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Santino Le Saint 4

On the Rise
Santino Le Saint

04 November 2021, 12:04

Hedonistic and proud, Santino Le Saint is the guitar-wielding anti-role model you never knew you needed.

It’s getting late and Santino Le Saint sits opposite me, bags heavy under his eyes. He’s had about three hours of sleep but the Brixton-based musician and vocalist is about to dive into his chicken and chips with renowned energy. While everyone is talking about ‘healthy minds, healthy bodies’, Le Saint preaches a much less restrictive approach:

“They say don’t smoke / they say don’t drink / they say the drugs corrupt your mind / but when I’m high / only time I’m alive / I can say they were the best days of my life”.

Captured from one of his latest singles “Best Day of My Life”, these words exemplify how Le Saint’s freedom to determine his own morality has curated a life worth living. He provides a gothic, guitar-infused take on the hot-and-heavy R&B popularised by The Weeknd, handling a lot of the production and visuals himself. His last two EP concepts were Blue Pill and Red Pill rooted deeply in his love for the Matrix, and the notion of the ultimate choice.

With his debut album Beautiful Disaster arriving imminently on November 19, I was keen to meet Le Saint for the second time this year to see how the momentum was picking up towards its release. Brixton Jamm set the backdrop for our candid conversations, with Le Saint seated on a couch he had spent many sleepless nights on.

In his youth, Le Saint’s life rarely stood still; tubes, trains and cars all served as soil for his creativity to take root. “Because my parents lived separately and my grandma lived in the countryside, I was constantly travelling,” he explains. “I used to BMX in Surrey and in Brixton, so I travelled everywhere and it gave me loads of time to listen to music. Being on the move and listening to music is what made me who I am…”

“My grandma’s house was always an escape to peace and quiet from the crazy 24/7 London shit. Going down there, especially as a young kid, it was an interesting thing. I would be alone with my thoughts and everyone would get on with their stuff.”

As a kid obsessed with BMX, skateparks set the backdrop for some of his fondest memories growing up. “That’s where I started from 12 years old til I was 18, I think I went to a skatepark probably four times a week, every week… “ When I ask him if he’s better now than he was back then he laughs. “I was definitely better then! Because I didn’t give a fuck. I’d fucking jump off walls and shit”.

Le Saint’s second love was basketball and he used to train constantly and compete during his younger years. “I’ve wanted to play basketball at a high level forever, but in order to go back and play for the teams I used to play for, I had to train four times a week,” he says. “Now I train two or three times a week and even that’s a fucking lot. Doing more would be insane.” As time went by he started to realise what music had to offer him: an avenue beyond physical realms contained by other people’s decisions, where his imagination set the pace and the plays.

Le Saint admits his music flows from a dark place. The awareness he has of these feelings and his relationship with that darkness is what allows him to write such vivid songs. The pictures Le Saint sketches within his words portray spiralling relationships, visions of nihilism and excess — as well as the cravings for company and to be completely alone. And drugs, lots of drugs.

He traces his poetic streak back to his school days. “I did a lot of poetry when I was younger, and I once wrote a poem in like year six or seven, which was the world’s most depressing poem. Our school literally said ‘we’re gonna put ten people forward with the best poems to get into this poetry book’.”

“The brief was to write about something. Everyone wrote about an orange or a water bottle and my depressing emo ass wrote about ‘nothing’ because I said nothing was something. I was ten! The lines were like: ‘Nothing sits at the bottom of my bed as I fall asleep’. I was like ‘oh shit bro you’re ten years old you need to chill out!’” Le Saint ended up winning and getting his poem printed in that book.

Fast forward to the present day and Le Saint’s explains his latest poetic work: Beautiful Disaster — a rumination on the chaos of romantic love. “The journey of the album for me is concluding that the relationship I’m in [in the album] is a beautiful disaster,” he tells me. “I think love is a beautiful disaster. And there is no end or stop to it and no journey to get in or out of it.”

“I think of life like that as well. I have a slightly morbid or pessimistic view of life but I don’t see it as a bad thing… I think I’m looking at the world perfectly fine. I think suffering is a part of the human condition. I’m sure I could go somewhere and someone might diagnose it [as mental illness]. But I don’t believe that would be correct. Some people just have different frequencies. My frequency may be darker or more depressive than yours but that doesn’t mean I need meds.”

There couldn’t be a discussion about fame and mental health without social media, and the antagonism between self-love and self-obsession. Le Saint has always drawn attention from his appearance, looks and style — in fact he admits that most of the music videos that feature close-ups of him garner many more views than those that don’t. I ask him outright, ‘Do you think you are a narcissist?’ He pauses, smiling. “I don’t think I am… I think that in order to be a narcissist, especially nowadays, not only do you have to be completely in love with yourself but you have to have a certain obsession with the idea that you’re a tier above these things. And for me, anyone who walks through the world with that idea in their head is not usually someone I connect with.”

Another strong theme running through Le Saint’s lyrics is his portrayal of romantic relationships. His eyes light up as I ask him if anyone knows how the hell relationships work. “I think about this all the time. No one has any idea. Like, literally dudes have written books about this shit since the beginning of time. Nothing has changed!” he laughs.

“The fact that no one actually knows what the fuck this sensation is until they feel it or how to describe it or whatever, means that there should be no one way to do it. Which means that the only way to do it correctly is the way you fantasise or feel about it. The only way that one should and deserves to live their life is the most complete and utmost romantic ideal of love they have in their head. I’m not saying that’s what everyone should do, but I’m saying that’s what you deserve…” Le Saint’s lyrics once again offer us a darker image in “Love, Drugs, Anarchy” singing:

“Ride or die / that’s what we said / rather take one to the brain / We’re so fucked up it’s insane / we’re the perfect mistake.”

Santino Le Saint is the product of a desire for independence and being offered choice at each avenue he arrives at. As we wrap up, he pays tribute to his parents as two people who allowed him the freedom to become Santino Le Saint. “They always allowed me to be that... Like, there was never any hindrance on my career. Whatever I wanted to do, try, they always supported it 24/7, which obviously I’m super grateful for. I’ve always been unapologetically me”.

Santino Le Saint’s debut album Beautiful Disaster is out November 19.
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