In a scene as varied and vibrant as Brooklyn, Savoir Adore is one band that sticks in the mind with their incisive and unique lush pop. Dazzling with addictive lyrics, louche vocals and an exuberantly light heart, Paul Hammer and Deidre Munro create worlds of a magical transience. With their debut album In the Wooded Forest, they produced lush and addictive melodies through a somewhat naïve idea of fantasy world landscapes that resulted as a mature sound with a structured centre. Now, four years on and having ended the promotions of the last album on Cantora Records, they have moved on, knuckled down and written an album that has a fresh, succulent progression of the same infectious pop vein that came before.
After a good ten minutes of what an only be described as indulgent ‘faffing about’ on Skype, we get to the good stuff and talk influences, experimentation, collaboration and coming to the UK. “We’ll be over around May,” says the XY chromosome of the pair, Paul. He is apparently lying in bed and semi naked at the time we speak. Neither I, nor Deidre comment. “Man, the last time we were there was for some show in Wimbledon, which was not our best, but this year we’re starting in London and playing the Communion show in Notting Hill, Jen Long’s show and then the Neon Gold and Chess Club Records showcase at The Great Escape.”
After storming the shows at SXSW on the Neon Gold showcase, we ask about their closeness with the label: “The shows were the best part of it to be honest,” says Paul, “it was our fourth year and Seth [manager] is so great and the Neon Gold guys are just so energised and amazing. It’s rare you get to be with such great people and love all the bands that you’re playing with too, it’s really fulfilling on a musical and personal level. I mean we are huge fans of , Haim , St. Lucia and Fort Lean and even the tour we did down to Austin with St. Lucia and The Knocks was an incredible journey.”
“I mean, that’s rare to love working and playing with people you get on with like that,” says Deidre, “but it took us this long to find each other and it is special.” Would we see any future collaborations with their musical best friends? “Well, just the other day we sang on a new French Horn Rebellion track for their new record” says Deidre, “but apart from that and a Body Language remix, we haven’t done much just because we’ve been so focussed on our own record.”
“I talked to Jean from St. Lucia about doing something together actually” says Paul, “and I have a feeling Deidre will be singing on The Knocks track in the next six months or so. On tour she sang their version of M83 ‘s ‘Midnight City’”.
“You know what’s weird too, I was just thinking who I’d like to cover one of our songs while I was in the shower” says Deidre, “man, it would be really cool if M83 covered one of ours, they’re so awesome.”
This three-way conversation on Skype reminds me of the first time I tried a three-way call on my house phone with my school friends. It was disastrous and among a number of beeping noises, mistakenly pressed buttons, my mum complaining about the phone bill and some misheard bitchiness, the call did not end well. Here I am again, in a three-way conversation with glitches, beeps and mistakenly pressed buttons and I fear the worst. I wonder if the duo has noticed the changes in how we use technology as a social business as well as a music business.
Deidre responds, “we’ve been in and out of doing this for five years and we’ve definitely seen so much technology change and the social networks run the gamut from MySpace, where it all started, to where we are now with so many offsprings that are newer and better.
“It’s true,” continues Paul, “we started when MySpace was right at it’s peak and you heard all these stories of bands being discovered on it and getting signed from that and within two years it went downhill and all of these new sites came up with new ways to promote your band, showcase your music and talk to fans. I mean with the retail side of it, we still sell CD’s at our shows but it’s all about spreading your music beyond the fathomable. Sites like Tunecore didn’t exist six years ago, and now spreading your music is global. It is truly amazing that someone in Japan or Russia is listening to something you made last week in your studio. Tunecore is just the easiest way to get your music onto iTunes too, it takes like ten minutes and thirty dollars and your music will be everywhere in like, two days. That idea is phenomenal and as a band you have to develop and grow with what you have to work with.”
“We do sell the majority of our music on iTunes,” continues Paul “but the 7″ we released on Neon Gold Records for Dreamers sold really, really well. Although the growth in downloads is expanding, I think there’s also a growing niche for vinyl and records. There’s something about getting something you can hold on to, keep and collect rather than just downloading something as quickly as you can delete it. Even really young kids are getting record players and getting into it, which is cool. We don’t really care what format people hear our music on though, so long as they’re hearing it.”
Talking more about the new album, we discuss the process that went into its creation. Deidre explains, “well, after supporting and touring In The Wooded Forest for a while, it took some time to get back into writing and recording again but when we did, we just wanted people to get how we felt doing it. It was just a playful process and about letting things come out naturally. To get there, we just gave ourselves weird assignments to let those things come out. Like, our first EP The Adventures of Mr. Pumpernickel and the Girl with Animals in Her Throat was, in itself, a weird assignment. So we did things similar to that but on a less ambitious scale. For example, Paul would say, ‘Hey Deidre, sit on drums for this song’ and I can’t play drums at all but then Paul would try out something else out and we’d just see what happens. From that, it might spark an idea for a section of the song, but we just write by trying out new things that are playful and experimental.”
Our Nature is a collection of dramatic catchy, indie-pop songs with the opener Dreamers as the prologue with Deidre lulling us to sleep and soothing us not to worry, as Hammer contemplates the the flux and transience of dreams. There are moments of fantastical love stories with ‘Loveliest Creature’ that flow into ‘Sea of Gold’ and ‘Regalia’ with their soulful dramatic melodies and swells of 90′s influences, as well as fluffy pink pop on ‘Sparrow’ and ‘Anywhere You Go’. Irresistible in its brave extremes we ask the pair about their approach to this new record and how they would like people to approach it.
“When you listen to the record, it has both highs and lows,” says Deidre, “I wouldn’t say it’s whimsical, but the way in which we came to it and constructed it was experimental and playful. The first EP was a very linear narrative and the second EP we were like, ‘Oh man, we’ve created this crazy world so let’s just keep checking it out’. In The Wooded Forest was more of a series of landscape paintings of this fantasy world so now we wanted to explore these two characters we just created on the new record. People can read this and take it away if they want as our behind-the-scenes input of our experience with the record, but we want people to connect with it in their own way and you can really just take them as stand alone tracks. In terms of experimenting instrumentally though, we did try out new things on the album for sure, we’ve got a lot more into synthesisers and there’s definitely more percussion.”
“Like timables,” says Paul. “Working on the final touches of a record is when I usually lose my mind, so when we were finishing this one track, I was thinking that this song just needs one more thing, then we’re done: a timbale solo. Once I recorded them, we were done.”
“With there being a lot of different instruments on this record also,” continues Deidre, “it’s just adding a different sound to us. We’re sonically expanding our palette and drinking in whatever we’re into in that moment and taking that into our music. I’ve always said that I never want to write the same song twice, so we’re always trying to approach things in a different way.”
Is the visual story for Savoir Adore as threaded together as the lyrical narrative?
“This record, more so than the last record, is a specific idea” says Paul, “there is a story and place for each song in the record, but at the same time we’re just approaching video directors with the initial story of the song and asking them to feel free to interpret it. The best products always come out when you don’t tell someone what to do but to organically work with it and let them be inspired.”
“The conceptual nature of it is it is not so strict that we need it to be a literal visual representation” adds Deidre. “We’re just really interested in the idea of collaborating with someone whose visuals are their jam as much as music is ours.”
“Plus it’s fun to give each song its own character,” continues Paul,”expanding that kernel of what we’ve created with someone else into this whole new creation. For the ‘Loveliest Creature’ video for example, we’re talking with the director about doing a heavily animated video, but then maybe we’ll do another song that is very raw and just performance based video with Deidre and I. We want to work and expand with other peoples ideas and that’s making the whole thing so amazing.”
Having started Savoir Adore as an experiment in 2006 by challenging themselves as solo artists to come together and write an EP in a couple of days, I’m interested in how their relationship as two individual artists has changed since The Adventures of Mr. Pumpernickel and the Girl with Animals in Her Throat.
“Well, I think writing and experimenting is all about making yourself more uncomfortable,” starts Deidre ” and I think we’ve become more comfortable at getting ourselves uncomfortable and I think that’s healthy for an artist. On this new record, we wrote like that, some of the songs took us a couple of years to write and be comfortable with how it turned out. ‘Dreamers’, for example, was written piecemeal by writing a few different sections here and there over a couple of years. There are other songs though, that were written in like, two days and we put ourselves into these uncomfortable, creative situations to get something that doesn’t sound like anything we’ve done before.”
“Like with ‘Loveliest Creature’,” adds Paul.
“Yeah,” says Deidre, “I mean, that song came out of one long night when we were in the studio. Delirium had set in and I was in the live room playing acoustic guitar, just playing these two chords and trying to get Paul’s attention. So he hits record, comes in and what happens next is this ten minute, three song, vintage-country-odyssey that had this really good little melody nugget. We loved this song and the silliness of it all so much and that simple melody turned out to be the chorus of ‘Loveliest Creature’. We just took that and made it into this story of a girl who falls in love with a monstrous creature and about the difficulty of being in a relationship with someone so completely different to you. That kind of spawned the idea for the record and the interaction, the growth and the demise of the relationship between these two opposing characters. It’s a really beautiful thing actually.”
Savoir Adore release Dreamers EP on 21 May through Neon Gold, and will play the following UK dates:
May 6 – Communion @ Notting Hill Arts Club – London
May 7 – Simply Rad @ Queen of Hoxton – London
May 8 – Undertone – Cardiff
May 10 – Record of the Day Show @ The Great Escape – Brighton
May 11 – Neon Gold Show @ The Great Escape – Brighton
May 17 – Pop Shop (Neon Gold) @ Camp – London