-punk (The Guardian), post-punk (Pitchfork; MTV Hive; BBC) and neo-post-punk (Brooklyn Vegan, MOJO) are all monikers that have painted an honest picture of the paradoxically meticulous, frenzied, meditative, sporadic, insightful, explosive and metallic noise propelling from the ripped strings and frayed vocal cords of the London four-piece. For vocalist Jehnny Beth, this game of Pin The Tail On The Genre isn't entirely off the mark (though "neo-post-punk" is the one she finds the most amusing) but it isn't entirely accurate, either.
See also: Savages - Bowery Ballroom - 3/18/13
"We never thought we were going to be a post-punk band," she says. "We weren't thinking at all. It's been a word that's been put on us by journalists and people who talk about us. I would agree that there are some similarities; there are bands from that era that maybe use the same ways to profess the same ideas. What I like about punk -- let's take out the word 'post' -- is that it's about modernity. It's about the present. It's not about future or past, it's about you having a reaction to what's around you and you're treating yourself in the present time. I think that's something I identify with."
It's impossible to listen through Silence Yourself -- Savages' official debut out on Matador/Pop Noire today -- without embracing this revelatory, confidently confrontational attitude in some capacity. Thirty eight straight minutes of distortion, declarations of independence and snare hits that hack through the reverb with the merciless voracity of a sharpened machete, Silence Yourself is less of a punk manifesto and more a portrait of a band who's crowning into consciousness. Whether it's a rumination on the fruitless labor of unrequited love ("Waiting For A Sign") or a nightmare set to a frenzied pace ("Husbands"), Savages have found their collective voice -- or scream -- and whether it's post or pop or neo-post-pop-whatever, the DNA of their exclamations is undeniably of a powerful punk strain that's perpetually shirking definition.
You've mentioned before that the name of the band was inspired by Lord of the Flies and other works of literature. What were some other non-musical influences that impacted how you write and perform together as a band?
You would get a different answer from each member. Gemma Thompson [guitar] was an art student, so she tends to have an interesting appetite and mind and way of thinking about things. When she came up with the name Savages it was in a time when she was reading those novels, and I'd hear of those kind of ideas about humankind and civilization and the future and overflow of information, and we were interested in all of these concepts. She's got quite a scientific mind as well. She was interested in being a pilot and airplanes, and I think she wanted to try and find this representation in these ideas, you know, how the voice finds its agility through the chaos of the sound ... One of the first things that influenced us when we were writing songs at the beginning was the idea of the concept of playing them live, the idea of a performance -- putting on a show, the invitation, how a sound can effect the body and how it can affect the audience. All of those things, it gives you space and figures and something to play with.