Savages

By
Photography Gregory Harris

Published May 6, 2013

ABOVE: SAVAGES IN LONDON, APRIL 2013

With a wail so strangled it dissolves into hysterical hiccups, Savages singer Jehnny Beth takes an axe to holy matrimony on “Husbands,” a standout track from their dynamic debut, Silence Yourself (Matador/Pop Noire). It’s an appropriate introduction for an assaultive, all-female quartet who find less romance in comfortable cohabitation than in the brutality of human natureâ??so much so that they named their band after the latter.

“It was the idea that savagery lives in everyone; you choose to reveal it or not, use it or not. The idea that extreme poles of existence are closed and connected,” explains Beth, whose androgynous beauty and close-cropped hair mirrors a clear sonic influence: Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. “Also the idea that we should go back to simplicity, the whole process of getting rid of ideas more than trying to have new ones.”

The London-bred bandâ??composed of Beth on vocals, co-founder Gemma Thompson on guitar, Ayse Hassan on bass, and Fay Milton on drumsâ??nod back to the apex of 1980s post-punk with their turbulent, savvy fare. Recalling such malcontents as Siouxsie and the Banshees and Killing Joke, Savages carry a fierce and unrelenting pace on Silence Yourself, their bare-bones bass and percussion underpinning frantic discord between Beth and Thompson as the singer shouts down naysayers (“Shut Up”) and the guitarist lends squalid distortion to a tale of fetishistic violence (“Hit Me”).

Savages’ rise has been abrupt: Their first show was in January 2012 in Brighton, and in October, they roared through “Husbands” on Later . . . With Jools Holland, after which they were nominated for the BBC Sound of 2013 poll. They closed the year by recording their debut album entirely live over three weeks in a studio in northwest London, and hope to carry its visceral energy through their late-spring European tour. “We would project films while we were playing, or we would make strange noises and try to create a new thing. They were kind of rough sounds, but we kept it very sophisticated at the same time,” explains Beth, who also runs the Pop Noire label. “It was quite intense. To be so focused, we were outside our own existence.”

SILENCE YOURSELF COMES OUT TODAY, MAY 7.