Hello, sweet reader babies, and welcome to another installment of Musicians Talk Making It. This one is particularly exciting because it’s the start of weekly installments, as opposed to every other week. We’ve gotten so many amazing local artists interested in being featured that we’re increasing our output. Keep ’em comin!
This week I sat down with Paul Hammer of north Brooklyn-based “fantasy pop” outfit Savoir Adore. We chatted on the phone before they left to bring their dreamy pop sounds to Austin for a certain music festival this week. He told us how he went from being an “an emo acoustic kid,” listening to Dave Matthews Band and Usher to having a huge following, getting invited to play SXSW, and gave advice for musicians who are just starting out.
“Most successful people think about their art 24/7,” he said.
Savoir Adore started about seven years ago as a duo featuring Paul Hammer and Deirdre Muro. Hammer said it started as an experiment, as a reaction to playing the singer-songwriter solo open mics he found as an NYU student, which is also where met Muro. After finding that there are limitations, and only so much you can do sound wise on an acoustic guitar, Hammer set out to record music that had no acoustic guitar. After they created an EP with that idea, a small Brooklyn based label called Cantora got hold of the record. The band did that thing that most bands dream about: they got invited to SXSW, quit their jobs, bought a van, and went full-tilt boogie with their music.
“People often think ‘we’re a band, we’re gonna go all in,’ but it’s hard to do that in New York,” Hammer said. “Everybody has a day job, and you do both until you can’t. You can’t have a full time job and put all your time and energy into being a touring band.”
So, Hammer and Muro quit their jobs at a publishing house and a production company, respectively. The band evolved, emerging as a different thing every year, until they were eventually a five-piece band. And apparently, they really have put all their energy into being a touring band: They’re touring right now with X Ambassadors, and will hit locally on April 30 at Bowery Ballroom with pals Penguin Prison.
Currently the line up does not actually include Muro, but instead Hammer, singer/keyboard player Lauren Zettler, guitarist Alex Foote, bassist Andrew Pertes, and drummer Ben Marshall. Hammer does all the recording and a lot of the writing, but still collaborates with the other members of the band. While they tried at the beginning to do all electronic, the band is now a combination of electronic and acoustic.
I asked Hammer how he met his bandmates, and if he had any advice for newcomers on how to meet their own.
“I met Deirdre at NYU, and we both met a lot of people playing out, especially open mics at first,” he said. “We also would always find friends of friends to play with. There are so many musicians here, and so many musicians looking for work, that you can easily find someone, be it through friends or an open mic or a show.”
Because we’re Brokelyn, I like to ask people how much they think it costs to get started playing out. Hammer had this to say.
“It definitely depends on your ambitions. It’s really financially easy to be a solo artist, but solo can be hard emotionally,” he said. “But you can go on tour, or you can play shows in New York for basically free. But if you’re hiring a band, thats harder. Some people don’t realize that there are no rules for this. Some bands go all in together, but there’s a lot of bands where there is one person who’s doing all the recording and stuff. If you’re a solo artist but you want to start gigging with a band, and you have to hire people, it’s gonna be expensive.”
That said, if you can make enough musical friends to help you out, everyone can split costs for transportation/equipment.
Savoir Adore debuted at the (unfortunately) now defunct Death By Audio in 2009. It didn’t cost them anything to play there, and they even made a little money. The band’s favorite place to play was the also now-defunct Glasslands; he says their current, non-defunct favorite spots to play are Baby’s All Right and Rough Trade.
So next I asked Hammer if they had ever paid to play, and he said: absolutely not. Unless it’s some amazing opportunity, pay to play gigs are generally a scam.
“It is the band’s responsibility to bring people out, because that’s how you can be a band, but having a band is how you can be a venue,” he said. “It’s absurd that venues would ask bands to essentially do their job by selling tickets.”
Picking a favorite song of yours is like picking a favorite child. Or, to those of us without children, like picking a favorite taco sauce. I asked Hammer what his favorite Savoir Adore song is.
“I’d have to say ‘Dreamers,’ that song reached so many people,” he said. “But now, my favorite songs are the new material, especially our song ‘Giants’ off the new record [which came out Feb. 26]. When you play in a band, you’re going to get excited about the new material.”
I asked Hammer about the first song he ever wrote. I like asking this question, because of how embarrassing the answers can be.
“I wrote a song as an emo acoustic kid, called ‘Out of Love,’ ” he said. “It made complete sense as a 16 year old in upstate New York listening to Dave Matthews Band and Usher. It involved hitting the guitar to be like a drum. I thought I was the coolest.”
Perfect. So then I asked if he had any advice for younger artists on writing their own stuff.
“I wish that I knew a few older musicians who went through things, but it’s hard because the climate changes every few years. Like, 10 years ago there was no social media, so nobody could have told me how to use that,” he said. “I think the best thing you can do as a young artist is not to put too much pressure on yourself. It’s a weird job, it’s up and down. You constantly question what you’re doing. If you don’t really love the music you’re making, its not going to be good. Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, and put as much time into it as you can.”
Hammer says that Savoir’s best gig was at their first ever sold out show, after playing around 50 others, at the aforementioned Glasslands.
“Things finally connected with our song ‘Dreamers,’ and our fanbase was growing,” he said. “That was the first time that ‘Dreamers’ really connected people, and everyone started singing along.
Check out their newest single, “Giants,” below, and be sure to check their Facebook for local dates after their triumphant return from SXSW.
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