The Collapse Board Interview: Cash Savage (Cash Savage and The Last Drinks)
After a five year gap, exacerbated by COVID-19 lockdowns, Cash Savage And The Last Drinks’ have returned with their new album, So This Is Love. We spoke to Cash Savage the day before the album was released about their songwriting, the impacts of the COVID-19 lockdowns in Melbourne and making the video clips for the album’s singles.
Collapse Board: Usually music writers talk to people about their new albums a good few weeks before the release date but your new album is coming out tomorrow. Are you doing anything tonight or tomorrow to celebrate it being released?
Cash Savage: I probably will. I actually haven’t really thought about it. I’ve got a rehearsal tonight with the band and I’ll give them all their copies of the record and we’ll probably have a celebratory drink tonight. Yeah, I don’t know, I hadn’t really thought about it. There’s a lot of things to do on release day so I’ll worry about it when it finishes, I guess.
CB: As the release day gets nearer, does how you feel about the album change?
CS: That’s a really good question. I was just talking about this the other day. I’ll listen to it today for the last time without everybody else having listened to it. And then I’ll listen to it again, probably tomorrow or on Saturday, and it sounds different when I listen to it. It’s this weird thing where it’s like all of a sudden I hear it, like I’m letting go of it and it sort of becomes everybody else’s and I can hear it through their ears, which is a weird way to say it, but it changes, my perspective on the album changes.
CB: That’s understandable. Do you ever have any regrets or changes of heart when you’re listening through at this stage, “I wish we’d done that, I wish we’d changed that”?
CS: Not really, no. Those regrets come up in the post-production and I either make a decision to be okay with it or not. Because I’m part of producing the album, I don’t just get delivered an album and think, “Oh, it could be better if it was this way.” I endeavor to make it as best as it can. For me, I think the hardest thing about this album has been how disjointed it was recording it, because of all the regulations about getting together and all of that. So that made it a bit of a different one for me and it has a bit of a different flow. But now that it’s done, I’m really happy with it. I’m really proud of it.
CB: In the press release for the album you say that “One of the greatest joys of my life is taking these songs that are incredibly personal to me and bringing them to the Last Drinks.” Is that an easy process for you or do you get nervous or apprehensive about showing songs for the first time?
CS: I do get nervous. I often will show them first to Nick [Finch, bassist] and then to the rest of the band. I have this thing where I don’t actually want to show them to anyone and I want to keep them close to me and not let them go at all. At some point I have to just let go and let the band hear them because that’s what they’re there for. But as much as there’s a nervousness or a fear of exposing myself, I feel very held by them, so it’s sort of terrifying and really exciting at the same time. I guess it’s one of those things when you’re nervous and you don’t know whether you’re scared or actually excited. It’s the same feeling, you know?
CB: Is there a process for that then? Is one song at a time or do you wait until you several ideas to show them at once?
CS: Yeah, I’ll usually show like a few of the band, there’s seven in the Last Drinks, including myself. If I’ve got a really good idea of how the song wants to go, then taking it to seven people can work. But if I’ve got some ideas and I want to try and form them, then I usually will take it to Rene [Mancuso, percussionist] and Nick and then maybe one of the guitarists or a keyboard player or even Kat [Mear, fiddliest] depending on which way the song’s going to go and then we slowly add the other instruments in once I’m a bit settled with it. It’s generally one song at a time, maybe two, you know, but generally one. One rehearsal will just be around a song and then I’ll introduce another song when we’ve got our head around one or two. And also depending on how quickly I’m writing at the time too.
CB: Do your songs come fully formed in your head how you want it to sound and what instrumentation you want is, or is it more of a basic outline of the song?
CS: Sometimes it’s a fully formed song. Sometimes it’s just a bit, like I’ve got this thing that I really like and I’m not sure what to do with it and then I take it to the band and we’ll muck around with it and I’ll record that and take it away and have a think about whether that was the direction I wanted to go or whether there was something else, or whether it was any good at all. Some songs come fully formed, some songs I feel like I know where I want them to go and I’m striving for it, but if you asked me to describe it, I couldn’t. It’s like the song is not a surprise to me when it’s finished, but I didn’t really know that’s how I wanted it to sound at the start. Does that make sense? It’s trial and error up to get to that point and then when I get there I’m like “Yes, this is what I’ve been trying to get to.”
CB: With seven people in the band, can the Last Drinks be a democracy or does it not work like that?
CS: Yeah, there can be democracy. I mean there’s a lot of respect between all the musicians. So ideas are never shot down. Almost always, every idea is tried. Sometimes the idea ends in laughter, like a huge eruption of laughter because once you hear the idea you realise how ridiculous it is. But yeah, there’s a lot of respect there. So it is really democratic because anything that comes up gets, gets given a go.
CB: Your mental health is often front and centre to many of your songs. Is it easy for you to sort of share this with the world?
CS: No, it isn’t, it hasn’t been, it is now because it’s too late <laughs>. But it isn’t easy sometimes. Some of these songs have been really difficult and in the writing process, I’ve really had to make a decision on how vulnerable or open I’m going to be in these lyrics. I made a decision with this album in particular to not hold back in those moments when I’m unsure of whether I can actually be that vulnerable, just actually encourage myself to open up and be okay with that. And I think that’s partly because I actually am a really private person and if I wrote these songs giving away the information that I’d like to give away, they’d be fairly empty and vacuous songs. The whole album has been a big learning process for me to be more comfortable with feeling a lot of the emotions that are in this album because they’re not comfortable emotions for me.
CB: The follow-up question I had was about going on tour and having to play these songs night-after-night. Does that take a toll on you?
CS: Yeah, that’s funny. It doesn’t, it actually gets easier and easier each time I perform it. I really feel like once I’m on stage, it’s a process of just giving those songs away. They become not mine anymore. As much as I will always have songs that I have written that still can take me back to the moment that I wrote them, it’s like exposure therapy or something, like the more that I’m in it, the less it affects me. It’s this wonderful process that I do with the crowd where it becomes easier and lighter each time I go through it and the songs become everyone’s and everyone puts their own spin onto what the songs are about, so they sort of have the life of their own once they come out and start being performed.
CB: That sounds good. So you look forward to touring rather than sort of thinking “Oh, I’ve got to relive all this”?
CS: Oh no, I can’t wait, I love it.
CB: With “Push”, the first single from the album, you said it was about “Finding more comfort from pushing people away for better or worse”. How much did the Melbourne lockdowns play on putting you into that position and did this resolve itself once lockdowns finally ended?
CS: The lockdowns were a big part of it, particularly that song. I guess I’m lucky enough that my mental health is robust enough to have quite easily come back once those forces were out of it. So once I could be around people again and could do the things that are good for my mental health, which is a lot to do with socialising and being out of an apartment, my mental health came back and gave me the ability to reflect on what was actually going on for me there. So I’m not sure if I’m any better at it or whether or not I learned from that, but what I can reflect on, and actually what was going on there, was that I was pushing all my friends away and what I really needed was to not do that.
CB: I mean, it was kind of weird being in Queensland because our lockdowns were so light compared to what was going on in Melbourne.
CS: Yeah, it was pretty light everywhere else in the world except for Melbourne. It’s a weird shared lived experience that everyone in Melbourne has. The first time I went overseas post-lockdowns, when we toured in May last year, for the first few days I really felt like at any moment someone was going to tap me on the shoulder and say, “No, this tour is over, you’ve got to go home”. We were all reflecting as humans that had been through it on how there was a level of trauma there for us, that Melbournians have all experienced this thing. It’s really hard to actually explain what was awful about it and what we take away from it and how that has collectively changed us. But going to a completely different space, to a different country, different countries, and them not having any idea of it was quite incredible for us to be able to then be like, “Oh, we’re all sort of fucked up from this and we are all coming back, slowly coming back, but we’ve all come back a bit different.”
CB: I wanted to ask you about some of your videos for the singles you’ve released from the album. So at the very start of “$600 Short on the Rent”, someone says, “Ready to roll?” and you answer, “Always, always ready for this.” Do you like the process of making videos for your songs?
CS: No, I think it’s like a cruel joke. As a musician you have to do all these millions of jobs that you never thought about. I always joke that I just wanted to play guitar and now I’m like you know, I can do graphic design, I actually helped edit that clip, there’s all these millions of jobs, logistics, all this HR that you have to learn and be good at in order to be a musician. I think that film clips is this weird sick joke where you make the record and you put everything into the recording of it, and then you’ve got a mime to it in front of the camera. I find it really odd, so yeah, there’s a hint of sarcasm in the “Always ready for this”.
CB: In the “Push” video, the camera keeps rolling for a few seconds at the end and you are you’re breathing heavily, pacing back, and look like you don’t want anyone to talk to you. Was this a hard film clip for you to record because of what it was about?
CS: Actually, it was a bit fun that one, to be honest. It was sort of everything that I would have wanted in my lockdown, to put all those guys in my apartment and play really loud music. That would’ve just been the fucking best, and that’s sort of where the concept came from. It’s just one of the many things I would’ve wanted, but something that I really would’ve wanted was to just be able to play some music with my friends. Then to put them in this tiny apartment, which is my apartment and I spent a couple of the lockdowns in this apartment, and then perform to a camera with them scattered around the place was pretty fun.
CB: Was it choreographed or was it more like “Just walk around the apartment and we’ll follow you with cameras”?
CS: It was a little bit of both. That’s actually the third take, we did five takes and that’s the third take. We did three and we were like, “That’s probably the take, but we’ll do another two to see”. We had a bit of an idea and talked through, “I’m going to make a coffee, go into the bedroom, interact with the bedroom, brush my teeth, then come out, make another drink. There was a sort of idea and each of the takes was very slightly different. The one that we used is the one I walked through the place with the cowboy hat on, the other takes didn’t have that in there. There was a loose idea of where I would be in each part of the song. I have a chuckle to myself if I see that clip, the idea that Roshan [Khozouei, keyboards] had to mime the whole way through in the bathroom, not knowing when the camera would pop into the bathroom, and he can’t just start, so he had to just be by himself miming on the toilet <Laughs>. I find it humorous. But the yeah, there was a bit of an idea, it was slightly choreographed but not too much because I didn’t want to have to think about what I was doing.
CB: Although you just said it was your apartment, I was going to ask you about whose it was I really like the large blue and white artwork in the lounge.
CS: Yeah. That’s by the same guy that did the album cover.
CB: I was going to ask about that as well as it looks like they’re by the same person.
CS: Yeah, it is the same person. I’m a really big fan of his art and asked him. I bought the one that’s in on my wall a little while ago and I was lying on the ground and was trying to think about what I was going do with the album cover artwork, and then I was looking at that painting and I was like, “Oh, I should just get big’n to do it. So yeah, so he did it. You can find him on Instagram. His artworks amazing. I don’t know how long he’s been doing it, but he’s very, very good. He just had an exhibition not that long ago and his artwork is incredible, and very, very lovely human too, one of the nicest people.
CB: We’re out of time but the last question is about the video clip for “Keep Working At Your Job”. Are you eating a Magnum and what is your go-to Magnum?
CS: <Laughs> You know what, I’m eating a fake Magnum. Oh no, actually in that one I’m eating a Magnum because we had a box of different ones in the take that we used, so yes, that is a Magnum. I actually don’t like Magnums, so they’re not my favorite ice cream to eat, by far. I’m real simple. I’d like a chocolate Paddle Pop. Yeah, that’s what I’ll go with. But the Magnum, because we knew it would be black and white, the Magnum was the ice cream to go with, because it would come up nicely in the contrast. So that’s the ice cream, it was a design idea. I’m not a Magnum fan, you would very rarely see me eating a Magnum. I’m not a fancy ice cream eater, if we would call them fancy. Paddle pops are my go-to at a service station, but otherwise it’s actually lemon gelato. So real simple.