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Interview: SAFIA


Interview: SAFIA

Kate Sansome

In celebration of their highly anticipated debut album 'Internal' on September 9th, Canberra legends SAFIA are getting ready to hit the road in October to play some of their biggest shows to date.  We recently got the chance to speak to Ben from the band about their debut album, their latest music video, Over You and their upcoming album tour.

How are you guys feeling coming up to the release of your debut album, Internal?

Yeah, it’s creeping up.  We are getting pretty excited with all of the stuff starting to happen.  It’s been such a long time coming.

How long did it take to write the album?

Oh, like a lot of the songs have been around for a long time but I suppose the sitting down and planning what we were doing for the album has been for the past year and a half.  Yeah, so we have been tweaking away at it and that kind of thing for the past year or so.

Do you feel like you did not plan on writing an album, like it just naturally came about?

Obviously we always had planned on putting out an album, I guess when we were writing we didn’t know we were writing for an album.  We were just writing for the fun of it, like just writing new songs and throwing them together.  I just thought that when it was album time we would go off and write a bunch of songs but then we looked back at these things we had written and it was something cool kind of tying them all together but at the same time sort of different and yeah, without even knowing it we were subconsciously putting a larger body of work together and it was just a matter of taking that blueprint and making it one cohesive thing.

Do you feel there is an overall sound or direction that is tying the album together?

Yeah, no definitely, there definitely is.  I personally feel that from start to finish there is this journey, this cohesive listen but at the same time, each song explores something different of our influences and our sound.  I think it kind of shows people what we are about, that we are not a genre-focused band and it’s just about the music and the overall sound.

Image via SAFIA

Image via SAFIA

What was the significance behind the album name Internal and the title of closing track External?

The album name, Internal, came about because we felt it was appropriate because we have always considered ourselves outside of the pack.  We never fit ourselves into any sort of box.  We are kind of thought of in this electronic world but at the same time not really, we are sort of a part from that. We are also kind of in this band world but also not really. We have always been doing our own thing and because we all live in Canberra, it is kind of like us three away from the industry and away from all these influences. We just wanted to keep the album our own thing and we wanted to explore our own way through music and this project.  So Internal kind of made a lot of sense as the album title and the closing track, External, is kind of the juxtaposition or the contrast of Internal.  Where it kind of delves into some of the things I’ve experienced and some of the less glorious parts of the music industry and life in general.  People thinking of the external as like style or substance and you know forgetting about things that don’t really matter.  It’s just like on social media where you can get validation from things that aren’t really that important, so External kind of explores that from what we have experienced so far. It is kind of the juxtaposition from the rest of the album.

Yeah, I personally really liked Bye Bye and Zion off your album…

Yeah Bye Bye is one of my favourites.

Yeah, it really showcases your more experimental sound… But in comparison another stand out was Go To Waste, which is definitely more stripped back…

Oh, awesome! Thank you... those three are definitely my favourites at the moment. Yeah, like Bye Bye is kind of more exploring our psychedelic sound, it is like a late era Beatles kind of song, when they were getting a bit weirder.  And Go To Waste has definitely been one of our favourites from the day we wrote it, I don’t know, it is a simple song but it has something nice about it but epic at the same time.  So can’t wait to put that out too, I think people will respond to that one really well.

You recently released the music video for Over You, how did the music video come about?

So that was the first clip we did with an overseas director and it was the first one shot overseas in London and not in Australia.  So it was awesome to get that different aesthetic but it was also similar to the cinematic and narrative themes that we have done in all the other clips.

You wrote part of the album over in London, do you feel that had any influence on the sound of the album?

Um, I think so, we did Go To Waste and Over You in London. We kind of had to write a few songs over there, we had a studio for a week and it was like we had to kind of write a song a day and so we did these two songs.  Go To Waste was basically done in one day and then we never really changed it since.  It was just this raw energy and things going on.  I think those songs were definitely influenced and just the natural flow of just trying to write them in a day.  All the other songs and ideas tend to come about in a day as well.  So just having that different kind of surroundings and atmosphere to be over in London definitely influenced those songs at least, but it definitely helped when we came back and had to finish the other songs and gave us a bit of direction when we were finishing them off.

What can fans expect from your upcoming national tour?

Yeah, so it’s some of our biggest shows to date and we are putting on a big kind of visual production.  A big combination of visual and sound performance, we are still putting it together but it is going to be a lot of fun.  It is also going to be fun to play a full catalogue of music that is out there in the world because previously we had singles out, so were sort of pointing everyone in the right direction of songs to listen to, because it is just a single out, but this time people will have their favourite songs but we wont know what songs connect with certain people.  So it will be interesting to see and to play those songs and see how they are responded to.  So yeah it is going to be a big show that is going to be a lot of fun, but also still a dynamic show with up and down moments.

Have you snuck any unreleased songs from the album into any previous shows?

Yeah, so basically we did a little preview of the show which was a bit of a test run of this bigger album show in May.  So it was the ‘Make Them Wheels Roll’ secret tour and we kept it very low key, no advertising, we just shared it a couple of times on our social media about the secret venues, that were non-traditional spaces that weren’t really venues and we kind of set up a slightly smaller version of the production that we are doing for the upcoming shows and we played a couple of the news songs.  We played Bye Bye and Together, Locked Safely and Fake It Til The Sunrise and we just tested those songs and the production in those venues and I think it went well. 

Do you approach your shows differently when you are performing at a festival in comparison to a gig?

Yeah, obviously with shows, fans are buying tickets to see us so we can kind of play along with the extended show, so we can delve into some more long winded areas and play some songs that aren’t as popularly known, that kind of thing.  So yeah, we can play a longer, more dynamic show whereas a festival set is always lots of hits and lots of big moments, like you have to sell yourself in 45 minutes because not everyone there knows us but maybe you win them over and they come to the show and they see the longer show with songs they might not know because they are a new fan.  But yeah, festivals are a lot of fun and a lot of energy because there is all these big moments in 40 minutes.

Do you guys feel any expectation or pressure to begin writing your next album, or are you just going to take things as they may?

No, if anything it is kind of the opposite, it is a bit freeing to not have deadlines or people expecting another album for a while.  I guess because it’s so freeing we are actually writing a lot because it’s fun and like these songs were written, like the early ideas were written quite early on and we’ve just spent all this time tweaking and building on these ideas and after six months of just doing that, you just want to write something new.  So yeah it’s been really fun to just throw around brand new ideas and that kind of thing has been very freeing.  We are always writing for fun, like we will see whether or not they become songs. 

You can find SAFIA performing at Adelaide's Thebarton Theatre on October 22nd, tickets available here.

Header Image via SAFIA