It's been four years since Savoir Adore's last LP, Our Nature, and while Savoir Adore has gone through some lineup changes, the project has released its new single, "Lovers Wake," and will be playing this year's SXSW in March with a new and reinvigorated sound full of lush and layered melodies that can be danced along to in a synthy, atmospheric wall of music. I spoke with Savoir Adore's Paul Hammer about music, touring, songwriting, and his inspirations.
There's a lot of precision, focus, and immersive qualities behind the music of Savoir Adore used to create an otherworldly sound. From that comes the demand for technical skill and an emphasis on an ear for sounds that create the sort of dream-like fantasy stories he meticulously crafts through experimental instrumentation.
"It's funny...I'm trying to think of any dreams specifically. I've had some dreams, strangely enough, where I've woken up with certain melodies, but I've never actually had a real dream that turned into a song. All the imagery and the stories come from characters and plots we make up.
I think the irony of it is that all of the choices we make are the hardest part. It comes to a point where I end up putting too much on tracks and then I need to take things away. At a certain point, putting on too many layers takes away from specific layers having a sort of strength. So I think the biggest challenge is knowing when to stop."
Paul is looking forward to Savoir Adore's return to SXSW, and Paul hopes that the vibrant community which envelops the event will add to the energy and adventure that SXSW so frequently offers those who wish to explore and discover new music.
"Oh man...I'm just happy we're going back. We haven't been there or two years, and I really enjoy most of all the energy there, walking down the streets, reconnecting with friends from across the country, and the other bands. And also, the possibility of just walking into a venue and seeing a band that just completely blows you away. I remember the last time I was there, that happened a number of times, just stumbling around and someone mentions, 'Oh, you've got to see this new band,' and you wind up in this venue to see some band and it's like alt-J, and you're like 'holy shit!' That's really the only place where that can happen so easily, you know? On the other hand, I'm not looking forward to being completely exhausted for the rest of the week."
Hammer also discussed what really brought about his interest in experimenting with certain sounds which encompass a genre he has dubbed "adventure pop," and the pivotal point from which Savoir Adore first began revolutionizing their previously lo-fi sound. He went on to discuss the ways in which that type of well-produced, carefully orchestrated arrangement can be translated into a more free set list when he's on tour with the rest of the band, so that the crowd can be immersed in the surreal planes of sound Savoir Adore has come to create. The important component for Savoir Adore lies within the ability to maintain the energetic base from which all of the complexities and intricacies of their sound stem.
"A lot of it has to do with wanting to capture a little bit more of a polished sound. The first record was very much a continuation of our origins, and we really started the project as a total experiment, and almost a lo-fi one, in the sense that most of the sounds and most of the songs that were captured on the first record were sort of the first time we were even playing them or writing them. When we stepped back and started working on Our Nature, we purposefully wanted to sound bigger, more carefully arranged, cleaner, a progression. It's the fact that we started from a lo-fi place that actually made it easier. To be honest, it started with "Dreamers," because we wrote dreamers first, and that set a larger, more theatrical musical tone, and it was really building from there.
I think it's from a lot of the bands that really inspired us. It's sort of a combination of things, like the old sixties wall of sound recordings, and the layered harmonies of that stuff, but also folk music, because that, in a way, was our roots. It was coming from more of this traditional stance. But also modern bands, like Sigur Ros, which is larger than life, and almost feels out of this world, really. When you listen to a Sigur Ros record, it's like everything from the vocals to the layering, and arrangements. And also bands like Cocteau Twins, where there's just such a focus on tension and beauty within the vocals. That always ends up being a focus point especially when we're polishing melodies and stuff. It's about how we can take vocals and make them an additional element of beauty in a way, on top of everything.
It's a combination of things, but what I really like, and what I always come back to, is the idea that it's an energetic sort of set, but there's also a world to get lost in with the music. The lush guitar stuff that Alex and I do combined with the sort of continuous dance beat is a thing that all of my favorite bands sort of do. Bands like Cut Copy or St. Lucia have these really lush arrangements but also on top of that lots of energy. I hope that same sort of thing comes across in our set."
Since childhood, Hammer has always had an inclination to learn the skills necessary for songwriting and production, and through these early influences had a coming of age moment in which his journey with Savoir Adore began following the allure and inspiration the city had to offer.
"I think it's definitely my dad, at the end of the day. My father was a songwriter and also a composer for film and T.V., so always being around that and seeing how much he enjoyed it, and also because he taught me all the basics of things when I was growing up, like recording, playing the piano, playing guitar. So, strangely enough, when I went to college it was not to study music originally. But being in New York, I realized it had always been inside me, and then from there, it came from going to open mic nights and stuff, and seeing people perform. I was just continuously being inspired by people coming forward musically. So by the time I started doing it, it kind of was a no-brainer."
Since many songs in the band's latest work incorporate an almost orchestral sound, I wondered if there were any instruments that really stood out to create the distinct tones within the bigger picture.
"I would say the most unusual instrument I've experimented with, because it's played a big role in the new record, is the dulcimer, a hammered dulcimer. I ended up getting one and creating some samples and just cutting that up. It's in like four or five songs now on the new record."
I also asked Hammer about any other aspects of art that he has found interest in, and which of the many Savoir Adore remixes he likes best.
"I've always been very into visual arts, like performance arts and fine arts. I got married last year to a painter, and so living with her and seeing her process has completely fall in love with painting again. Seeing a different process in a different art form with the same kind of passion going into it, it's super inspiring."
There were a lot that I just loved. We had this one collaboration that we did with French Horn Rebellion, a song called 'The Fire,' and Autograf remixed the song and that was probably my favorite. Since then, I've been following all of Autograf's songs, I think his stuff is amazing. That was probably my number one, and then I really liked the 'Regalia' remix that Mighty Five did as well."
With all that is said and done, Savoir Adore will be one of the many acts at SXSW this year that will certainly have a unique and innovative sound, and plenty to offer for those looking to lose themselves to some very immersive and dream-like hits. The raw energy they provide will be a gateway to what is still to come for the act, as they progress with a new lineup and revitalized sound.