It's late in the game to make a great post-punk album, but that didn't stop Savages, a British quartet that lives up to its billing with a dark, intense, violent sound frequently compared to Patti Smith, Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Savages, which makes its Pittsburgh debut at Mr. Smalls tonight, formed in late 2011 when French singer Jehnny Beth and British guitarist Gemma Thompson, who had worked in the group John & Jehn, hooked up with bassist Ayse Hassan and then added drummer Fay Milton.
"It wasn't ever supposed to be an all-girl band from the start," the drummer says. "That wasn't really the plan, but when it became three of them and they were all female and they needed a drummer, it just felt natural to look for another female, because then you've got a full set."
Although she originally came from a classical background, the drummer clicked right away with Ms. Hassan in a rhythm section that provides a muscular backdrop to the jagged guitar and spastic vocals on top.
"Me and Ayse have something in common I think in the way we feel music in a really sort of primal way," Ms. Milton says. "We don't necessarily seek to analyze. We just play what really comes to us naturally -- that locks things together."
Taking its name from "Lord of the Flies," the quartet got to work on what would become its forceful debut album, "Silence Yourself," which is clearly aligned with three-decade-old post-punk -- at least to the outside listener.
"I don't know, man, I just play the drums," Ms. Milton says. "I never ever at any point took things from that genre of music. When you look at those kind of bands -- the New York No Wave scene -- their processes of coming up with music might have been similar to ours, sort of de-constructing things, pulling things apart. Also, a lot of them had classical backgrounds, which is similar to me. What we share in common is influences and processes, but none of us ever studied a genre of music and tried to replicate it.
"It's interesting that we fall into that genre," she adds. "We consistently get compared to Joy Division. There are other bands I think we sound quite a bit like. I think we sound like PiL [Public Image Limited]. That would be a good reference point, but we do get Joy Division and I really don't think we sound like them. I read an interview with [Joy Division's] Peter Hook where he was asked about Savages and he said, 'I've heard of them but I don't think they sound anything like Joy Division.' It was really good to read that and have that confirmed for me."
In spite of the great press, this is certainly an album that goes against the grain of what's popular or plentiful in 2013.
"We just made some music and played it and people like it," Ms. Milton says. "Not everyone likes it. There's so many different types of music, when you look at what's popular it's really horrendous most of the time. It's a different world, it doesn't even really relate."
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