The Savage Blush’s third release Dust hit Bandcamp this Sunday. They've expanded on their lo/fi, surfy, garage rock sound since 2014, gaining momentum and following by touring across the nation in their van and playing festivals such as this year’s 2016 UMS.
Dust attends to similar styles previously heard from The Savage Blush, whose sound cultivates the familiar licks of classic surf-rock projects such as The Ventures and guitarist Grace Slick, woven together with psychedelic, dirt and grit riffs akin to more contemporary groups like King Khan or The Murlocs.
The Blush utilizes pedals with deftness that is similar to shoegaze bands such as Slowdive and Galaxie 500, yet they’ve exchanged the dream-pop sterility for dust in your eyes desert rock with Latin influence.
The title Dust is a perfect fit for the space The Savage Blush create in their tracks. One feels lost in the world of Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali; Dust runs off of a cold, wavering heat that melts clocks in an interminable desert of sound and psychedelia.
The track “Wake the Dreamer” melts into your head, both spinning and painstakingly still, while “Sobre Espinas” is a blue flame; with Spanish lyrics sung like incantations, this track swells into the deeper and darker, drawing images of American desertscapes with sparseness and aridity. The song boils like a cauldron into chaotic turmoil then abruptly ends the album like a pot of water pulled quickly from a burner.
Having been written more or less in the desert during van trips across the US, the album operates under the same temperatures. Dust oscillates between hot and cold tonalities in an organic, fluid-yet-tightly-bound circular trip.
Dust’s production quality is notably sharper than both their previous self titled album and their 2014 “Quattuor Ante Meridiem” which was recorded inside the practice/recording space of a local high school, yet the mastering has managed to create the same echoey, lo-fi dissonance characteristic of their earlier work.
The album only falls short in one aspect: length. We are left wanting more, and with the abrupt cinch-off after “Sobre Espinas” cuts, we feel as though the band built a house without a front door. Sonically, the album is more than enough, yet we hope for a continuation of the low-flying heat coming from the four savored tracks on Dust.
Read on for an exclusive interview with songwriter and guitarist of The Savage Blush, Rebecca Williams.
U5280: So, starting off, where was ‘Dust’ recorded?
RW: We recorded in our buddy’s studio, Brian Wyatt. He’s in a couple different Denver projects. We [recorded] it in his studio because he knew how to capture what we wanted. It was a warehouse space, so it wasn’t like we went to some studio and paid 3,000 dollars to create something we weren’t sure of. Brian also did all of the mixing and mastering work. We were involved in the process every step of the way, like ‘this more, this a little less’, so we had a big hand in it.
U5280: The track “Sobre Espinas” is sung in Spanish. Can you tell us more about the Latin influences on the album?
RW: My brother and I come from a very religious background. Our Dad was a pastor, and he always led sermons in Spanish. Throughout my childhood, we were playing Latin music in the church band. I think that is a huge influence of the rhythms I like to hear, and it shaped the way Josh plays the drums. It’s in our backbone, and it comes through, even, I think in the way I play the guitar. I’ve wanted to write in Spanish more often, but English is more prevalent for me in terms of language. My Mom’s side of the family is Hispanic, and it happened that my Dad ministered to mostly Mexican communities, and so Hispanic and Mexican culture has always been a huge part of our lives, and we’ve been in love with the culture since we were kids.
U5280: In contrast to the surfy sound of Quattuor Ante Meridiem, Dust sounds more like desert rock. What caused the transition?
RW: I don’t ever know that anything I write is a conscious decision. I think I just start playing, thinking of different sounds and it just kind of happens. I was traveling in the desert for a couple of months during the year, but a couple of the songs were written before then, but I’ve always had an affinity for the desert and bleak landscapes. It’s never been a conscious thing. Sometimes you may set out to write something that’s a little, perhaps darker, or something. But it’s never been, ‘I want to sound like this band, or that guitarist’. It’s been a natural evolution of whatever is going on inside of ourselves in that moment.
U5280: The title, Dust, is it an allusion to John Fante’s novel “Ask the Dust”?
RW: It isn’t. I think “Sobre Espinas” was written first and it felt very desert landscape-esque to me. I could just see myself walking around in a desert, a barren, dusty place. That word encapsulated the feeling, rather than trying to overcomplicate it and call it something like, ‘The Mirages in the Desert’ or something ridiculous like that. It’s a very, well, I’m tempted to say it’s dark. It just happens that all of these tracks are a little darker. The title was simply related to how it feels.
U5280: The Savage Blush began as a project between your brother, Joshua Williams, and yourself. Can you tell us about how the two of you became interested in music?
RW: I got my first instrument when I was nine years old, a little keyboard. I just remember always being drawn to all of these different sounds. My grandparents remember this toy set of instruments I had as a kid as well, at four or five, and I was banging on them constantly. Yeah, by the time I was nine I began to play in the church. Josh and I are four years apart, but by the time he was nine he was playing drums with the church band too. From there we started picking up all of the instruments and playing really, all of the time. Our house was actually connected to the church, so we had access to everything, the PA system too. Josh would be in there for hours, and you could hear him banging on the drums from the house all the time. We were playing whenever we could with whoever we could.
U5280: I understand that you’re currently living in your van. Does the arrangement make touring easier?
RW: I haven’t had a house or an apartment for two or three years now. Touring was one of the major reasons we decided to move to the van. I know now that I can just leave a place I’m not into whenever I want. I have all my equipment in here, a comfortable bed. We built it out thinking, ‘One person can sleep here, another can sleep here, and we can fit one more over there’. On our first tour, we lived in there for a month and a half, three people. We don’t want to be tied down with a place. Josh is probably buying his own van because we like our space away from big cities, and we want to be able to just leave for a tour whenever we want.
U5280: The Savage Blush recently opened up for The Last of the Easy Riders at Larimer Lounge. Can you give us a brief of what went down at the show?
RW: It was our last show before I leave to France for a couple months. We just wanted to make it an awesome show. We set up the drums differently than we ever have and pulled Josh in close. We really liked playing like that. The Patient Zeros and High Plains Honky are good friends of ours. We like playing shows in which none of the bands are quite alike, but we all have mutual respect for different types of music. I’d never seen The Last of the Easy Riders and their set was great. We had quite a few people come and tell us that they’d seen us before and they were really excited, and they wanted to talk about you know, the way my pedals sound and stuff like that.
U5280: You earned yourselves a 10 PM slot at the Hi-dive this year. What was your experience like, playing this year’s UMS?
RW: Great. We couldn’t have been happier with our slot [Friday, 10 PM @ Hi-dive] and the bands we got to play with. It was just insane. We had a few people tell us that they tried to get in but the venue was only doing one-in-one-out. The line was down the block, which is expected for the venue, but again if you have a terrible band playing in there, people aren’t going to wait. Friday nights have always been our favorite at UMS. We were really dirty, sweaty, all that good stuff.
U5280: Who are your favorite local bands that played UMS?
RW: Ned Garth was nuts. I had crust, champagne soaked hair at the end of the night. My shoes were ruined. My brothers hat looked like it had barf on it. It was just super fun. That was my favorite band I got to see, but there’s always so many bands we don’t get to see, which always happens. Dirty Few’s set was really great this year, and I hadn’t seen them in awhile.
U5280: We saw you in the pit during Ned Garth, and we were covered in champagne and glowsticks.
RW: Laughs. Ah, man. I woke up the next morning and I was like, I am disgusting. I can handle dirt and grit. I can handle not showering in the dirty desert, camping for two weeks on end, but I woke up that morning like, I gotta shower. Now.
U5280: You’re planning to leave for France for the next couple of months. Planning on playing any music or writing while you’re abroad?
RW: I’m going to be writing for sure. Since the new album just came out, our major plans are for promotion. Pitching to labels, booking agencies and tour planning, that kind of stuff. I’m going to a show in Paris this Friday with my girlfriend and some people I know, making connections. I’ll be doing writing too, since I’m buying a guitar and amp when I’m there. I’m packing like two shirts, two pairs of pants, and all of my pedals and cables. That’s my packing plan. I’m stoked. Cheese, wine, and what else do they have in France?
RW: Bread, cheese and wine? Are we stereotyping the French? ‘You’re French so you must eat like, a lot of bread’. Laughs.
U5280: Well, all I know is that I wouldn’t complain if I went to France there was a lot of bread. Any last remarks, anything you’d like to say to your Denver audience?
RW: Just a big thanks to everyone who’s been so supportive. There have been people who, this past year have been so amazing. All of the friends who have helped us with artwork, recording, taking videos, helping with the album. There have been tons of people who just want to see us succeed, and want to help us out. Thanks to everyone who has supported us.
This interview has been condensed and edited, and was conducted by Kendall Morris.