Let us start with some basic background. Who is this Savage Lucy character and explain to us how you came to settle on that name?
Austen Ramsay Lewis – Richard and I are basically two mates that pretty much developed a relationship through music. We met each other in that pretence. We used to be in a band together and we had some other members involved in that [project]and after that project was kind of annulled we decided we wanted to start another project – something a bit more vicious, a but more risky and literally savage in a sense. Savage Lucy comes from the Hunter S. Thompson novel. There are a lot of pulls in it such as LSD…
Richard Becker – If you check out the character in the book, Savage Lucy [embodies]a form of innocence lost.
How long had you guys been together before you won the Emerging Sound Challenge – when did you start the band?
AL – 6 or 7 months. We started Savage Lucy a couple of months into .
And what was the previous project you were involved in called?
AL – We called ourselves Murkwood. It was also a progressive band and some of the tracks we use in Savage [are from]Murkwood. Murkwood had a vocalist, keys and it had a bit of different feel to it. But before that I played in hip hop bands and I also played in an indie thrash metal band when I was young. So it has really changed a lot from even before Murkwood. I’ve always tried to diversify shit that I got involved in and that led up to Savage [incorporating]many genres. It runs through a lot of different stuff so it keeps us interested.
What happened to Murkwood?
AL – I think it was not functional. There was lots of tension within the band. Many bands can get tense and there could be things that harbour the enjoyment of what you do and at the end of the day you’ve gotta enjoy what you do. So I think for us the best move was Savage Lucy. Even since we started Savage we had a [different]drummer involved who left our band and now we’ve got Steven [Bosman] playing drums, but the main [motive]behind the band has been mine and Richard’s relationship. We have a relationship where we are productive, things are good between us, tensions are annulled as quick as they start and we work hard. We are both very picky about what we do – we can be critical because we are both critical. We don’t criticise each other and feel like, ‘Ah, well who the fuck are you?’. We enjoy it because it’s going to better the product and at the end of the day you’re entertaining people and that’s what its about.
As you ended Murkwood and Savage came along, was the decision to make it an instrumental band a conscious one and how did you come to this decision?
RB – Its kind of weird. Basically Murkwood was 5 people and Savage Lucy was 3 of those 5 members. We were very reluctant to actually start Savage Lucy for a long time out of respect for the other 2 members [of Murkwood]. The band split and 3 of us still wanted to play together but for a good 4 months we held off and we just wouldn’t [do Savage]. We wanted to but we knew that it wasn’t right. Eventually it got to a point where everything blew over and [the 3 of us]were still all there and wanting to jam. So we were like, ‘Fuck it, let get over this shit and do Savage’.
AL – I’ve narrowed my life down to playing guitar; it’s what I do. Being a musician is who I am. For me, playing music with Richard and back then with Levi [on drums], it was like we were brothers. That was my friend group and music is what we did for fun but it was also our work. We had no choice but to join back up and do Savage. We all liked what we play and we all liked the music we’re into. I mean Levi now has a band called Paving The Labyrinth and that’s what he’s focused on and doing. Its cool because his art is now being expressed and now we have a drummer involved who is focused on pushing what we’re doing. The creative process and the people that have come in and out of it have led it to this. Every single person that has been in this band has put energy into it and it’s maintained. I think the lesson in that is to try hold things together. No matter how big or small it is, you’ve got to keep it progressing. You can’t quit or let go of it. You will have bad shows and you will have good shows. We are probably going to play to 200 or 300 people here at Oppikoppi and we go to the Boh next week and we could play to 5. In this industry you must know that its fickle. You must understand that you can’t be a hotshot – You just gotta work towards this product that is based on good vibes and spread it.
Being a band without a vocalist, the narrative, themes and imagery become more important. Take us through the overall theme of your Verstaan EP. What are you trying to make the listeners understand?
RB – That’s a tricky one. Our music has got no lyrics and our art doesn’t have any words either, It is very visual. Its pushing the system in a sense. It is very post modern and it takes a lot of ideas and meshes them together into new forms. If you’ve seen the artwork, the more you look at it the more you see. Its also about seeing what you want to see. I’ve got such varied reactions from what people see – some people will just say its all illuminati but that’s just what they see.
AL – There’s also mushrooms and entheogens and the fight. You’ll see on one side its bankers versus the marijuana leaf which translates to the establishment versus creativity. There are two bodies, a man and a woman joining – which represents synergy. And these bodies are getting shot at in the middle from a microphone and there’s a TV shooting pills and bullets. You can pull many things from it but there are blatant motives there. What we stand for is literally – fuck the economic system, fuck people standing on people’s heads to get by. Lets love, lets support each other. That’s our vibe. We’re going on stage in an hour to try evoke happiness and take people through dynamics of wanting to cry and then to dynamics where they’re just laughing because that’s life. I guess we’re trying to be mirrors in a sense – we are reflecting what we’ve seen. Richard has pushed me into looking at alternative media and looking at what’s really going on. You’ll hear the [recorded]speech at the beginning of our set and its very integral to what we’re actually looking at. It will explain a lot. Our form of lyrics are samples, so we’ll put chicks voices on and speeches – things where we don’t actually have to speak in a sense. Also, trying to portray that to a crowd requires tons of energy. You need to play expressively with all your might. Some of the guitar parts are too techy for an average dude to get on with, but if [we’re] rocking it and we’re in it, the [audience]will know how to feel it. You have to lead the crowd to where you want them to go in a sense.
As you said, you guys travel through a variety of soundscapes. Some songs start off jazzy and lead into metalcore kind of choruses. It is not the easiest of tasks creating music that links such varied sounds to one idea seamlessly. Did any of you have any professional music training and how long have you been playing your instruments?
AL – I have studied music production for a year and I did guitar for three years.
RB – I’m not schooled on any level really. Other than two lessons I got from Carlo Mombelli a few years back, I’m pretty much self-taught.
AL – Over the years Richard is someone who has learnt by ear and we have influenced each other. In the beginning we would write songs and Rich would try things out and bring his own vibe to sit in the song. And I love that because when Richard approaches a bass riff it is not how I would approach it, so you suddenly have two layers which flow together rather than this one thing. It makes sure our stuff isn’t monotonous. The bass rhythm could be different to the guitar and they just flow in between the drumming patterns.
RB – Being instrumental we can get away with that. If you’ve got vocals it would just distract from the vocal melody. So we have freedom to play around a bit.
You guys are very independent – from recording your EP in a garage all yourselves to all the art being done in-house.
Steve Grenfelt and Jeff Strodl are two dudes that we have mentioned. Even Simon Foulds, we had a tough relationship with him but in the end we can’t lie and he’s helped us out. The opportunities we received through him have got us places. All the artwork and production has been on Richard’s side and when it comes to our branding, our website and all our marketing tools, it’s all on Richard. I don’t have the [visual]art capabilities or that mental side. I am musically creative but when it comes to infrastructure of selling and stuff I am not good like that. Its all these forms of skills coming together to create a fully independent machine.
With the advent of internet and the birth of the information age, the local and global scenes are moving rapidly towards the path of being fully independent and doing it all yourself. Do you guys have any advice for anyone who wants to start a band or partake in the music industry?
AL – There’s a lot of dudes who hold back from giving guys advice because they don’t want to be eaten in a sense by their own advice. What I would want someone to say to me is that it’s going to be fucking hard, it’s going to be long, you’re not going to make a lot of money and if you don’t love it you’re going to fucking feel like shit. You literally have to not stop no matter what you do. If you half decent at music or anything you do and you keep doing it at some point someone will see it. It could take ten years. Look at the Parlotones before they won emerging sounds, it was ten years as a band. You never know the timing. We’re playing Oppi but we’ve only been together two and a half years so we’re still babies. They created this slot for us and we’re like, ‘Woah! Ok lucky’. Its unexpected because we’re instrumental and we’re not easy listening. Who knows, you might be lucky and you might not. There’s not one route – just don’t stop.
RB – Also, you can’t underestimate the hustle.
AL – You gotta hustle. We don’t have a manager and I literally take it as my task to hustle and get a hold of dudes and get in the right spots. Gareth Wilson is someone that got us into Oppi, and I just hustled him and I won’t stop. I’m so relentless ‘cause in a sense this is what we’ve got and this is my life. If I want to wake up and do something I’m gonna wake up and work as hard as I can. The fact that I’m here at Oppi sitting with The Fuss doing an interview is amazing. If this is possible [now], then what is possible next year? I’ve still got this bangle from when I was at Oppi 3 years ago and I said then, ‘In 3 years time I will play here’ and now we’re here. You’ve gotta fool and lie yourself sometimes. If you’re honest with yourself – you’re just a drop in the ocean. But if you can stand up and have full belief in what you’re doing, people around you will notice. Just make sure you don’t do it for anyone else but yourself
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a band and how did you overcome it?
RB – I think it was Levi leaving.
AL – Holding the band together has been difficult. Keeping members and dealing with politics with members and getting your friendship balanced with your creativity. When you walk in the rehearsal room you leave your friendship outside. We’re creating a product and we want it to be good so we will tune each other and there will be tense vibes. So the hardest thing has been dealing with the emotional level of 3 characters making one thing. As soon as you got 2 guitarists, a bassist, a vocalist and a drummer then you got 5 people and I can’t imagine what that’s like – we’re not in that situation. With just the 3 of us it can be challenging. Coordinating 3 different people and their lives to this thing is a feat. Being creative at the end of the day you can just sit at home smoke a joint and just write and write and write. Many guitarists spend a lot of time doing that and then don’t know how to create a band. Getting from that phase to a band is a whole ‘nother story – it’s developing a relationship with peers and it’s a hard thing to hold together but its possible.
This is your first ever performance at Oppikoppi and in the local scene this festival is literally the top of the hill, it is the holy grail. How do you feel about being on the bill?
AL – Fucking honoured. The fact that we’re even here doing this is mind blowing. I’m so shocked. When Gareth Wilson messaged me that mail and I sent it to Rich, we were both almost in tears. We love what we do. We’re in this mix of trying to take our art seriously and trying to take our careers seriously and its like, ‘Can we do this?’. Everyone asks themselves is this going to be possible. I guess we’re sitting here with you, but a couple years ago we played in bands with you and we all started at the bottom and now we’re here. So we can see that we’re growing up and becoming apart of this scene – this scene is us. Then there’s also responsibility, and ours right now is to get up on stage and just go completely ape shit. Make sure that we deserve to be here.
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