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Forget fashion, Savages pleased to play it straight

| Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, 7:59 p.m.
Richard Dumas

If the next great band were to get together today in Pittsburgh — or Cleveland, or Columbus, or most places in the vast interior of this country — from the start, it would be a struggle to be heard. The eyes and ears of the world are simply looking and listening elsewhere.

Then there's London, one of those few places where the taste-makers and terminally hip are constantly looking and listening for something new.

Savages, a young, all-female foursome from London — who might actually be the next great band — don't have it much easier. The same city that can catapult you to fame in an instant, can chew you up and spit you out even faster.

Ayse Hassan, Savages' stellar bassist, can't be bothered with all that.

“It's not something we've taken that much notice of,” Hassan says. “We don't really have time to think about whatever crazinesss is going on around us.

“We're making sure that we're just ourselves, and not become a ‘fashion band,' because that's not us. We're not inspired by that, so to speak. Although we do like to be smart (look good), and so on.”

Hassan's bass is just one of the many remarkable things about this band, which will be performing Sept. 11 at Mr. Small's Theatre in Millvale. She seems to take the lead at times, grudgingly sharing it with singer Jehnny Beth — whose wired, prickly, get-to-the-point presence recalls the likes of Siouxsie Sioux and PJ Harvey. It's a combustible, combative combination, and the songs they crank out manage to be anthemic and unsettling.

They even have a manifesto, which ends with the statement: “Savages' songs aim to remind us that human beings haven't evolved so much, that music can still be straight to the point, efficient and exciting.”

Although their music is clearly derived from a line of great post-punk bands — particularly from the '80s: Joy Division, Public Image Limited, Siouxsie and the Banshees — the political, sexual and emotional tensions in songs like “Shut Up,” “Husbands” and “She Will” are fairly universal. Complex ideas are boiled down to their essence, then the contents are put under pressure.

“The aim was never to sound like a particular thing,” Hassan says. “We all have different styles of playing. Faye (Milton), our drummer, has a dance-y style of playing drums, and I have a more punky style of playing. We're four very different people in the room together.”

Still, there's something oddly monochromatic about the band. Band photographs and outfits seldom stray from high-contrast black-and-white. There's an affection for avant-garde ideas — from French New Wave to first-wave punk — from before they were born. Their debut album “Silence Yourself” starts with a sample of dialogue from a John Cassavetes film, whose significance seems elusive, at first.

“The thing we liked about (the movie) ‘Opening Night,' is that the actress who's in the movie is getting older, and it kind of shows her struggle to pursue her career in accordance with her beliefs,” Hassan says. “It's quite interesting for us to have a film about a woman who doesn't want to follow the rules, and be true to herself, and not give up. That's very inspiring, in making music moving forward in a way that's true to myself.”

Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7901.

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