Analogue Music | Savoir Adore

Savoir Adore

By Matt Conner

The pendulum swing isn't quite as dramatic these days for Savoir Adore.

After years of fantastical analogies to match the imaginative musical canvas, Paul Hammer credits his new Savoir Adore partner Lauren Zettler for the lyrical shift. On the duo's latest album, Full Bloom, the dreamy and dream-like textures remain even as their messages are more direct than ever.

Hammer began his career as a straightforward artist, a folk-ish singer-songwriter, who upon forming Savoir Adore with former member Deidre Muro abandoned most of his own musical trappings. It was a pendulum swing in the other direction, as he puts it. A synth-heavy band was born.

One decade later, Hammer is still very much in love with Savoir Adore and the band's connection with fans. In fact, he's perhaps more passionate than ever. He's learning to allow the authenticity of his acoustic background to shine through the synthetic and Full Bloom is the beautiful result of it all.

We recently sat down with Paul to hear more about his creative chemistry with Lauren, the new album's sequence, and the need for accountability in art.

Analogue: Let's start with the bigger picture. You started Savoir with Deidre [Muro]. After she leaves, you work with a rotating cast and now it's you and Lauren [Zettler]. Was there a moment when you thought this needed a new name for new personnel?

Paul Hammer: To be completely honest, I think I've considered every iteration, every shift possible, especially when I was first trying to write and come up with new ideas. [Laughs] The project was always an experiment, so I think that lent itself to the changes that ended up happening. When Deidre left the band, our creative process and relationship had already changed a lot. We were already going in different directions. So after that, the biggest thing for me was figuring out whether the music I was making still felt like Savoir Adore.

As I progressed, I realized a lot of the sound has to do with the approach and the production and the arrangements... I like to think they're a little different from what everyone else is going in terms of the combination of electronics and a little bit of folk and rock music. As soon as we really started finishing songs again, I thought, "This still sounds like Savoir Adore." Since the band has a diverse sound, too, and as Lauren came in, it still felt like Savoir Adore.

I was literally afraid to re-approach writing from a personal angle. I remember writing "Giants" with Lauren, and I was freaked out because the lyrics were too much about myself.

I definitely thought about it and wondered, "Should this be something different?" My heart is so connected to this idea and what we've already created—our story—that I wanted to keep it going if I could. Then when the music was done, it all felt right.

You could have kept it loose with a rotating cast, so what is it about Lauren that drew you to want to work together in a more settled position?

There's a certain honesty that she brings out of me and that she brings to her creative process in general. She challenges me to always write honestly, even if the subject matter is a bit otherworldly or magical, still. We still have that shift to it. But in the creative process and the final product, she's able to confront things a little more directly in a way I've never experienced with anyone else in my life—creatively or even as a friend. I loved it because it forced me to deal with a lot of issues—not just with the music but with the band and the future and myself. For me, that was such a big part of it.

The whole focus of the last album, The Love That Remains, was a more emotional, more human thing. As soon as Lauren and I started finishing songs, I also liked what we wrote together so much more than what I wrote with anyone else. [Laughs] I had to keep this going. Then as soon as we started writing for this record, it was a no-brainer. It just became even easier. I think we wrote "Bloom" in an afternoon. So in a way, it was definitely organic, but I think I also felt most inspired working with her. She brings out the best in what I can still do. It's funny because there are so many people you can collaborate with, but you don't always that kind of connection.

Do you have a tangible example of finding yourself being challenged to be more honest?

There are a few. I have so much love for this project and how it started, but it was an escapist thing at first. The first record and EP we made was about not wanting to do the singer-songwriter thing. It almost became a crutch. I was always afraid to write about anything personal or remotely autobiographical.

To avoid that label?

I'd been doing the folk music, singer-songwriter thing by myself for so long. Every song was extremely personal and all about love. I think I swung the pendulum all the way to the other end, where all of our music was character-based and fantasy-based. It made for something fun, but after awhile, I was literally afraid to re-approach writing from a personal angle. I remember writing "Giants" with Lauren, and I was freaked out because the lyrics were too much about myself. But I slowly realized that, through Lauren, I was reconnecting with this balance of being able to write music that was a lot more honest, which I think people connected with.

Credit: Shervin Lainez
Credit: Shervin Lainez

I'm almost always pushing lyrics to be more abstract, and then Lauren will say, "Why not just say exactly what you mean?" Then I'll do it and say, "Oh yeah, that's true. This is better." [Laughs] She's also just very good at confrontation of any kind, which I think a lot of musicians can be too passive aggressive. Lauren is the opposite of that. She's always very direct. That's a part of why I really love working with her, because we end up confronting things. Sometimes people are so afraid to hurt other people's feelings that you dance around what you actually mean. So the honesty is great in the process but also for the songs themselves.

Plus you're left with mediocre art if you lack accountability and honesty.

Yes! I think especially as I get older, I need to confront things about my music. You learn to confront your art in the same way you're confronting your collaborators.

I want to turn to the album and especially this first track. "The Hum" is this really interesting way to open up the album, because it feels like you're asking us all to lean in close to hear what you have to say before introducing the rest, which really opens up thereafter. How intentional was that sequencing?

That was a huge part of it. My parallel in my head was the song "Dreamers" from two records ago. I really enjoy records that have an overture or an introduction song. When we finished "The Hum," it was exactly that. We wanted people to stop, sit down, and listen to it. It's very much intended to pull you in, and it's also one of the deepest songs on the whole record, too. We went back and forth because "Bloom" is the natural next step and that's the big grand entrance, but we first wanted to pull people in.

The rest of the album flows with a real sense of optimism and hopefulness and being present to the life and loves around us.

I remember talking to Lauren about this. We wrote and recorded everything a little bit quicker, but as we were finishing songs, it's funny we ended up in this headspace. I think a lot of it was our subconcious every day. We're trying to be grateful and trying to accept that life is moving forward and changing and we're all changing. The band and myself has gone through so much in the last few years. This record is one big way of saying, "It was always going to be okay and it is okay." So this record finds the moments within that.

"Bloom" was a big turning point because it signified how we feel and how we want people to feel as they enter this record. You're going to go through these changes and it's going to be okay. You have to just let it happen, accept it, and cherish it as a moment in your life. That is the whole message of the album from "Bloom" to "When the Summer Ends" to the last song, "Everthing's a Season" to "It's Gonna Be Alright." We wrote it and thought, "This is it. This is the closer." It's a simple message, but I think sometimes people forget that.

It was sort of a necessary message for ourselves, too. It was almost a statement of me and Lauren saying, "It's gonna be alright." We're still able to make music. We're still able to get on a stage. We're very lucky because of that, no matter the sort of outcome.

So what are the hopes for this record in light of that?

I always joke around how my expectations continue to grow in what I want, but I also continue to grow more satisfied with just the creation of it. I think that's completely a result of getting older and learning to appreciate things more in a different way. We've been so lucky to have such great experiences while touring that all I want in life is to be able to go anywhere in the world and have 500 people in the audience singing these words. I also know that it's so complicated. Now more than ever, the industry is more confusing on how to reach everyone. You can do it, but there's also so much noise that you wonder how to stand out.

So I have very high expectations. Some of these songs have been connecting with people more than ever. We have better streaming numbers than ever before. That's exciting, but we're also waiting to see how people will buy it or whether they'll come out to shows. It's an interesting time to ask it, too, because there was such a long build-up as we released the album slower. Now it's out. I'm grateful that people can listen to it, but I'm also wondering, "Now, what?" It belongs to everyone else now, so what's my next step?

VISIT: Savoir Adore