Pointed to the right records at the right time by their parents, London’s The Savage Nomads are a mash-up of every half-interesting genre to emerge from England’s capital in the last 35 years. Drawing on punk, dub, psychedelia, and Britpop, their debut album, Coloured Clutter (Alaska Sounds, 2011), challenges the common perception of what four kids with guitars can and should sound like. Lifting their moniker from a notorious New York street gang, the youthful four-piece walk the walk of The Clash, The Libertines, and Arctic Monkeys. No wonder Mick Jones loves them.
Bearing the influence of everyone from Megadeth to Modest Mouse, Coloured Clutter is an extraordinary album. As indebted to the poetry of Eliott, Ginsberg, Pound, and Whitman as it is to the rap, hip-hop, and grime sounds of inner city London, it’s Sandinista for the blog age – an album perfectly in tune with the times. As singer Cole Salewicz recently explained to the UK press, The Savage Nomads have always been interested in everything. Opposed to genres or the concept of classifying music, the four-piece have crafted an album that defies pigeon-holing.
Formed when Salewicz left short-lived electro-pop outfit Sailor No Youth (whose line-up also included Mick Jones’ daughter Lauren), The Savage Nomads have been making music together since their teens. With management on board since the beginning, they’ve stuck to their beliefs and refused to compromise. And it shows. In a cultural climate that mirrors the late 1970s, The Savage Nomads are a streetwise indie-punk outfit for the download generation. As Jones said when he booked the band to support the recently reformed Big Audio Dynamite, “I can’t think of anyone better than The Savage Nomads to rock the whole world.” Skyscraper caught up with Salewicz to discuss the band’s origins and the recent recording of their debut album.
Skyscraper: Firstly, how are things going?
Cole Salewicz: Splendid, thank you.
Skyscraper: Tell me about The Savage Nomads. How did you get together?
CS: Billy [Boone, drums] and I had our “mid-teen crisis” band that I think everyone who plays music seriously can relate to. It was the most important part of our lives at the time, and when it disbanded I was pretty forlorn but very determined to continue playing. Billy and I kept jamming and went through a lot of guitar players in South London. We met Josh [Miles, bass] through Lauren Jones and formed a three-piece before we finally met Joe [Gillick, guitar], after he answered an Internet ad. We stuck at it for a few months and it soon clicked.
Skyscraper: You’re named after a Bronx street gang that’s been around since the 1960s. Would you say you have a gang mentality when it comes to being a band?
CS: Sure. The music we make certainly (and intentionally) sets us apart from any guitar-based group. We’re not exactly hostile people but when you’re playing together you’ve gotta stick together, as at times you can feel pretty isolated. You gotta compromise and respect each other’s wishes, too.
Skyscraper: The Clash always presented themselves as “the last gang in town.” How big an influence have they been on you?
CS: We’re all fans of their music, but the element of The Clash that inspires us the most is their never-say-die attitude and their refusal to compromise. They were also completely unafraid to branch out into any genre of music, and that fearlessness and audacity reflects the diverse nature of our debut album, Coloured Clutter. If you don’t get it, then you don’t get it.
Skyscraper: What’s it been like to get such vocal support from Mick Jones so early in your career?
CS: Of course it’s been terrific. Mick’s a very caring individual, and it certainly is an indication of the kind of guy he is to support us from the off. He’s stuck to his principles all throughout his career and it’s extremely admirable.
Skyscraper: What was playing with B.A.D. like?
CS: Those shows were the highlight of our musical journey so far. The whole experience was wild and we revelled in it. There’s nothing like playing on a stage that size, and it was certainly something we could get used to. I learned that our songs are meant to be played on a bigger scale.
Skyscraper: You’ve said that you’re opposed to using genres and labels to classify music. Do you feel the whole idea of pigeonholing bands is defunct nowadays?
CS: Not particularly, no. Ignorant labeling of music is more apparent than ever, especially in the mainstream. It’s a shame and it can turn people off a band before they’ve even heard them because of how they’ve been compartmentalized by the music press.
Skyscraper: How would you pigeonhole The Savage Nomads if you had to?
CS: I’d roll my eyes and say “alternative rock” or “post-punk,” but it would do our music no justice.
Skyscraper: Tell me about the album. What were the sessions like?
CS: It was a really great experience. We loved working at Alaska Studio in Waterloo [London]; it became like a second home for us and we’re looking forward to recording and writing there more. We got on extremely well with Bob Earland ,who produced the majority of the record. He listened to all our ideas and implemented his own perfectly. It was also a pleasure to have Dave Coulter [Patrick Wolf, Gorillaz] and Terry Edwards [PJ Harvey] come in and play.
Skyscraper: How did you approach writing and recording?
CS: I generally write the words in my own time and we jam out a few ideas when we’re rehearsing. As well as being an exceptional guitarist, Joe’s got a special talent for arrangement and he structures a lot of the songs, which normally mutate as we get used to playing them. Once we’re comfortable, we’ll record a demo song on Logic and then probably go back and change it again.
Skyscraper: There are references to all kinds of genres on there. Was it a conscious effort to make it as diverse as possible?
CS: The record is reflective of all the music we listen to, but we never said to one another that this record had to be an assorted mix of sounds. It occurred organically.
Skyscraper: You’ve been pretty vocal about sticking to your beliefs and refusing to compromise. To what extent does the album reflect that?
CS: It’s a bit of a cliché but we didn’t really make it for anyone else but ourselves. I don’t think any of us are particularly interested or enthused by what we hear in British guitar music today, so we weren’t conscious of how it would sit amongst other acts. Our label [Alaska Sounds] pretty much gave us freedom to write whatever we wanted. We wouldn’t be interested otherwise.
Skyscraper: Where did the album title come from?
CS: Joe and I came up with the title and it reflects the listening process. It’s runs like a tribute mixtape to all our favourite genres, and for me, the varied tones remind me of the colour spectrum.
Skyscraper: What are your plans for the future?
CS: To promote this record but also to keep writing and playing challenging music. We’re hoping to get out on the road in the autumn.
Photos Courtesy: The Savage Nomads