For those of you that don’t know, SAVOY is pretty awesome. But don’t just take my word for it. Here, let me explain — SAVOY is a trio of musicians comprised of Gray Smith, Ben Eberdt, and Mike Kelly. The three met when they were in college at CU Boulder. “We met in the dorms, Mike lived a door or two down from me,” said Ben. “When Gray and I met, Gray was cruising around with a guitar and I called him over and we started jamming right then and there. We’ve played music together ever since.”
Their style of music stands for itself, and separates itself from all of the typical EDM rabble. Their latest album Self Predator is a perfect example of their electronic rock style. “[F]or Self Predator, we pretty much said to ourselves that we weren’t going to give a fuck about any genres or any things that we need to be tied to,” said Gray. “We just tried to make what we were feeling. That was the only rule we had for that.” All of the music that SAVOY releases is also available for free, at all times. You can check out their website here to browse their selection.
In fact, their biggest inspiration in production is their own live show. They perform all of their shows live, with drums, guitar and synths being played out in real time, along with their laser operator, who controls the lights via MIDI controller. “It’s about our experiences on the road and what we think is cool and works,” said Ben. “We want to make a show that’s got all the heavy bass and massive energy moments of an electronic show, but the feel and the look and the grime of a real rock ‘n’ roll show.”
The show itself was absolutely incredible. The trio played each track seamlessly into the next, a difficult feat for a live performance band. And I was actually shocked to see that Gray, who was so soft-spoken during the interview, was the hype man for the group and on the mike throughout the show pumping the crowd up. The lasers, operated by Laserwolf, were as much a focal point of the show as SAVOY. It was an all-around experience, and not just a music showcase, as so many DJ sets tend to be. Show-opener Bright Lights performed with SAVOY toward the end of the guys’ set and brought out a whole new dimension to the aspect of live performance. Her presence on stage and the way she carried herself indicated a great deal of professionalism, not to mention her skill as a vocalist and performer.
To be honest, I missed their tour when they stopped by earlier this year. There was a huge show with big-name bass producers and between the two, I knew who I wanted to see more. I ended up having an awful time, as the venue’s or producer’s equipment (it was never determined whose fault it was) kept cutting out — during one DJs set, the CDJs cut out four times and he only ended up playing about 25 minutes of his hour set. This time around, I was sure to catch SAVOY and I had to sit down with them to glean some insider info on how they operate.
You guys came to this same venue (House of Blues Sunset) last time on the Get Lazer’d tour. Is there something special about this place or LA to you?
Ben: Los Angeles is Hollywood man… you’ve gotta hit it on your tour. There’s no better place to start than here.
This show, the first on the ‘Mo Lazers, Mo Problems’ tour, is going to be live streamed, right? What was the decision behind that and again, why here? Why not at another venue, or date?
Gray: It had something to do with Live Nation, and then we just wanted to kick off the tour and have it support the rest of the tour. So kick it off with a live stream, so everyone could get a taste of what the tour will be like.
Ben: They gave us two or three options, and when we saw “Friday night, Sunset, House of Blues” it seemed like it was kind of a classic look.
Self Predator was the first full album that you guys put out right? What was the process like in comparison to the previous EPs? It seemed very thematic, but like you were still exploring a bunch of styles in the process.
G: We kind of did another album before that called Automatic but that was really underground. But for Self Predator, we pretty much said to ourselves that we weren’t going to give a fuck about any genres or any things that we need to be tied to; we just tried to make what we were feeling. That was the only rule we had for that.
Mike: That process flowed pretty well, like Grey said. It just happened pretty naturally. We’re all kind of listening to similar stuff and inspired by overall similar concepts, but we all have our unique tastes.
G: We gave each other a lot of artistic freedom on the album, too. We didn’t confine everyone to being a part of every detail of every track.
Do you have any big inspirations in the way you produce music? Did you try to feed off of anyone in particular for the album?
B: I think our biggest inspiration is our live show, honestly. We don’t really draw on too many current electronic artists to try and emulate or anything like that. Of course, we worship the classics, like Daft Punk, you know, the guys who got us into it. But for us, it’s about our experiences on the road and what we think is cool and works. We want to make a show that’s got all the heavy bass and massive energy moments of an electronic show, but the feel and the look and the grime of a real rock ‘n’ roll show.
Would you say you guys play equal parts in the production process, or do each of you have little specialties that you excel at?
B: We all have our own styles. But there’s always, you know, “Hey I have this idea, I want to take it to the next level. Come over and help out.” It’s always a collaborative effort once we get the original idea boiled down.
G: We do have our own specialties a little bit. Like Ben is a really driving creative force, and I do a lot of sound design, and Mike does drum and groove.
Where did the fascination with lasers come from? Why do you think it works so well in drawing in a crowd?
G: They’re a real 3D experience, so the fact that they come out into the crowd and you almost feel like you could touch them is so cool. The first time we saw them we were completely captivated by how cool they looked.
B: Another driving force is our laser operator, Laserwolf, he’s almost like a fourth member of the band in that he’s controlling everything on a MIDI-controller live. He plays the lights like an instrument, it’s nuts. And he’s been with us almost since day 1. So none of our shows are pre-programmed, they’re all improvisational. I still can’t believe how much gear we have up on stage.
M: We also have a lot of other cool lighting and production features on this tour, which I think is cool. We could give the lasers a break, feature some cool classics 80s, like Queen-type stuff and then just when you’re getting sick of that, the lasers are back in.
Bright Lights is accompanying you on the tour, and of course she was featured on a track on the album. How has it been working with her in and out of the studio?
B: She’s one of our closest musical friends in the business. Not only is she traveling with us, she’ll be performing live with us every night. We’ve actually done four songs that we’re going to be performing live every night.
M: Almost five… actually.
B: We’re bringing the whole thing, full spectrum. It’s almost a second set towards the end. Heather [Bright Lights] comes out and it’s live vocals and all the songs we’ve done together, and I’m on guitar, and Mike’s on the drums, and Grey’s chopping shit up live. It’s a dream we’ve always had to have a live vocalist and bring our full electronic rock thing to life.
M: We’re actually working on another track with her right now. We’re not playing it tonight, but pretty soon on the tour, yeah.
Out of all the places that you haven’t yet toured, where would you most like to go? Would you go there because you know you have fans or instead to introduce people to your music and get them hooked?
B: We haven’t done anything in Europe yet. It’s the obvious next choice, business-wise. Obviously there’s a lot of exotic locations we’d love to tour — I’d love to go to Thailand.
G: I’d love to go to Australia. From everything I’ve heard, the fans in South America are insane. Mexico, too. Everywhere basically.
Coming from Colorado, I was wondering if you guys have any insight into the legalization movement there, and if it’s had any positive or negative impact on the music scene out there?
B: I think it’s amazing.
G: I wish it would have happened when we were in college.
B: It’s the best thing ever and an amazing step for Colorado. It’s just time that the whole country follows suit. It seems natural.
Alright guys, any last words?
B: Expect something like you’ve never seen from us before. We had rehearsal last night and it’s just crazy.
The guys are already working on new tracks with Bright Lights and on their own, and a new one ‘Gin & Chronic’ was released last week. You can download it for free HERE. If you haven’t seen SAVOY before, I would highly recommend it. You can see the dates for the rest of their tour and buy tickets HERE.