There was a time in the not too distant past when Sonic Youth emdodied the very aesthetics of teenage rock and roll: dissonant, aggressive, and cloaked in walls of phantom noise, the sound was teenage: and to be youthful was to be part of this sonic lifestyle. However, somewhere along the way things started to turn pear-shaped; gone were the blood curdling cries against corporate America, and instead in this ideological void stood some jaded perception that it was now ok to compile CDs for Starbucks and still crown yourself the king and queens of a musical subculture. Don’t get me wrong, I dig the band, but something had to give. Now, Sauna Youth aren’t exactly picking up from where they left off, but they have obviously listened to a lot of their records, and have essentially pinched the ‘cool’ aspect of their name, but this garage punk band from Brighton approach ‘youthfulness’ with exactly the right attitude. Formed out the remnants of The Steal, Sauna Youth’s sound is scuzzy, short, and weirdly fun. This is ultimately party music made by people who don’t take themselves too seriously; musicians who would much rather tear the place up and screw your girlfriend than mess around with ordering a skinny latte . Despite this Sauna Youth are fiercely independent, and distribute all their music themselves. Black Tar decided to have a quick chat and found them mostly receptive to our questioning.
BLACK TAR: Could you tell me what the band are about?
Sauna Youth: Mince is about to go to bed, Harper is about to finish a lovely plate of Dhall, Pines is about to get home from work and i’m about to get a coldsore.
BT: How did you get together?
SY: We were at a Eddie Frankel’s bar-mitzvah and all 4 of us simultaneously managed to catch each others eyes. The rest is history.
BT: Could you give us an idea what a normal day for the band is like?
BT: How do you describe the bands sound?
SY: With great difficulty. That’s what critics are for right?
BT: What is the songwriting process like for you guys?
SY: Step 1. What do you we want to write about?
Before we start messing around with chords and melodies, we find it helpful to have an idea of what we want to write about, this helps us stay focused on one subject and stops the song veering off in too many directions. We should be able to sum up what our song is about in one short sentence. For example, “A relationship that’s on the rocks” or “cheating girlfriend, begging for me back”.
Step 2. Get A Chord Progression
Now that we know what we want to write about it’s time to get a chord progression together. We usually have two options.
1. Play the same chord for the entire song
2. Play different chords for the entire song
Both options work perfectly and many successful songs for us have been written using both methods.
Step 3. Creating A Melody
We like to write a melody, well at least a rough version of the melody, first. The reason for this is that when you have a melody sometimes the lyrics just write themselves, certain words have a natural rhythm and melodic tone.
SY: Coming up with a melody is easy enough. We just play our chord and hum notes over it. We will start to hear a melodic phrase come to life. Sometimes it might take a couple of weeks but we keep at it until we find something we’re happy with.
Step 4. Add lyrics To Your Melody
SY: It’s time to bring our melody to life by adding lyrics. Read our guide “How To Write Song Lyrics” for some great tips on writing lyrics.
BT: How important is independent distribution to the band?
SY: Vital, we literally wouldn’t have sold a thing if we hadn’t done it independently, because we pressed most of our records ourselves we also had to get them out into the world ourselves. This has also made us very appreciative of other people doing it for us though… it’s pretty time consuming. There are some very good distros and shops all over the world that have been very kind to us. Also, why is distro spelt with an o rather than an i?
BT: Was this always your intention, or did you have some industry horror stories?
SY: The 5 year development deal was ok but when our A&R man got fired at the label we found ourselves lost amongst the forest of music at said label, we fought to retain our name and the songs we’d written but ultimately ‘the man’ always wins out. One day the Kasabian II recordings will see the light of day, even if it kills us. Finally freeing ourselves from the shackles of the industry was very freeing and we celebrated by independently distributing our records.
BT: Where do the band practice?
BT: Who you digging at the moment?
SY: Human Hair, Omi Palone, Cold Pumas, Satellites Of Love.
BT: What cool things have you got lined up for this year?
SY: We’re releasing a 12″ on Faux Discx before summer and a 4 way split 7″ with Omi Palone and a couple of other bands on Paradise Vendors Inc, there’s a 7″ on Static Shock Records coming out fairly soon too… hopefully a live split cassette from a show we put on the other day at the Shacklewell Arms will exist before the end of the year. We’ve also got some shows lined up that we’re pretty excited about including some with Ceremony in March.
Sauna Youth are supporting the Jacuzzi Boys at the Shackwell Arms, Dalston, on March 23rd.
Words: Alex Hall