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I sat by the sea with Sean Nicholas Savage to learn more about the man who makes the most heart-wrenchingly sincere music your soul will ever experience. We talked about the morning after the apocalypse and the impossibility of conveying meaning. At the end, Sean tipped his sunglasses to meet my eyes. We knew something had moved in the universe
Interview by Zofia Ciechowska, photos shot by Adam Kremer in New York, USA
‘The kind of morning after the end of the world where there is no morning is something I do not understand’
What does ‘the morning after’ mean to you?
The morning after an eventful evening, perhaps… or an uneventful evening. Then it doesn’t feel like the morning after anything, really. There’s a great late-night underground after-party scene in Montreal. You won’t see posters, you won’t hear about it, you need to be in the know. I love playing those late shows, when everyone’s jacked up and everyone wants to see something move. You have so much room to do something fucked-up.
What would the morning after the end of the world feel like?
The end of my world? There would be no morning, I guess. I can’t understand that. Perhaps there would be a morning? That kind of end of the world is definitely going to happen, or it already has or is happening. The end ‒ it’s a description, it’s not a real thing. The other day I had a dream in which I woke up, wrote a song and recorded it and then I woke up, wrote the song I dreamt of but I didn’t have a recorder. I wrote the song down but it has no melody.
Do you think that in a faraway universe or in the world of microbes there is another Sean Nicholas Savage serenading the moon?
I have serenaded the moon many times. I have an unreleased song called ‘Girl Touches Moon’ but it’s actually about me. I don’t want to tell the story, but it’s very sexual. I have a very sexual relationship with the moon. If you see a star that means the light from the star touched your eye, and that means that there’s information from the star touching your face and it’s affecting you. The moon is this big dead rock that is so close to us, blasting sunlight at us all the time. The fact that you can just stand there and stare at the moon is completely moving.
‘I have a very sexual relationship with the moon’
When did you get that first gut feeling that music was your thing in life, more than anything else?
My first music-related memory is singing in my mom’s car as she was running errands around town. She’d leave me in the car for a few minutes and I’d sing made up songs while I waited for her. As soon as I was old enough to be a teenager, I started making choices and my big choice was music. It wasn’t a choice really, it was a thing that took me. Music has always been my life, for as long as I can remember, long before I was in the public eye. I’ve worked many different jobs and I enjoyed them for the most and the stability that they offered, but I am and always was writing songs in the meantime. I would get the best job I could and do the best I could because I think that helped me grow as a person, and give me a stronger voice as a human being.
The new album that is coming out is very self-explanatory, there’s not much to hide. I recorded my new album in Brooklyn with a friend of mine, Julian Bozeman. I had to re-record it just to get it just right. But I kept a song from that recording session that he wrote called Look at Me. People think I wrote it, but Julian did, I want people to know that. Because my albums are so personal, I find it difficult to collaborate, so that was a special moment for me. I had a moment where I felt I had lost the album and so I went to New York and Julian breathed so much life into it and I was so excited to realize that I would be putting out another record. He and I were both going through break ups at the time, this helped us bond greatly.
What advice do you have for heartbroken office drones who are secretly typing poetry into Excel spreadsheets?
That’s beautiful, I wouldn’t change anything about that. If you don’t like your job, get a new one. But writing poetry in Excel sounds great. Writing is so wonderful. It’s good for your brain and it can move other people, it’s so important to write in order to learn about language. Travelling a lot and talking to so many people in different languages teaches you a lot about meaning. But then we get words like ‘the end’ that turn out to be a faltering description of a much greater state. I like words like that, like ‘art’, ‘beautiful’ or ‘gay’ – what do these words mean? Language is too simple to work. We’re already having a huge problem with communicating even if we speak the same language! Music is beautiful because it allows you to express emotions with your message. I could just record myself giving little speeches, but I would want to add a little music to them and then maybe I’d want to sing a little bit, because singing is really nice. That’s what I do.
Montreal crooner Sean Nicholas Savage plays two Subbacultcha! dates with Conquering Animal Sounds. He’s at WORM, Rotterdam on 17 September and at OT301, Amsterdam on the 19th. You can also catch Mr. Savage on 18 September at this year’s Incubate Festival.