Interview: Memphis LK from SAATSUMA on Overflow, water and dance moves

Monday, September 18, 2017

SAATSUMA recently released one of my favourite albums from the year thus far. Memphis LK from the duo shared the process of putting Overflow together, the theme of water and how they're evolving their live shows. 

If you're in Melbourne on Saturday 23rd September, head over to Northcote Social Club for their album launch! You can grab your tix via the link, and you find out more info here

Congrats on the release of your debut album Overflow, how long did you spend putting it together?
Thank you! It’s pretty surreal having it out in the world after working towards this dream for so long. We spent a solid chunk of last year writing, and since moving into our own studio space in Brunswick we just entered a full-blown writing tundra. We initially wanted to release an EP but ended up having enough content for an album so we just thought, let’s fucking go hard or go home. It’s been a massively challenging and rewarding process, and it's a body of work we are both incredibly proud of. It’s the most honest, open and vulnerable representation of ourselves we could possibly imagine, which is a pretty scary thing to release into the world, but here’s hoping people respond to and connect with it in some way.

Where did you record the album? Did it involve any travel during this process?
The majority of the album was recorded and produced in our studio Grenadilla Studios in Brunswick. We recorded drums at our friend Evan’s beautiful Park Orchards studio engulfed in naycha, and vocals at our mate Josh’s (Smooch Records) studio in Brunswick. I went overseas in May/June while the album was being mixed by my brother Declan. I remember listening to our production mixes while I was away and tweaking parts, obsessing over the finishing touches for each track before sending the sessions off to be mixed. So yeah, I guess you could say the final process of production happened in the back of a van driving through the US.

I read somewhere that water was an inspiration for you when creating the album, which I can hear lyrically and feel on an emotional level as a listener. What aspects of water did you want to capture on the album?
It didn’t occur to me that water was a common theme until the album was finished; we only decided on the title Overflow midway through the mixing process. It’s an ongoing theme that has always been present in my writing, not just lyrically but in the production as well. I’m constantly drawn back to it. The fluidity of water, it's beautiful, almost poetic imagery, the unattainable nature of water, its purity, its calming, comforting effect, contrasting with its unpredictability, and sometimes has panic/anxiety-inducing properties.

Listening to the album, I particularly loved ‘With U’. How did that track come about? 
Thank you!!! That’s one of my favourites too, so it’s nice to hear others connect with it in the same way. This song was actually co-written with our friend Joel Ma and was one of the first SAATSUMA songs ever written. It has evolved so much since then — we basically re-produced the entire thing and changed the outro entirely to make it feel more cohesive with our sound. Production-wise its one of the more refined, stripped-back tracks on the album, and I really love the space that this minimal production creates. The lyrics I think are something that a lot of people resonate with, as it reflects the fear many of us have of being alone; that we will often stay in something based on ease and comfort even if we’re unhappy, ultimately losing our sense of selves as a result.

When creating music, do you develop your lyrics or the beat first? Or is it a mixture of both?
It differs from song to song, but I think the most common way we seem to work is starting with a beat, then coming up with a couple of different chord progressions, then an arrangement, and working on melody and vocals towards the end. The lyrics almost always come last. Once we’ve got a general vibe and structure we’ll just start refining parts and layering synths and textures. Cesar and I have a really good flow in the studio and it’s always super collaborative and fun. We thrive off each other's excitement when we create new stuff. It’s great to have someone to bounce off creatively.

You have your live show coming up soon at Northcote Social Club, which tracks from Overflow are you excited to perform?
Yes it’s so soon! We’re playing the entire album start to finish which we’ve never done before. It’s a pretty nerve-wracking thing to play so much new content all at once, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how the new tracks are received in a live setting. I’m most excited to play 'With U' and 'Crescent', because they’re both new to the live show but mainly because Maddy (my sis) and I have choreographed some dance routines which is a brand new addition to the live show and a serious life-long dream of mine. Dreams really do come true.

How do you plan on finishing up 2017?
We’re really excited to play lots of shows over summer and do a proper album tour. Once the launch is done we’re keen to get back in the studio and start writing again. Album two here we come. 2017 has been so real, 2018 we’re ready for you. 

Written by Amy Smolcic