To me, the key is to convince me that your music comes from a genuine place in your heart. Over the course of five albums, Les Savy Fav have been able to keep their form of danceable electronics from feeling soul-less. Instead, the energy and passion of their music is closer to the punk ethic of bands like Fugazi than the faceless electronic bands that are generally embraced by the cool kids. Their 2010 album, Root For Ruin is certain to land on our top ten list and ought to be on yours. Bassist Syd Butler talked with us about illegal downloading, songwriting and staying one step ahead of the hipsters.
TDOA: How’re you feeling about illegal downloading these days? On one hand, the internet has made it easier for more bands to enter the public consciousness, but it’s also allowed for the rise of free music. Any thoughts on how the music industry or labels like your own can survive in this landscape?
SB: For FKR, it’s a pain, but not in terms of free music. The real issues for us moving forward have to do with the press campaign. If a record leaks and you had little treats to dole out to fans months before the release, the treats become irrelevant. I wish fans/thieves could wait just a bit longer before stealing it and giving it out. Their impatience is killing a records life… or making it harder for labels/distros to do their job. It’s a bit of, you can have a kiss now, or you can get… later. Fans just want the kiss.
TDOA: There seems to be a lot of Les Savy Fav hype among hipsters. Do you take the Pitchfork, etc. adulation with a grain of salt, given the fickle nature of said hipsters?
SB: We are still happy the hipsters find LSF still relevant and choose to write about us. We get a lot of negative reviews from the Hipsters, but at least they are still finding time in their life to write about us at all.
TDOA: We absolutely adore Frenchkiss. Can you talk about how you determine what bands you want on the label? Isn’t there a difficult balancing act between just signing bands that sound good to you and the need to run a successful business?
SB: Thanks for the kind words. Signing a band… I think it’s a couple of things. Do I like the music? And more importantly, Do I like them as people?
TDOA: You guys have been together for around 15 years – what does it take to keep the sound (and relationship) fresh?
SB: We never practice or see each other.
TDOA: One of the things we’ve always loved about you is the rhythmic interplay of vocals, guitars and drums which remind us of Fugazi. Are we on the right trail?
SB: I grew up in DC and was a Dischord brat. I was lucky enough to grow up with Fugazi, Circus Lupus, Rites for Spring, Soul Side, Swiz, Shudder to think, Grey Matter etc. So, yes, the DC bass playing style must have rubbed off. I try and play as little as possible. This way i can remember my bass lines.
TDOA: Given the legendary status of your live shows, I’d be interested in knowing whether you prefer to play live or record in the studio.
SB: I love both. I wish we could afford the time and studio more often. But live is where we are allowed to take huge risks, if they fail, then we move on. On a record, you’re stuck with that risk forever.
TDOA: You’re obviously comfortable with Chris Zane as a producer. Can you describe his role in the studio? Does he provide any assistance in writing and arranging, shaping the sound of the record, or is he there purely to document what’s happening in the studio?
SB: Chris is like a brother to the band. He’s the glue. He provides emotional support, arranging, shapes and gently loves the record.
TDOA: Given that Tim takes a great deal of pride in his lyrics, can you describe the songwriting process? Some lyricists write melodies and words to match the music that’s been written, but I have trouble imagining Tim compromising his message just to “make the beat”.
SB: Music is written by Seth and myself mostly. Andrew is a new member and on the last two records he’s been a big part of helping our songs take form. We then send TIm the rough demos, he writes lyrics, then we all mold the songs as a band.
TDOA: Do you write while you’re touring or is that something that’s done during breaks?
SB: We try and write whenever we can. Sound checks, in the practice space, and at our houses.
TDOA: If you could banish one band from the planet, who would it be?
SB: Tough one…. as I might hate them, even the worst bands bring some joy to their audience. And I would never want to take that away.
TDOA: What’s next for Les Savy Fav?
SB: We tour on Root for Ruin
TDOA: Any sense of how long we’ll have to wait for a new record?
SB: One can dream!
To purchase the music of Les Savy Fav, visit iTunes:
In the U.S.
Les Savy Fav
or the U.K.
Les Savy Fav
Upcoming Tour Dates:
Dec 4 2010 Wonder Ballroom Portland, Oregon, US
Dec 5 2010 Neumos Seattle, WA
Jan 28 2011 Echoplex (below the Echo) Los Angeles, CA
Feb 1 2011 The Kings Arm Tavern Auckland, NEW ZEALAND
Feb 2 2011 San Francisco Bath House Wellington, Wellington, NZ
Feb 5 2011 Laneway Melbourne Melbourne, VIC, AUSTRALIA
Feb 6 2011 Laneway Sydney Sydney, Sydney, AUSTRALIA
Feb 8 2011 Billboard Melbourne, Victoria, AU
Feb 10 2011 Manning Bar Sydney, New South , AU
Feb 11 2011 Laneway Adelaide Adelaide, AU, AUSTRALIA
Feb 12 2011 Laneway Perth Perth, AU, AUSTRALIA
Feb 22 2011 Heaven London, ENG