Friday, April 13, 2012
Interview: Sauna Youth!
Photo by Robin Silas Christian
Super excited to offer up a new interview up from one of London's favourite Punk bands, Sauna Youth. Interview done by everyone in the band all at once.
For anyone new to Sauna Youth let's have a quick run down of who you are and what you play?
MINCE plays the bass. HARPER sings and is our M. Swope. PINES plays the guitar and that's it. BOON plays the drums and sings as well.
Have you been in or currently in any other bands?
Currently - Tense Men, Pines, Feature, Moon Gangs. Beefy and the Balls. Juliet & The Romeos. Kasabian II and David Hackney, Female Bonding. I'm probably forgetting some.
What do you want to achieve with playing music in Sauna Youth?
To entertain ourselves and relieve general boredom, for a start. Also being in a band seems to have the innate ability to create interesting experiences and we’re all about interesting experiences.
Your sound is heavily set in Punk, are there any Punk bands in particular you look up to?
The Undertones, Chrome, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Suicide, Fucked Up, Swell Maps, Wire, Career Suicide. The Ramones of course. I feel like there is one ur-band who would encapsulate all those but I can't think who it is right now..........Abba?
What do you think has changed from English Punk in say the 70s to Punk today?
It's changed from being all about spiky haircuts to spiky, cutting comments on the internet. I actually have no idea. I guess the ability to access pretty much everything recorded from every era and location in the world almost instantaneously has had quite a weird effect… lots of archiving, very accurate re-interpretations, and the rise of micro-influences. Less leather? More Leather?
Megaupload just got shut down, as a band who utilize Bandcamp, Blogs et al, what do you make of the digital age and the government trying to put a cap on it? I mean it's so different to when we were kids and hearing about music was limited to word-of-mouth, magazines and record stores, yet - with control being enforced in the digital world, tapes are seeing a resurgence which brings back the human touch, it's a really interesting time...
I'm not really sure what I think of it. Obviously, people will find another way to share stuff they like again even if all those sites get shut down. It's impossible to stop completely, its kind of like a hydra where you cut off one head and another comes back in its place. Maybe I'm thinking of a worm or something. I'm not sure because I remember what it was like to have to wait 3 weeks to get a CD I ordered from the record shop only to find out that it totally stank. There is something inherently satisfying about searching for something online and hearing it a couple of minutes later. There is definitely music I like because of hearing it on mp3 first. And now there are people who ape the bit-rate quality of the mp3 encoding process in their music, yknow, its part of the sound now... I still like and buy records though...We made the choice very early on to always have physical objects, records as artefacts, just to prove we were/are here.
Do you prefer playing or recording?
They are wildly different spheres for us. When we play live there's usually a whole load of other factors that have influenced how the show goes - whether we've had a boring day at work, how drunk we are, how much coffee has been imbibed, whether we’re excited to play the show, etc etc you know, its infinite. With recording there's a goal in mind, you're trying to do your best to capture it for posterity. We’ve been recording ourselves for the start which has had positive and negative results, positive – it’s very cheap, we get to record songs we don’t even know how to play and we get to try out a lot of different things, it can be a lot of fun for the most part… the negatives mainly include going completely mental not knowing what you’re doing and trying to figure out if all those different things you’ve tried out are in fact total shit. In answer to your question, playing live as it only takes 25 minutes to do.
Listening to your lyrics, it seems like they tell stories of conflict in people. I notice what I think are references to the young linked with politics in single 'Youth', but also everyday humdrum, relationships and (avoiding) self reflection - like the 'Mad Mind' cassette. I was wondering if the thread in your songs is exploring human experience? If so, what does it mean to you to tell stories from this viewpoint?
One of the most important things in life is isolating discontent because its far more dangerous when it goes undiscovered or hidden, so the lyrics are maybe a way of bringing the unspoken to the surface. We don't really believe in political songs, we would hate to write something that’s contrived and general sounding. The personal stuff is what interests us, I’m fascinated by people, the mundane aspects of life, people's experiences, the ways we can transcend ourselves and connect with others, so that's what we write about. The truest metaphors are taken from first-hand experience.
How would you describe London's music scene to someone who hasn't been here?
Gory. There's only 4 bands. It's sometimes like posting the most embarrassing photo on facebook and everybody liking it.
What's been the most memorable show you've played so far? That Total Control show just before Christmas, I have to say, was awesome...
Thanks, that was a good one, and kind of a turning point perhaps. It was one of the first shows after RON left to went back to the mountains again. Playing in Murray’s old bedroom in Southampton ages ago was definitely a highlight for several reasons, 1 – everybody had a lot of fun 2 – we managed to play all the songs off the MAD MIND tape having never rehearsed them or played them together before 3 – it was the first sighting of coffee man 4 – there were loads of old VHS tapes there which were perfect for wrapping round an entire room of people.
What's been the best show you've ever attended?
The last best one that I can remember was Straightjacket Nation in a huge warehouse somewhere in south London that our friend Bryony put on. Pretty awesome. They did a Saints cover. HARPER says when Prize Pets played their last show at YES WAY festival.
As far as I can tell two of your singles are self released, how did you find the process of putting out a record?
The Desperate Bicylces quote 'it was cheap, it was easy, go and do it' is not necessarily applicable to putting out a 7" in 2012.
A lot of Sauna Youth material is self recorded, did you have much experience before hand with recording or did you suss things out along the way?
BOON had been learning through his job and figured he could do it - it's been a steep learning curve. Especially as our methodology to doing it changes every time - case in point being when he had to rerecord just the snare drum to our whole album....nause.
Based on some things I've read, and correct me if I'm wrong, it sounds like recordings are executed with a loose approach. Is it important for you guys work on instinct when recording? For me, it would definitely explain where that high-raw-energy quality comes from that makes your songs stand out so much...
We don't really practice that much, so any loose-ness is probably attributable to that. We don't try to finesse it too much, the one time we did made it sound weird and lifeless. So perhaps any rawness is explained like that, instinctual is maybe a good way to describe it. Like a WILD ANIMAL!
BOON says – you know when you’re watching a band and it’s so loud that you can’t really tell what’s going on but it sounds amazing and you start to hear all these hidden melodies and noises that aren’t really there but the sheer volume of it just creates them? Well, I try to go for something like that but faced with the abstract notion of volume and how to tackle the fact that someone could just turn it down I mainly end up putting a lot of layers of 'free guitar' on all the recordings.
What do you as a band have planned for 2012?
We have an album coming out on FAUX DISCX, and later a split with Omi Palone and 2 others on Paradise Vendors, Inc and DISTRACTIONS III - a magazine with a flexidisc. And a 7” of songs sung by HARPER is in the works.
What do you have playing on your record player at home at the moment?
Bela Bartok String Quartet no 2. I was listening to it and my housemate came in to tell me what a drunk, rude fuckhead I head been the previous evening and it started skipping right on cue. NOT EVEN JOKING. BOON says Veronica Falls, Royal Headache and the Surburbanite 7” , HARPER says Living Ultra, MINCE likes the Marked Men and The Raincoats a lot right now.
"I'm full of dust and guitars" - Syd Barrett, if you were split in half what would be inside?
"... too much blood, too much blood. Oh yeah.." - Rolling Stones.
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