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"Chuck Berry will be Chuck Berry until he goes into the ground, but some of us want to do different things."
--A.A. Bondy
Feb.16 Cover - Savages
Written by Glen Sarvady   

ImageThis Is Not A Love Song (well, actually it is….):
Savages Find Something to be Said About Slowing Down the World


The night of Savages’ only Atlanta performance to date remains seared into my memory. Which is unfortunate, because I wasn’t at the show. Arriving on a delayed flight back into Atlanta I immediately texted Stomp and Stammer publisher Jeff Clark to ask if I still had time to speed over to Vinyl, only to learn their set had just ended. A few minutes later, I received a second text. “I’m sorry, but it was one of the best things I’ve seen in years.”

Online videos amply confirm Savages’ live prowess – my personal favorite is their 2013 American TV debut on Jimmy Fallon. When I caught up with guitarist Gemma Thompson the band was in Los Angeles, preparing for a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live as well as the initial burst of UK touring to follow the release of its sophomore LP Adore Life. For a band that’s not afraid to sweat the details, Thompson’s not interested in analyzing why they come across so well on TV. “It’s very interesting to summon up that energy for one or two songs – it’s very different from playing a show. I don’t know how – whatever we do, I don’t want to question it.”

Though inextricably linked to British post-punk, Savages have frequently turned to the States quite a bit for inspiration.  Turns out vocalist Jehnny Beth and her partner Johnny Hostile had been visiting LA since Christmas, and it was just as easy for the rest of the quartet to head west to rehearse. “And it’s warmer here,” Thompson adds matter-of-factly.   

In early 2015, Savages looked to New York to ignite the creative process behind the material that became Adore Life. “We had started writing together in a cramped London space in late 2014,” Thompson explains, “and found ourselves writing really quietly.” Anyone familiar with Savages’ ferocious 2013 debut Silence Yourself knows that “quiet” is not an adjective commonly associated with the band. “So we said ‘this isn’t going to work, we’ve got to get out of here.’ We sat around a table and devised a plan to come to New York with the sketches we had and work them out in front of an audience.”

Why New York? “We were a bit sick of London at that point, plus it’s really interesting when you take creative energy and put it in a different location. They have a similar energy too – if you can live in London you can live in New York.”

So Savages headed to New York City, booked a rehearsal space, and scheduled nine shows over a 19-day stretch – rotating across the same three clubs on a weekly basis. By day they’d hunker down for a “really intense writing session in the rehearsal space,” assessing tapes of the performances and making adjustments to the in-process songs. “Some of them were more together than others. It wasn’t until you played them live with volume that you got a sense of how it really was going to work.” After the residency, Savages returned home and headed straight into the studio.

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