Thursday, February 11, 2010

Interview with Savoir Adore

My interview with Deidre Muro and Paul Hammer of Savoir Adore can be found over at Frequency (and below). This was my first field interview and I definitely had to prepare myself with a brisk walk around the LES and a stiff drink. I was very nervous but Deidre and Paul could not have been more sweet and easy to talk to. Plus, their performance later on in the night was the best I've seen them play. If you are in the NYC area you should definitely check them out tonight or next Thursday at their Cake Shop residency. I promise you won't be disappointed! If you're a little further away, download their album In The Wooded Forest and just try to not get "We Talk Like Machines" stuck in your head. I've been singing it all day...

How did you two start writing together? How did you begin collaborating musically?

Deidre Muro: We knew each other from NYU and then we were both kind of doing solo stuff for quite a while and we challenged each other to one weekend, we were like "Oh, we've never done anything together before. Let's go upstate to your Dad's studio - which is awesome that we have access to - and we'll make a concept album in one weekend, just for fun. Let's do it!" So we did and that was it and we gave it to a couple friends and it kind of blossomed from there.

Paul Hammer: Yeah and that sort of created the band. We were encouraged - it's funny, it's not very often that from an early stage there's a record label that's encouraging you to record more and through strange connections we knew the guys at Cantora Records. David, who plays guitar with us, he was working on MGMT's EP and he gave Will at Cantora Records our EP and they said "Why don't you guys just go upstate again and see what can happen?" So we went up for a weekend and wrote half of what's on the album now. So yeah it just kind of worked for us, that formula I guess.

Can you talk more about the songwriting process? Do you guys come to the table with a blank slate or do you both bring previous ideas and kind of bounce them off one another?

D: I mean, often it's a blank slate. We get in a room together and just kind of pick up different instruments and play at the same time and have something recording and then we'll go back and listen to it.

P: We've done it a bunch of different ways but our main go-to thing is we set up one microphone in the middle of the room and it's usually me on drums and Deidre on keyboard or bass or guitar. We sort of move around because we recorded all the instruments on the record. We record stuff until something feels good and then it's like "OK, there's an idea" and we copy and paste it. Then we look over the pieces - we call them nuggets - and if there is a really strong idea we just develop it.

D: But we've done it other ways too where Paul will record something like a guitar part and send it to me and I'll do some lyrics or vocals or whatever and then we'll flesh it out that way. The most exciting is when we just get in a room together and press record because it's so impulsive. By recording what were doing in the moment we can absolutely capture...

P: ...capture like the very birth of the song in its purest form. It comes through and it works, that's why certain things vibe.

You started with the concept EP The Adventures Of Mr. Pumpernickel And The Girl With Animals In Her Throat and now you've released a full-length LP In The Wooded Forest. How has your music evolved since you started playing?

D: It's definitely evolving. I hope it remains in a constant state of evolution. I mean we're always learning new things and we're always getting into new music. The first thing was legitimately a fluke, how we got together and so we're growing from that. I think if we kept sounding the same it would be really sad. For us it would be sad.

P: I think part of what drives the both of us is that we're interested in not only playing different instruments but also discovering new sounds, writing in new ways...

D: ...and recording too...

P: it really informs the songwriting process for us. It will naturally continue to evolve. Even after the first EP we were like that was great as it was but now we really wanted to develop a few more songs that were a little more fleshed out with developed parts and maybe thicker in the instrumentation so I definitely think the full album sounds very different than the EP.

Yeah, I think so too.

D: And whatever we do next will sound different from the both of those.

P: And that's not to say that that's the right way for every band to constantly have a new sound...

D: No, but it's in line with us.

P: It's in line with how we started which was very much an experiment and I think that's how we're going to keep getting the purest form of what we started with.

The name "Savoir Adore" is French and means "to know love..."

P: Roughly.

How did that become your name and were there any other names you were seriously considering?

D: It's such a ridiculous story, we just told this story to someone else. We were in the studio together for some odd reason. It was like January 2006.

P: I think it was upstate. Deidre and I, before this project, we were playing shows together. We were like best friends and we were just doing things that weren't necessarily a band.

D: We recorded an ambient demo thing and I was like "Ooo Paul I really want to be able to listen to it!" and he was like "Ha ha ha, I'll just make a MySpace page."

P: "We'll put it up there."

D: Oh! That's why, we were talking about French and I whispered some French on that track.

P: That's right you sang French on the track.

D: And Paul said, "Oh, let's just call the page Savoir Adore." And I was like, "Oh, OK I guess so." We didn't make the EP until 11 months later.

P: It just fit really well into the idea of what we do. We were talking about the beauty of the French language and to me, "Savoir Adore" means a lot. It's not a literal translation or anything but...

D: (in a cutesy voice) Love.

P: (mimics) Love. (they laugh) I think the idea "to know love" is a very powerful idea and it accidentally really fit in with what we are doing. But like a lot of our music it sort of just popped up. We were like, "We need a band name! Savoir Adore? OK."

D: "Got it! I want to eat now..." (laughs)

I think that you guys sound a lot like Arcade Fire. Do you get that a lot?

D: We have gotten that.

P: A couple times, yeah.

I'm sure you don't intentionally try to sound like any other artists, but who would you say your influences are?

D: That question is so hard to answer because realistically, we're influenced by everything. Everything we've ever listened to.

P: Musical and nonmusical.

D: Paul was raised on a lot of Beatles, classical music...

P: A lot of jazz.

D: ...and I was raised on Beatles, classical, a lot of 90s rock.

P: We have a lot of divergent tastes as well. At the time we wrote this record I was listening to primarily Ryan Adams.

D: ...and I think like Gogol Bordello and old cabaret music and 60s French pop. We try to accommodate each other's little personalities peaking out every now and then. At the time we made the EP, I loved Arcade Fire.

P: Me too.

D: So it's not surprising I guess.

P: There's always going to be those comparisons that come through whether it's based on the music or the fact that we're a boy and a girl - we get Mates of State a lot which I don't really understand because I don't think we sound like them.

D: The vocals are boy/girl.

P: We are a boy/girl vocal but I think the Arcade Fire thing is more in line for me at least. Their music is very explosive. Sort of emotionally explosive which I hope comes across with our stuff. People will always compare you to other bands and we're fans of Arcade Fire but I don't think there was ever a point where we wanted to sound like them.

D: It was never a conscious decision to sound like them.

P: Deidre and I have very different musical tastes.

D: We often butt heads.

P: We butt heads but we're also very respectful. If Deidre has a melodic idea, I'm just going to trust her because I know how amazing she is musically.

D:'re too kind.

P: It's true! We trust each other's opinions and we know that if we allow them to blend, something completely new and exciting is going to come out of it.

What are your favorite Savoir Adore songs to play live?

P: Ooo! "We Talk Like Machines" is my favorite.

D: "We Talk Like Machines" is really fun to play live. It's very satisfying. "TCP" is really fun to play live.

Do you do any cover songs?

P: That's really funny that you bring that up.

D: We're thinking of doing a cover of a Cocteau Twins song next week.

P: We were just talking about how much fun it would be to do more cover songs.

D: We're making a pact with ourselves to get a few more under our belt.

P: We've been playing a lot of the same songs for the last year. Obviously that's kind of what you do when you release an album but we realize that we really get a lot out of sneaking in new ideas...

D: It's rewarding to do something a little different.

P: We haven't come up with any other covers yet but Cocteau Twins "Iceblink Luck" may happen here next week!

You guys are based in Brooklyn. With so many bands coming out of Brooklyn nowadays, how do you ensure that you stay unique and relevant?

D: (laughs) How do we ensure that?

P: It's honestly something we can't even worry about.

D: We don't even think on that level.

P: We really don't.

D: We actually - and this is not to diss Brooklyn or the scene at all - but on a personal level we don't really identify with that too much because so much of our creative process happens in upstate New York.

P: Brooklyn is sort of new to us, it's exciting.

D: The only thing we can do to ensure staying unique is to be always honest and true with ourselves in what we want to do creatively. That's the only way you can be unique - be totally yourself...

P: Yeah.

D: ...and try not to do something scheming.

P: There are certain things that I feel if you really think about it can really drain you creatively. Thinking "How is my music going to be received?" should have nothing to do with why or how you create music, at least in my opinion. And I think what we've done so far is created all this music that really means a lot to us so far. Why would we let all that other stuff seep in?

D: I think people are not stupid. A lot of people can tell when you're doing something that's truly you or when you're watering it down or scheming...and I'm sorry to evilly laugh at your question but it's something that we talk about a lot, it's a topic that's so...

I think it's a topic a lot of people talk about because it's is such a "scene."

P: Yeah, and that really is the best way to answer that question. We will keep doing exactly what we have always wanted to do and remain honest with ourselves because at the very least it will be the truest form of what we want and how we approach the art. I think that will keep us unique. And I mean, as far as the Brooklyn stuff, if anything, there is so much music there that it has just sort of inspired us. It's not a setback or an obstacle, all this music. When we wrote most of this stuff we were both living in Manhattan and our music is completely created upstate so for the most part we're an upstate New York band. We just happen to live in Brooklyn now. And you know, at any given time you can go out and see a new band or a group of bands that are doing something you've never even heard and that's only a positive thing. Let it sink in, but don't worry about it. Don't let it freak you out. Let it excite you and I think that's the best thing we can do is to keep doing that.

What do you think you would be doing if you weren't playing music?

P: (very quickly) Chef.

D: Chef. And I would be...

P: Here it comes!

D: I would be - if I couldn't do any kind of music I would be a professional organizer.

Like closets?

D: More than closets though, there's so much...

P: There's so much more!

D: There are lives to be organized! There are a lot of aspects to it but basically helping people get where they want to be. A non-professional psychiatrist.

P: Savoir Adore isn't our money-making career yet. Hopefully it will be but right now...

D: We freelance.

P: We do a bunch of things in music. I teach guitar, I do post-production mixing with David who plays guitar with us and he and Deidre are dating so it's a lovely tangled web.

D: I do voice-overs for MTV.

P: She does voiceovers for we all do audio-related things whenever we can which is how we get by and it sort of funds this.

D: It would be one thing if you said, "If you couldn't do Savoir Adore what would you do?" I would think, "OK what other musical thing would I do?" But if I can't do music at all...

P: I would be a chef for sure! I still will be because I would love to do this for like 10 years but I'm going to get sleepy! At some time I'm not going to want to dance around on a stage and I'm just going to want to stand there and cook things.

But chefs have to work late too.

P: Yeah, that's true.

D: They have longer hours.

P: Maybe I can skip the whole chef thing and just jump right to chef/TV personality.

D: I think you want to be a restauranteur.

P: Oh yeah, but really that just means a rich person that likes to eat. What I really want to do, have you ever seen that TV show "Man vs. Food?" I want to be that guy.

D: What show?

P: "Man vs. Food"

D: Oh yeah, you've made me watch that.

P: He travels around the country doing food challenges. I've already got my Polaroid up in...

D: Three places?

P: Two.

(voice at the next table): Chicks dude!

P: Oh wow, Timmy...Timmy is our drummer.

(everyone laughs)

OK, last question. You get to curate your dream rock show. Savoir Adore is playing. Where do you play and who do you share the stage with?

P: That's a great question. I'll let you take the first one because I know what you're going to say.

D: What?

P: Jack White.

D: The first question was where do you play.

P: Oh, where do you play? Olympia, Paris.

D: Jack White in some form or another would be on the stage.

P: Whatever project he's currently...

D: Whatever one he wants. Solo? Fine, I'll take it. Jack White, that's number one. Solo on a kazoo, I'd take it.

P: Who else?

D: Well, I'll let you have one.

P: I don't know. I mean I would probably want The Police to play. Maybe they could open.

D: There's like a whole plethora of 80s and 90s groups that I would want.

P: It would be amazing if we could do Cocteau Twins, Jack White, then us. I think that'd be great, right?

D: Well, I think we should open.

P: We should open, yeah. It doesn't make any sense for us to play last.

D: That's a pretty good dream show for me.


  1. Cool interview, good questions for the first time out. They sounded like friends and it comes through in their music (I downloaded three songs free from MySpace - does that make me cheap?). And I agree with you about "We Talk Like Machines," that bass line had me from the first note.

  2. They sound fun. Let me know when they are playing this summer in New York.