ABOUT SAUNA YOUTH
SAUNA YOUTH are an evolving band of future humans making truly irregular punk, not quite comparable to anything else. "Weird" is a meaningless platitude and "art punk" is a classifier that shouldn't be required.
Consisting of Boon (drums, vocals), Pines (guitar), Ecke (vocals, sampler) and Mince (bass), Sauna Youth are a punk band that's happy to embrace all of the contradictions that go along with that notion.
On paper, Sauna Youth sound considered - live, they can barely be contained. They are at times furious, unstoppable and severe, with the sampler wailing like an alarm coming from a parallel universe - then chugging, poppy, harmonious and fun. Forever loud.
As Kurt Cobain once asked "Why can't we be both Black Sabbath and The Beatles?" Sauna Youth consistently pose the question, "Why can't we be both The Ramones and Steve Reich?"
Having formed in Brighton in 2009, the band then moved to London in 2011, shifting its line up to its current constellation. As well as performing as Sauna Youth, all four members also make up the band Monotony, swapping their roles around in the group. They did two sessions over two days as both bands for Marc Riley on BBC 6 Music, and both bands were invited to play DRILL Festival by Wire.
As well as playing in Monotony, members of Sauna Youth are also in Tense Men, Primitive Parts, Feature and Cold Pumas.
SAUNA YOUTH RELEASES
UTR103 | CD / LP | 12 tracks | Buy
The final part in a trilogy of LPs that started with Dreamlands in 2012 (wide-eyed, naive beginnings introducing listeners to the world the records inhabit), followed by Distractions three years ago (what happens while you're heading towards a destination, the unknowns, the unexpected outcomes), the songs that comprise Deaths are collectively about the act of finishing, an ode to 'the ending'.
Creating this album was a working research project embodying what is sometimes the hardest part of musical endeavour: completing a record. Making a new album is always daunting, but when all band members also have full-time jobs and other commitments it can also seem logistically impossible. Then there is the nagging, unattainable perfectionism that can draw out a record for months or even years - an experience that didn't bear repeating. When is something finished? Is finishing necessary to move on?
The album was created and facilitated through a series of deadlines. The recording studio was booked before any songs had been written. Having a deadline in advance allowed for productive freedom through limitation and finite time: five months to write the album, that was it. This meant meeting every week to write no matter how many members could make it, filling in on each other's instruments (reminiscent of how side-project Monotony came about: writer's block in a Sauna Youth practice - removing yourself from your role in a band removes the old expectations) and using automatic writing processes.
The limited time didn't allow for much reflection and overworking. Placeholders became final tracks through committing to songs at early stages, keeping them immediate. The album is site and time specific - those months in an archway in Peckham, which live on through samples including amp interference from trains passing overhead. It's also very much of this specific point in history, influences, and band members' lives. This process created a tension through trusting decisions and not questioning what was produced.
The 12 tracks touch on political rhetoric, artistic legacy, action and passivity, work and leisure, and, of course, distraction, referencing many musical genres in the process while never leaving punk's orbit. Creative living becomes more gruelling and endless than the 9 to 5 on 'Leisure Time', how freelance living and having multiple jobs both result in no free time. Being in a band is leisure time, but can be a lot of work. Our lives should afford us with time, but we fill it with activity.
'No Personal Space' looks at the cyclical nature of music, referencing 'New Rose' - the first single by a British punk band - via a drumbeat and lyrics, exploring the enclosure of the genre; a blown out recording of practising constantly interrupts the band. 'Percentages' was written at a point of political and social upheaval and problematizes the use of numbers as a form of proof. Whole groups of people have been reduced to statistics for political reasons, and people use and manipulate statistics to prove any point they want. 'In Flux' is about whatever is opposite to creativity, what kills it dead, the communication of a song or a piece of art can kill it, even trying to see an idea through to its conclusion can be what kills it.
The pure pop number 'Laura', according to Jonah Falco who mixed the record, sounds like "The Desperate Bicycles went to graduate school in the fields of Salisbury while being yelled at by two sides of their conscience, oddly enough, telling them the exact same thing." 'Problems' - a former Monotony song - reduces the punk song to its essential elements, aiming to sound like being inside a brake factory and repeating 'Problems' until it has rendered the word completely meaningless. The album ends with a wild and playful rejection of patriarchy and a frustration with those who uphold it either willingly or through inaction in the form of the unhinged Theatre 83. It's like English music hall meets 'We're A Happy Family' by The Ramones.
Like the previous two albums, Deaths includes writing put to music. 'Swerve' and 'The Patio' are extracts from a short story written by band member Ecke about the murder of an artist whose estate is overseen by her ambitious sister, and is read by writer and frontperson of Marcel Wave, Maike Hale-Jones. Samples are as important as they ever were - this time including the aforementioned electrical interference, recordings of practice and YouTube videos of lawnmowers and cafe noise that people (including members of the band) listen to while working to distract their mind in order to focus.
An album once finished is frozen in time, solid and no longer resistent or adaptive to outside forces. Does the difficulty to find an end come from the genre, from punk's revisionist impulse, redoing the same thing over and over? Do we avoid an ending because playing in a band is a distraction from everyday life?
UTR071 | CD / LP | 14 tracks | Buy
'Distractions' (released 8 June 2015) marks the first time the band has managed to write everything in a room together and also documents the first time they have entered a studio to record; the songs in turn created through the process of learning to write together. 'Distractions' was recorded over a couple of days in July 2014 at Sound Savers in Homerton with Mark Jasper, then mixed by the band and mastered by Kris Lapke.
'Distractions' is made up of 14 songs about desire, but more importantly, about that area just out of reach of desire, at the very centre of the human psyche. It looks at what it means to be distracted from being yourself. It thrives in the desire to be someone else, the very idea that you could be someone else. It's also an album that feels instinctive and natural, flowing freely from a band that have come to terms with the sum of its parts. Ultimately though, Sauna Youth have made a colossal record which is impossible not to dance to.
Attracted to the possibilities apparent within a DIY philosophy, the band self-recorded and self-released their own music pretty much until the release of their debut LP 'Dreamlands' on Faux Discx/Gringo Records in 2012. 'Dreamlands' opened with the 10-minute introduction to the "Town Called Distraction," where the stories on this new album find themselves living.
This new album opens with the same locked groove from the end of previous one, until "Transmitters" suddenly breaks the cycling ambience, racing off at full pelt, its guitars pulsing and chopping in a terse manner before the chorus crashes in like a wave.
By singing every word at the same time, Ecke and Boon create a unified voice of no specific gender, allowing the songs to be sung from multiple perspectives, from a place of shared experience. The song's lyrics branch out of ideas of Transhumanism; looking for a way to live forever, for something that makes us last, like recordings. "I want my thoughts scratched into plastic/hear my voice on an endless loop/I like persistence," they sing in unison.
"New Fear" is an elegy for endless lost hours, endless wasted nights, the strangle hold of feeling that you're missing out. "Monotony" represents a desire for a change that won't come: history repeats, music repeats, it's just the context that changes. This is echoed in the type of streamlined focus the band have on composition too, everything drives onwards with inner compulsion, there is no outward hesitation.
With "Cosmos Seeker," the authenticity of character is explored, the drums strictly pinning the jabbing guitar chords and vocals into a propulsive swarm of sound. "Modern Living" is a song that could only have been written now by the band - it sounds effortless yet thrilling all the same, so realised but seemingly spontaneous.
"Modern Living" considers another desire - this time the need for a new way of living that escapes the threat of your job becoming your whole life. 'Distractions' also includes two poems put to music: "(Taking a) Walk" by Ecke is a rumination on the body, specifically female, in public spaces, while "Paul" by Boon explores individuality and authentic performance. Themes of anxiety, indecision and preoccupation run throughout the album.
Beginning and ending in squalling feedback "The Bridge" is always the song that rings longest in your head when listening to 'Distractions.' It's full of the desire to set yourself apart, to connect and hold focus. It's exactly this halfway house existence that best exemplifies the band. There's no standing still when there's such desire to escape to the next song, there's only transformation and desire.
UTR079 | 7" | 2 tracks | Buy
Beginning and ending in squalling feedback 'The Bridge' is the song that rings longest in your head when listening to 'Distractions', it's full of the desire to set yourself apart, to connect and hold fast. "I am the source of the overflow, a torn neck, an effervescent glow, I am the route to the heart of it" sing Ecke and Boon in everyman unison. It's keen and brisk, tireless and smart as a whip. 'Blurry Images' prefers to jog on the spot, its drumbeat and bassline pinned down by throbbing keyboard jabs. "Ancient warning, or invitation, what’s it look like to you?" question the vocals, drawing the song into focus before upping the contrast. It's a tour de force and a fitting home for one of the most unhinged guitar solos the band have committed to tape so far.
'SPLIT' W/ MONOTONY
UTR073 | 7" | 3 tracks | Buy
In the prelude to their album release, Sauna Youth have teamed up with themselves in the form of their sister band Monotony to send forth a colossal split 7" into the world (released 11 May 2015). Sauna Youth offer up their headrush lead single called "Transmitters" from their forthcoming album, while Monotony proffer two exclusive tracks called "Human Troll" and "Luxury Flats."
Sauna Youth's side races off at full pelt, its guitars pulsing and chopping in a terse manner before the chorus crashes in like a wave. By singing every word at the same time, Ecke and Boon create a unified voice of no specific gender, allowing the songs to be sung from multiple perspectives, from a place of shared experience. The song's lyrics branch out of ideas of Transhumanism; looking for a way to live forever, for something that makes us last, like recordings. "I want my thoughts scratched into plastic/hear my voice on an endless loop/I like persistence," they sing in unison.
Monotony kick off their side with "Luxury Flats" - a stomping slab of head-first primal punk. "Acquisitions, no ambition. Jumping off the balcony," they intone over the swaggering rhythm. In the song, Monotony come face to face with Ballard's high-rise nightmare set upon rapidly gentrifying London out of all reason. Second track, "Human Troll," is a boldly brash song lodged with sloping riffs and hollered vocals. "Human Troll lives in the river, cement mattress making him shiver!"