With an output of 7 Parquet Courts albums, a handful of EPs and a solo album, Andrew Savage, or A Savage, as he is also known, is a busy guy. But even with his impressive output with Parquet Courts, Savage has found time to develop a parallel career as a visual artist, having just held a major exhibition of his paintings in LA.
With all that going on, its surprising he has time to tour, yet he and his bandmates will be in Auckland for Laneway this coming January. Radio 13's Marty Duda chats with A Savage just as he's about to embark on a European tour.
MD: So you’re playing at the Laneway Festival here in Auckland in the end of January, Do you approach these festival shows any differently than your normal headlining things?
AS: Yes and no, I do approach them differently because you have to because they are very different, I approach them differently in the way that I kind of…it’s different playing for a lot of different people at a festival, many of which who properly are, it’s likely many people don’t know who you are because they are there for possibly someone else, whereas at a gig someone is specifically there to see your band. So yeah I guess my headspace is different going in but as far as the show goes, we don’t really alter the show for a festival crowd other than some sort of time limit, which there often is at festivals, but as far as the set goes, you are getting the set.
MD: Excellent. I saw you guys play at a place called the Kings Arms here in Auckland back in 2015
AS: Yeah, with The Courtneys. That was a good show.
MD: Yeah it was, it was a Monday night but it was like, far out! It really went off. So look forward to seeing you guys again. So for folks who saw you at the Kings Arms and who are going to see you 3 years later, to you how has the band changed? What are people going to experience differently than the last time you guys were here?
AS: Well, there’s new material, and in saying that obviously there’s change in sound and songs, just the way any band would change in the course of 4 years as individuals and as artists. I guess one can expect that. Change is a funny thing when you’re in a band especially one that is as busy as Parquet Courts, because it’s a hard thing to document, especially because we’ve been writing, recording, and touring pretty much nonstop for the past 6 years. So change is kind of a hard thing to see from the inside. It’s like someone asks you, when you’re a kid, how much have you grown when someone like a relative points out how much you’ve grown. And you’re like “Really, have I? I don’t know, I’m just a kid”. Kind of like that, I would maybe be more interested in what you think after you see the show, how we’ve changed.
MD: I guess one of the bands that come to mind to compare to after hearing the newest album compared to what I’ve heard before would be the Talking Heads. I’ve noticed that’s come up several times in other people. Do you find that an appropriate comparison?
AS: Well, sure, great New York band. Who am I to say if that’s an appropriate or inappropriate comparison? People could say we sound like Xanadu. I would think they’d be wrong, but it doesn’t mean that they’re wrong in thinking that. So I love the Talking Heads, I’m flattered by that, certainly.
MD: Alrighty. You guys have put out 6 albums since 2011, plus a couple EP’s, a live album, you’ve done a solo thing. Is there creativity coursing through your blood? What is it that drives you to put out that body of work in that short period of time?
AS: Well, I’d hope it’s the same drive that any artist has, to be prolific. I can’t really take credit for it being in my blood. I work really hard at it and I keep busy and I’m always challenging myself. I don’t want to give my blood too much credit here because I think a lot of it is just us working really hard.
MD: Right. And another thing you do on the side, even additionally, I was looking at your website, and the artwork you’ve been working on for the past years is fairly impressive as well.
AS: Thanks for checking that out. If you look at the painting section on that website, the top 20 of them, I just had a show in LA. It was a huge show. It took up pretty much the last year of my life.
MD: That’s incredible, on top of everything you are doing with the band. That just goes to prove you are indeed driven. Maybe for folks who haven’t seen what you do with your art, maybe you could somehow describe it , or tell people where you’re coming from in that direction.
AS: If they’ve seen Parquet Courts records they’ve seen my art. Not all of it is paintings which is a lot of what I do outside of parquet courts, painting. So if you’ve seen Parquet Courts if you’ve seen my art because most visual stuff comes from Parquet Courts. I’ve got a lot of side of my art that a lot of people haven’t seen because a lot of people don’t know that I’m a visual artist as well as being an artist in music, but yeah, check out A-Savage.com. You can see all my stuff up there and I update it pretty regularly.
MD: Right. I notice you’ve been nominated for a Grammy for best record packaging.
AS: That was for Human Performance, yeah.
MD: And are you influenced by other record covers or was that something you looked at when you were growing up? Where does the interest in the art come from?
AS: Yeah, the medium of the album cover is a fascinating one. To me dating back from a young age just getting into records, it definitely was something that’s always been important to me. So when it came time and it happened a long time ago when there was opportunity to do…the first band I was ever in made a 7 inch and when there was time to do the artwork for that, ‘Alright, well here’s a chance to do something’. And you know I’ll be honest, it was shit, it wasn’t great but it was my first chance.
MD: So it just evolved from there?. Does the music affect or do you think about the music and how that’s reflected on the artwork or are they separate things?
AS: Of course I do. When I’m working on something for Parquet Courts, naturally I’m listening to the album a lot and trying to stress how to basically figure out how I can, present a curiosity to whoever happens to see this album artwork, whether they’re acquainted with the band or not, my idea is that it makes you want to hear what’s on the inside. And that also it’s congruent with the sounds that are on there too, so it helps with listening to the record a lot.
MD: And when you are doing these art exhibitions, are the people who attend these things a cross section of the same people who might go to a concert or are they completely different kinds of beasts?
AS: At this point I’ m not with the gallery or anything so a lot of people that are familiar with my work are familiar with it through the music. That’s understandable. The last big show I had which was last week at Los Angeles…there is a lot of people who just heard about me as a painter and not just as a musician.
MD: And do you have a preference or do you kind of enjoy straddling the line between both?
AS: I’m flattered if someone wants to pay attention to my artwork in any capacity. So I don’t know if I have a preference, I think it’s nice for me whenever there’s someone who knows about my artwork independently of the music because that means it’s kind of speaking for itself a bit.
MD: Right. Getting back to music, I notice on your setlists you’re covering a Ramones song, Today Your Love Tomorrow The World, which seems kind of odd in that it’s a rather obscure Ramones song out of the canon you could have chosen from. Who came up with the idea to do that?
AS: I play the song it on the omnichord. It was just something that when I was playing the omnichord and we were practising that song, ‘we were like oh this is fun, what else can we play on here?’ we wanted to do a Ramones song and we kind of decided to do that one because it seems like the lyrics, it’s almost like they foresaw some sort of prediction of Trump’s insecurity: ‘Little German boy tired of getting pushed around’, you know? Kind of funny now when I hear that song.
MD: It’s kind of bizarre because I think if Johnny was still around he’d probably be a Trump supporter.
AS: Oh yeah certainly he would. But that was a song that Joey wrote the lyrics for and of course Joey sang. I think if Joey was around the betting man would say he would not be.
MD: I would say so, absolutely. I know with Wide Awake you got Danger Mouse, Brian Burton, to produce the album. Looking back on that experience how did you feel about having a producer come in for the first time to work with the band? Do you feel it was a successful venture?
AS: I mean to be really honest the record wouldn’t be the same without Brian so I’m indebted to him for encouraging us as much as he did, and it wouldn’t be the same record without him so it was a totally new experience and I am happy that it went, there’s a lot of reservations when you do that for the first time, and I’m happy that I can now call him a friend and we came out with Wide Awake honestly, a record we had written already but certainly would have been a different beast had he not been involved.
MD: Was it strange to have an outsider just in general no matter who it was, come in and work with the four of you who have kind of done everything yourself up until then?
AS: Yes sure, but I guess he kind of respected his position as an outsider. He didn’t try to be anything different. He realised he was an outside and he realised this was a band that was conceptually heavy, that knows how to make records that doesn’t need a producer to make records. He also got that we were trying to figure out something new so ultimately it’s a record I’m really proud of so I’m happy that it exists in the way it is and Brian was able to be involved with it.
MD: Are you thinking in terms of the next record? It’s been 9 or 10 months since the previous.
AS: Oh yeah. Of course we’re thinking about the next record, yeah.
MD: Any thoughts you can share with us?
AS: I think mum’s gonna be the word right now. It’s pretty early stages but we just had a pretty big conversation about it recently so it’s definitely something that’s happening
MD: Cool. And you’re heading off to Europe next, right?
AS: Yes that’s right.
MD: Anything you do to prepare for overseas ventures like that or are you chilling out at home until it happens?
AS: I wish that were the case. I’ve got visual projects that I’m working on. I’ll be working on that until the day I leave, so you know what, I don’t get much time to chill. I don’t chill much.
MD: Alrighty, well there you go. It’s good to be creative and you gotta go with it when it’s happening.
AS: For sure!