Interview: Cash Savage, ‘It’s Fuckin’ Awesome to Be Alive’

One of Melbourne’s best songwriters Cash Savage has spent 2016 celebrating life and thinking “It’s fuckin’ awesome to be alive.” Her latest album One Of Us vividly depicts the highs and lows of the previous year. Cash Savage And The Last Drinks‘ ability to portray such beauty in sorrow makes One Of Us one of the best releases this year.

After an awesome album tour Cash Savage And The Last Drinks (Joe White, Rene Mancuso, Chris Lichti, Brett Marshall and Kat Mear) returned to Europe to drink beer and play music. It was the band’s second trip in two years to Europe. We spoke with Cash about how Europe was and their upcoming Australian festivals.

Last time I spoke with you Cash you had just returned from a European tour, and this year is the same. How was Europe this time around?

Amazing! Really amazing! We went over there to hopefully drum up some stuff for summer. That’s happened now and we have had a bunch of festival offers, which is good. So we are going back again in seven months. Which will be nice, because winter was very winter over there.

Was it snowy over there?

Yeah, a few places we went to it snowed. Which was pretty exciting at first, and then kind of scary because we had to drive around in it. It was pretty fun, the first morning it snowed we all ran outside like school kids, running around throwing snow at each other.

I lived in the snow for a while and always that first week was amazing and then after that it just becomes cold and wet and you want it to go away.

*Laughs* Yeah it’s something they don’t convey in the movies is how wet snow is. It only snowed a few times on us. Our last week was in France, so we didn’t get any snow there, as their winters aren’t as bad. We had one night in Prague where we had to walk home from the pub on a night off in minus 5 degrees which was pretty hilarious. It was actually a lot of fun, we would just walk 5 minutes then go into another pub and have another beer and warm up. And then walk another 5 minutes, which also meant we were quite drunk by the time we got home but the journey was really good.

Last time we spoke you had mentioned recording over there, did those recordings make it onto One Of Us?

Yeah, that was Rat-a-tat-tat. We also recorded another version of My Friend but for whatever reason we recorded it really fast and I wanted to do it again a bit slower. It was a good recording, it just wasn’t quite right. But Rat-a-tat-tat was fine. It was quite a big production too, so I thought I’d leave that as it is, but re-do My Friend.

Was it exciting to go back over there and play Rat-a-tat-tat in front of the places where you wrote and recorded it?

Yeah, it was really fun. We had a film clip to go with it and it got used for a lot of promo. Rat-a-tat-tat isn’t English or French or Czech or German so people sang along which was lots of fun. Anyone can sing along with Rat-a-tat-tat. A lot of them actually heard that first line “I hear the sound it’s deafening” they all knew that line, whether they understood it or not, which was pretty fun. So when the music stops and the band sings along, the crowd would often be singing as well, which was pretty cool.

Did you guys fund this trip again by yourselves?

No, we got a grant from Creative Victoria this time which was amazing. We didn’t find out about our grant until six days before we left *laughs*. We were funding it whether we got money from them or not. The money didn’t actually come through until the 14th of November, which was almost two weeks into the tour but it has made a massive difference. Especially, coming home because there was much less financial pressure. We were going to fund it out of the band’s money, but now that money can pay for other things like more recordings, which is good. It might not sound so helpful finding out so close to the date, but it really was very helpful.

The thing I always think when I’m overseas or anywhere that any problem that arises can be fixed with money. We would have been over there and it would have been very tight, so to have the back-up of Creative Victoria meant that it was all but worry free, but nothing went wrong. In hindsight we probably would have been OK, but its a much better situation to have some help from the government.

I saw you played a gig in the Staropramen Brewery, how was that?

It’s actually a fuckin’ fantastic beer! You won’t believe at the gig they ran out of beer! We were at the source, and we were like ‘what do you mean you’ve run out of beer?’ They brought us all out another Belgian beer, I can’t remember the brand, and then after the show people were coming up and going ‘you know when you play in Czech, you drink Czech beer.’ Because you know, they are very proud of their beer and so they should be, they make amazing beers. And we were like ‘that’s not our fault, we didn’t ask for that, we wanted your beer, we love your beer.’ They were like ‘really good show, but you should drink Czech beer, you’re in Czech.’

I didn’t even realise the beer we were drinking was Belgian, but they all knew. We are actually really big fans of the Staropramen beer, and I’m not getting any money to say that, we are just big fans of Czech beers full stop. So that show was pretty fun, and we got to go in the back way, which is through the brewery. It was outside but we saw all the equipment which was pretty cool. It was a festival and our first gig in Czech, and our first gig overseas, it was super fun. We landed there and we had a day off just to get used to the snow and then that night that was that gig. It was very fun, but it seems like a very long time ago now.

The Staropramen brewery in Czech is fucking massive it’s huge it goes over multiple streets.

Oh wow, that’s my favourite thing about traveling through Europe, is going to all the unique breweries. I love trying different beers.

Trying different beers, yeah! They always say ‘do you want a local a beer?’ and we are always like ‘yes! give us a local beer’ so we have drunk so many different sorts of beers.

The best beer I tried over there was in Svalbard, Norway which is basically the top of the world. It’s made from glacial water and you can only get the beer on the island, it’s so amazing.

The best beer I have ever had I drank in Poland and none of us can remember what it’s called. I’d recognise it by colour, though, it was almost orange. If I ever see it again, I’d recognise it but it’s a Polish beer and I am pretty sure you can only get it in Poland. We weren’t there this time, so we didn’t see it.

Oh, you should have added an extra show in Poland…

*Laughs* We are hoping next year that’s what happens, we gotta find that beer again.

How was working with Mistletone? Are you signed with them or was it just a one album thing?

It’s just the one album deal when we set it up, which is good for everyone. They are really good guys in the business, not that I have really met many bad guys. They have just been really welcoming and the support we have had from them is what the difference was. The process of making the album was no different, they said ‘bring us an album.’ So we talked about what we wanted to do and they said ‘great.’ There was a lot of mutual respect there.

So we brought them an album. I was then on the edge of my seat for a few days, but they got back and said they loved it and wanted to work with us. I basically floated around the world for a few days feet off the ground. The big difference was just the support we had from them, it has been really unbelievable.

So you did all the recording and mastering yourself before giving it to them?

We gave them a finished album. They said that having input in the album is not what they do, which is perfect for me. I think it might have been un-mastered, but it was about to be mastered when they got it. From what I can tell about Mistletone is they are about letting musicians be musicians. It feels a little bit more natural that way.

That’s the way it should be, the reason you are gaining attention and being offered these kind of deals is because of what you have done on your own.

Yeah, that’s exactly right. The reason they are getting Cash Savage And The Last Drinks is because we are Cash Savage And The Last Drinks.

The base of the album comes from, I guess, a sad place, was it hard to not let the sadness effect the tone of the album? You’ve really done an amazing job of keeping it a quite lively album.

Because the overriding emotion for me was how special life is and how nice it is to be alive. When you contrast your own life against someone who has mental illness or someone who has suicided, for me it was important to realise how lucky I am to be alive and to have a mind that I trust. I didn’t want it to be a heavy album, but I did want those themes there and at times it was challenging.

The song One Of Us took me a year and a couple of weeks to write and it went through a lot of different versions, there is probably a minimum of ten. That song had a real purpose for me, so it went through a lot of different versions and I didn’t finish it until the day before recording. And if we hadn’t recorded it, maybe I still wouldn’t have finished it. The verses were written, but what was going to happen in between wasn’t written until the day before we recorded it. It was important for me for it to be a positive album. It’s fuckin’ awesome being alive, for me it is! So that’s how I kept it, not so heavy.

It’s an amazing album, especially the title track One Of Us that is just stunning. I know you said you might not have finished it but what you have done with it is just incredible.

Thanks, thank you.

I’ve been listening to the album digitally and it starts the album again when it’s finished and you’ve got that high pitched guitar feedback at the end and also in the first track as well. It seamlessly blends the album together.

If you have it on the vinyl it never ends. It stays in a locked groove, on the feedback and it doesn’t end until you pick up the needle. So yeah that was intentional, the reintroduction of how it starts. The feedback at the end is actually the feedback that is taken from Joe’s guitar on Falling. Landing. So if you listen to it, it should seamlessly go back to the start, so that’s awesome that it does.

Now that you guys are back home, you’ve got a few big festivals coming up. What’s it like to get billed for these?

When we got booked for Sydney Festival, I didn’t know who else is on the bill. You never know whenever you get booked for a festival who else has, you’re just excited to be booked. And then when you see your name next to PJ Harvey and Nick Cave it’s pretty ridicules.

My violin player, Kat Mear said to us the other day when we were at a radio station going live to air in France, ‘what are we even doing? How is this even happening?’ and I said ‘well it’s a lot of hard work,’ and she’s like ‘yeah, but it’s pretty ridiculous.’ *laughs* It’s pretty incredible. We’ve got NGV Friday nights coming up in Melbourne on the 30th of December. Then Sydney Festival on the 18th of January. And Golden Plains in March. So It’s pretty amazing to come back to the summer festivals.

Have you played many local festivals?

Yeah, we have played a lot. Which we did after The Hypnotiser, and then last year we had a few here and there, but this year it’s pretty loaded. Which is cool because the festival stages are a little bit different to the small stage, but only slightly. The biggest difference is that there is always a barrier. I hate that fuckin’ barrier, I like people to be next to the stage.

Between now and your next trip will you be working on new music?

Umm, yeah, it’s all just starting to come back for me. I didn’t realise what a toll making One Of Us would take on me until after I toured it. After the album tour I was kind of happy to be done with the shows where we were playing the whole album. We didn’t do Song For A Funeral but we did do the rest of the album. Now that I don’t have to play them, I am happy to play them. Having to play them was quite mentally taxing for me. Now that the tour has gone I can let it go a little bit and that’s been really wonderful. To go and play in Europe and just enjoy it a bit more without the pressure of it being the One Of Us tour, that’s been awesome. And now I am back I am stoked to be playing it again.

I just needed a little bit of mental space from that album, and I feel like I’ve had that. Because of that, I’ve started noodling around with stuff and I can feel songs coming again, which is really good. I don’t know when we will record again, but there is a potential that when we are overseas we will. But there is no pressure for me at the moment. I respond well to pressure but not for a start, I need to let that creativity build up again and then it will come up. So I’ve got no pressure on myself right now.

You can get Cash Savage and The Last Drink’s new album from here and catch them at the festivals below.

  • NGV Friday Nights – December 30, 2016
  • Sydney Festival – January 18, 2017
  • Riverboat Festival – February 17-19, 2017
  • Golden Plains – March 11-13, 2017

Image: Herald Sun