It’s like a physical feeling, almost like a longing when people are apart. It’s often called “the love that remains.”
Life is like a story. One that is constantly unfolding with twists and turns, coincidences and fate, relationships and heartbreak. It is a cliche, but things happen for a reason. And they happen in a particular order, working like the chapters your book.
Savoir Adore, led by the passionate Paul Hammer, is an “adventure pop” group from New York, and they want to be the soundtrack to your ever-changing life. When I’m talking to Paul backstage at the Bootleg in Los Angeles, it seems like he is the happy-go-lucky type, and he’s got the contagious smile to prove it. Behind the frontman’s smile, there is emotion and passion for not only his craft, but also life itself.
Listen: “Giants” – Savoir Adore
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Hammer’s enthusiasm to feel and to inspire to feel is evident in the group’s latest emotive synth-pop release, The Love That Remains (August 12, 2016 via Nettwerk). The songs are animated and practically bursting with passion. Emotions are out, hitting different angles like the big, booming triumphant pop song “Giants,” or the tender, romantic song “Lovers Wake,” and then there’s the heavy beat, synth guitar driven tune “Savages” that has the ability to make someone feel… carefree (I can attest that this one’s great for late night car drives when you have nowhere to be).
Savoir Adore’s previous record, Our Nature, worked as a narrative for a character Hammer had in mind – someone who was surrounded by beauty and love, yet they were all alone. The Love That Remains takes off from where Our Nature ends; it follows the same man, who once was heartbroken and lonely, but is now coming into his own and is on a path to “rediscover love.”
As I’m talking to Hammer, I get the feeling that he relates. A lot. Savoir Adore certainly have had their fair share of heartbreak, having lost their leading lady and basically the other half of Savoir, Deidre Muro in 2014. Hammer’s band mate, and ultimately one of his best friends, had left and was onto new ventures, but heartbreak only lasts so long. Interestingly enough, as that important figure in his life stepped out, another one – his wife(!) – stepped in.
And it all happened within the same week.
The universe certainly works in peculiar ways. Savoir Adore may have a new lead woman (Lauren Zettler), a new way of doing things, and a cleaner sound, but they have maintained the same fun and experimental spirit that makes Savoir Adore, Savoir Adore.
A CONVERSATION WITH SAVOIR ADORE
Atwood Magazine: First off, congratulations on your new album.
Paul: Thank you.
And I heard you got married, right?
Paul: Yeah I am.
Yay! So congratulations.
Paul: Well, I guess newlywed now! 9 months.
From the sound of the album title, The Love That Remains, it sounds like it’s going to be a deeply personal album...about relationships. It’s a title that kind of sticks with you. How’d you come about choosing that as your album title?
Paul: It was sort of 2 things at the same time. Our last record ended off… ok, so our whole last record was about a relationship. A really dangerous chaotic relationship. And the ending of the record is this character being alone basically surrounded by all this beautiful stuff, but completely alone. So, i almost knew from the beginning that this record was going to start from this character kind of coming to grips with that. But then when i actually met my wife — she’s Brazilian, we actually met in San Paulo when we were playing a festival– she taught me this phrase“saudade.” It’s like a physical feeling, almost like a longing when people are apart. It’s often called “the love that remains.” As soon as i heard that i was just like oh my god that’s perfect. I did a quick google search and no one else had used it so i was like that’s the title of the record. Basically I had the title of the record before i had any songs finished. From there, i kept it written on a chalkboard I had in my studio and i always thought about it and built the whole story around that.
So going into the album, you had a set theme.
Paul: Yes. i knew i wanted it to be about someone rediscovering love, essentially. The first song of the record, “Lovers Wake..” the hardest part about this record was finishing that first song because it was completely, for me at least, emotionally and creatively… it all rested on that. I actually finished that song and wrote it out here [Los Angeles]. So as soon as it was done, I remember driving down Sunset Boulevard blasting this demo that I’d just done. I was like crying a little bit because i was like “I’m free! I’m finally free!” After that song was done, I built the story from there.
That is so great. So, obviously the band has been through a lot of changes, with Deidre leaving the band, so how did that affect the process coming forward?
Paul: A lot. The interesting thing was that it fit…I couldn’t ignore the fact that it fit so closely to the story. Especially because she left the band the week that I met my wife. It was this weird sort of exchange of like losing… you know, i think people don’t realize how close of a relationship you have with band members. Even if it’s never romantic, it’s just a very close, trusting relationship. So when she left it was obviously a super big deal. It took me about 6 months to figure out how to work on my own. I knew it was going to be hard, but it took me awhile to just write music again and let go of that collaboration. It honestly helped once the concept was in place and meeting and writing with Lauren. I knew once I started finishing songs and started writing with other people, I knew I’d want to maintain that element. I really like the male and female sort of collaboration… musically and creatively the process. The second we finished was “Giants” and that was the first song Lauren and I wrote together. That, in a way, really helped us cement the collaboration aspect. But it was really hard. It was a friendship that I lost too. What’s good is that now, 2 years later, it’s settled a little bit. We can talk again and it’s fine.
Watched: “Giants” – Savoir Adore
That’s good, but it’s almost like a breakup it seems...
Paul: It totally is a break up! It’s funny because it seems so cliche but I’ve spent more time with her than any girlfriend I’ve ever spent time with. And vice versa. Its an intense thing!
So when she left, was it a problem thinking if you wanted to continue on as Savoir Adore?
Paul: Definitely. It was sort of the best piece of advice I got from my manager who’s also a close friend of mine. It’s funny because we had this dinner after it happened and he was like “alright first let’s talk as friends then I’ll switch to manager.” The advice he gave me was to not worry about that quite yet. Just write music. Deidre and I started the project together but I’d always do the more production side of things, so at least the sound elements of it, I was very much in control of. He was like just do your thing and once you start finishing songs just see what it feels like. If it feels like something new, we’ll figure it out. If it feels like Savoir Adore, you’ll keep going. As soon as i finished certain songs, i was like it has to be Savoir Adore. It meant too much to me to just give up on it. But yeah, that was also a few months of deliberation.
Yeah because the songs sound totally new, but it still sounds like you.
Paul: I think so. There’s definitely an evolution to it and I wanted that to happen anyway, but I think at the end of the day, it still sounds like, and has the spirit of Savoir Adore.
And how did Lauren come into the equation?
Paul: I’d actually known Lauren for a long time and we actually joked around about, and had always wanted to write together. It was funny because me and Deidre had such a specific collaboration that it was sort of like oh we just do this thing. But then the timing was interesting because Lauren was singing and playing in a band called Panama Wedding at the same time and she actually ended up leaving the band as soon as Deidre left Savoir Adore. Then we were like well, let’s finally write together! From there, especially when we finished “Giants” which kind of became such an important song on the whole record I was like why don’t we have a rehearsal with the band and see how you feel? It’s obviously tricky to come into a band that’s already established.
Yeah, it’s almost like welcoming a new family member.
Paul: Yeah, exactly. And for her too for her to feel comfortable. So as soon we did a few rehearsals, and a test show, and it was like this is going to be good. And we’ve become such close friends too now. It feels right.
That’s perfect. So your first singles “Paradise Gold” and “Giants” are very dance-electronic pop songs. They definitely have an adventure feel to them. Did you guys put those out first to kind of get everyone hyped?
Paul: Yeah, I think, I always knew that I wanted “Lovers Wake” to come out first which was back in January because I wanted that to be this sneaky darker mission statement. But yeah then after that we wanted to also remind people that we are fun, there’s a dance element to it. Especially with “Giants” and then with “Paradise Gold” it was a natural follow up. But that’s kind of why I’m proudest of the album because there’s sort of a little bit of everything. I don’t like records that are just one thing you know? I like listening to a record and being like ok, here’s the dip. Here’s the part where you think about this feeling, that feeling. It’s a journey. I’m glad you said adventure because I always felt like our music is like a romantic adventure.
Watch: “Lovers Wake” – Savoir Adore
Yeah, it is! So besides obviously making the album with a different person, how did the process of making this album differ from Our Nature?
Paul: The biggest part of it was just taking my time more. I had stressed so much about the next steps and the anticipation. Especially because things were going really well, once “Dreamers” took off and then we had some great tours. I almost put too much pressure on myself. I needed 3 or 4 months and then realized that I need to relax. I need to take a breathe. I need to take my time because if I rushed it, I knew it wasn’t going to be good. That was the biggest difference is that I didn’t put any sort of….I originally was like it’s going to be done by September, and my manager was like dude don’t worry about that. If it takes a year, if it takes 2 years it’s fine. It was the first time I was consciously working on music rather than touring and writing. With Our Nature we would tour, write a couple songs, tour, write a couple songs. There was also more collaboration this time around. The whole band actually played on this record. On Our Nature I was the only one who actually played everything. This time I wanted them to play. We really took our time and it influenced the overall sound. Which was cool and honestly it was easier for me because I didn’t stress out about everything. We also had someone else mix the record which was a big deal too. The whole process is like me, in a weird way, taking more control of the project and also sharing it more. 15 or 16 people were involved in writing, playing, mixing. It’s cool, I’m still in the position where if something doesn’t feel right I need to do this, this, and this.
I always felt like our music is like a romantic adventure.
So writing and collaborating with all of those people, do you think it added another layer of new sounds?
Paul: Definitely. Especially because everyone was lucky enough to come into few collaborations more than once. I started to realize people’s natural tendencies. Like I wrote this song on the record called “Heaven” with Winslow Brighton in New York, and I knew that she had a very light airy voice. I had this idea for a simple song where the chorus was just the word “heaven.” It was perfect. If it wasn’t for that collaboration, I feel like it might not have clicked. We wrote the song in like 2 hours whereas some of the songs took months and months. That was the coolest thing about the collaboration aspect and especially with guys in the band too. They just do things that I don’t think of and it’s great because I will pick up a guitar and my hand will naturally do this shape. Whereas Alex will pick up a guitar and his hand will do this shape. So it’s just a different tonality but it’s cool because now more than ever we can naturally play and display that in new ways live because it’s the band that recorded it and it’s the band that’s performing it.
So before, when they were playing things from your mind, did you feel that it was different onstage?
Paul: It was! It was sometimes hard because I was almost forcing them to do something that I had done whereas now Alex can naturally do his thing and it’s from the record. It works perfectly in that way.
And how does the whole writing process go about?
Paul: It’s usually a little bit of all those things. I more often than not will start a song and sort of write the music, the instrumental part, then I like to collaborate on lyrics and melodies and things like that. There’s a song called “Devotion,” and when we were all upstate, we got a little drunk… we got a little high. I was like “guys. Tonight’s the night. We finally write a fast song!” Because we always joke that our songs are in same tempo. So I set a metronome and was we wanted to write a song to that speed. In the morning, we heard it and we thought it sounded pretty cool. We ended up then kind of developing it. It all started with the intention though, of wanting to write a fast song. It’s great because it’s in the middle of the record. That one was all of the band in the same room. Then a lot of the times it’s just me and Lauren working on it. “Lovers Wake” I started in a room on my own, had it fully produced then wrote the melody when I came out here. It’s a mixture of different things.
That’s cool! It sounds really collaborative.
Paul: Yeah it is. Kind of the whole concept of the band started from an experiment. I was a folk singer-songwriter for years. I always loved that but I felt very trapped from the limitations. So I found Deirdre who was sharing the same frustration. We were like let’s just experiment. It leaves it open ended. We’ve already talked about recording the next record and it’s going to be different again!
Yeah, I read that you and Deidre wanted to record an experimental pop record?
Paul: Yeah, that’s how the first EP went. We gave ourselves rules. Everything we had to finish was in 48 hours and we couldn’t play any guitars. That’s what we did and it ended up being this thing. If we didn’t do that, Savoir Adore wouldn’t exist. It was that fun, initial spark. That EP ended up getting passed around and got to the label, who at the time was releasing MGMT, so it was a really big boost for us in the Brooklyn music scene. From there, we just kind of played catch up for the next 6 months because we didn’t know what the heck we were doing. We had no intentions of being a band. We were like oh we have to get a drummer? We have to get a van?
It ended up okay!
Paul: It ended up okay. It took some time but yeah.
I also read that your dad is a really popular composer and he used to play in the orchestra?
Paul: The Mahavishnu Orchestra. It’s like a fusion jazz band from the 70’s.
Oh, that’s so cool! And he used to write film scores right?
Paul: He did Miami Vice. That was like his big thing. It’s where I get all of my obsessions with synthesizers I think. It’s from my dad.
I was actually going to ask about that. Did his music kind of influence your direction growing up and where you are right now?
Paul: Definitely. It’s funny because it didn’t too. What naturally happens with parents is that you want to listen to things that they don’t like. He loved instrumental music because he was an instrumental musician. So I listened a lot of that stuff growing up which is honestly I think why I write music first. I write music to a concept or idea but I almost never write lyrics first. That’s always the last step. It’s kind of hard sometimes, but “Lovers Wake” was called “Lovers Wake” before I had any lyrics. It’s just the way I work, I think it’s because my dad had such a focus on it. But also, he just didn’t like Fleetwood Mac?
Paul: I know, and I remember telling my friends like “oh i’m going to listen to Fleetwood Mac because my dad doesn’t like it.” Half of what you take from your parents is what they like and you’re also rebelling against them.
That’s so funny. And to me your music sounds like an adventure, like we said earlier. Have you ever thought about doing film scores like your dad?
Paul: That’s my dream. Whenever I hear bands, like Broken Social Scene, did that I know, and Rostam from Vampire Weekend… it’s just my total dream. Especially because of the way I approach it which is much more music and cinematic. I hope that in one point in time, someone who’s directing a film likes Savoir and wants to do something. I don’t really have an interest in doing the classic Hollywood movie score. I’d rather do something a little bit more experimental rock sound, which luckily is a thing now. I think there are more and more indie films that are employing indie rock producers and synthesizer elements. Someday.
That’d be awesome. So there are a few festivals coming up here in Los Angeles … Who would be on your dream festival lineup? Dead or alive.
Paul: It would be… Cut Copy, maybe we’d have an alt-country stage with Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. Then we’d do a DJ tent and we’d have Hot Chip, Holy Ghost, and Autograph. They’re amazing. St. Lucia I’d have on there. They’re such a good live band. And… us. Somewhere in there.
Oh yeah, headlining.
Paul: Headlining yes. Tame Impala.
They’re playing at FYF actually!
Paul: That’s cool. I hate that I’ve never seen them live. And it kills me.
You gotta catch them! They’re playing in like a week.
Paul: Really? We’re leaving tonight. We’re actually leaving right after our set because we’re going to San Francisco we have to be there by 5 and it’s just annoying enough.
I get you. That’d be a cool festival though, I’d go see it. You guys have been on tour for a little while now and it seems like you’ve been everywhere. Is there a favorite spot in the world that you’re just in love with?
Paul: Mexico City. Lauren and I went there, because sometimes we play as just a duo because especially for international stuff, it’s really hard to get the whole band. It just… people are so passionate about music. They’re so intelligent. They’re so interested and curious. I know part of it is travelling internationally, there’s an extra boost, but ugh. Lauren and I were just overwhelmed the entire time. We ended up doing some cool things because it was an underground music festival. So everyone involved was definitely very like progressive and super into the same music we were. It was just that combination of people. It was the old world culture with the new world art. On top of it, the food was just outrageously good. It was so overwhelming. We were lucky enough to do a lot of Latin American stuff. When I met my wife, that was one of the best weeks of my life. Not only from meeting her, but of course, also just Brazil being an incredible place. In the states, LA is by far my favorite place. We haven’t played here in awhile. When we want on the X Ambassadors tour in the Spring, we met up in San Francisco. So we haven’t done a proper show here in awhile.
Wow, welcome back! So do you think you see a different reaction in different states?
Paul: It’s so funny because it just depends. It depends on who you’re playing with, time of day, time of year. Age groups are different too. Time of night. You definitely see different reactions. New York is one of the hardest crowds. You almost have to play a club night where everyone’s in the zone to party. People just need encouragement to let loose. Whereas LA has really good crowds when it’s a late night show and it’s a weekend because I feel like people are just a little more relaxed here. We’ve always had good show in Portland too because people are super into music and more laid back as well…. I’ve lost my train of thought… our drummer’s band is playing second.
Oh wow. So he’s going back to back?
Paul: Yeah, I don’t know how he does it. We were joking around too because these are the longest sets we’ve ever done. We almost always support bigger other bands, so playing these headlining sets now and playing for an hour and 10 minutes is like .. I’m exhausted.
Wow, yeah, I’m sure. Internationally have you noticed a difference?
Paul: That’s another reason why Mexico City was so amazing. We played and people were just losing their minds and singing along. Then afterwards, just lined up to talk to us. It was so cool. I think in general, it always feels a little bit more special because it’s this big journey. For fans too because it might be their first time!We’ve had a big following in Mexico for a long time because of Spotify so coming their after years, it builds up. London is one of my favorite cities in the world. There’s such a cool music scene there too. It’s been four years now since we’ve played in London. Which is partially because of the new record. Hopefully we’ll be able to go. That’s the next step whenever anyone asks. I just hope we get to do a European tour, a South American tour in the next year.
What feeling do you want people to walk away with when they leave one of your shows?
Paul: I want people to feel emotionally fulfilled in a way. I remember when I would go to shows when I was 16, I would drive home listening to the record of the band. Just feeling so amped, so emotional, and so sensitive to everything. In a good way. I hope that when people leave our shows, they feel the same way. Inspired to create art and inspired to make music. But I also just want to inspire to feel. More than ever, now too, this record is very emotive and romantic. I want to soundtrack people’s lives.
If someone were to listen to Savoir Adore for the first time, what song would you suggest to them and why?
Paul: Oh, that’s tough. Right now, I’d probably say “Lover’s Wake.” It’s still, to me at least, it feels like a very unique blend of a lot different styles and it’s also very romantic in a way, and emotional. I think it fits in well with “Dreamers” and “Beating Hearts.” That’s why I had to finish it first. I think it’s the bridge between the old and the new Savoir Adore.
That was actually the last question… any final thoughts?
Paul: Check out the record! I hope more and more people listen to it. It feels crazy to have it out now. 2 years of writing it and then when it was done, there was still 4 months of waiting to release it.
That must have been torture.
Paul: Totally! I was just like, what do I do now?
cover: Savoir Adore © Dana Pacifico