Ahead of their gig at Night Quar­ter this week­end, Safia’s Ben Wool­ner talks tribal tones, be­ing spooky and go­ing main­stream

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - SALLY COATES


You waited a while to make your first al­bum. Tell us a bit about it. There are songs on there that were ideas from be­fore we were even Safia, like a silly idea that we never thought we’d put out but they stuck with us. There’s a lot of raw en­ergy and raw ideas that we thought were re­ally unique and cool, so we wanted to do them jus­tice and make them into some­thing real. The first song on the al­bum, “Zion”, was from about four or five years ago, then “Ex­ter­nal” was the last song that was writ­ten and the last track, so in a way the al­bum is a bit of a jour­ney through our mu­si­cal time­lines. “Zion” has quite a strong in­dige­nous in­flu­ence. Why did you de­cide to in­cor­po­rate those sounds? There’s some­thing about tribal and in­dige­nous mu­sic – it’s so raw and the en­ergy is amaz­ing. The first in­car­na­tion of “Zion” didn’t have the didgeri­doo, but Michael (Bells, the group’s drum­mer) plays a bit and we just love that sound. It’s one of the coolest sound­ing in­stru­ments in that it’s mono­tone but still some­how has this en­ergy.

“Zion” is also a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of us as pro­duc­ers as it starts sim­ple, slowly moves into a more mod­ern sound and flips into a chaotic elec­tric sound half­way through. It re­ally show­cases what we like do­ing with or­ganic, recog­nis­able sounds and mix­ing it with mod­ern, twisted, dig­i­tal sounds. What do you think peo­ple like about your sound? You have peo­ple who pre­fer the poppy stuff or clubby stuff but we can make it sound weird and dif­fer­ent and make it stand out. We like mak­ing mu­sic that will get a re­ac­tion – like with “Count­ing Sheep”, it’s very dif­fer­ent to other songs you’d hear on the ra­dio and when peo­ple hear it we want them to no­tice it – whether the re­ac­tion is pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive we just want to evoke a re­sponse. Have you played on the coast be­fore? No, my only ex­pe­ri­ence of the GC was when we were all 18 and went for Harry’s birth­day about six years ago. It was fun. We had a room at the Mar­riott and we fit eight peo­ple in a room for two be­cause we were broke kids. We went to some very ter­ri­ble clubs, which were great at the time. I went to a bird park that was fun, I’d def­i­nitely do that again. We’re all ex­cited to play at NightQuar­ter though – food and wine and cheese are all of our favourite things. I’ve al­ways thought you guys have a bit of a spooky vibe, lots of deep growls and dis­tor­tions. Where does that come from? A lot of the lyrics when we write a song are very vis­ual, as in a lot of the time we imag­ine a sce­nario that plays out as we hear the mu­sic. Some­times that’s what trig­gers lyrical themes, like a vis­ual tapestry that goes with the words. “Close To You” def­i­nitely fits within that creepy nar­ra­tive – the al­bum demon­strates it, we call it “creepy wonky”. It’s re­ally strange, you wouldn’t hear it on com­mer­cial ra­dio. Some­times we think we’re too weird... You had a run-in with Ari­ana Grande last year when it was al­leged she pla­gia­rised your “You Are the One” film clip. What hap­pened there? Noth­ing re­ally, it was all a bit tongue-in-cheek. You can’t re­ally do any­thing about that. It was funny though, we knew noth­ing would come of it but it made mas­sive news – she stayed out of it but her fans didn’t. It’s an in­ter­est­ing thing – hav­ing a bil­lion 12-year-olds abus­ing you for ac­cus­ing her. They wanted blood. I’m lucky that hap­pened early on be­cause it re­ally showed us the depth of so­cial me­dia. What songs from the new al­bum are you most ex­cited to play live? “Go to Waste” is go­ing to be fun to play live be­cause it’s a slower but epic bal­lad, it’ll trans­late re­ally well. “Make Them Wheels Roll” is one that’s been around for a while and we still haven’t got­ten sick of it, so I’m ex­cited to play that for peo­ple. You’ve found much of your suc­cess via al­ter­na­tive streams, though you did col­lab­o­rate with Pek­ing Duk. What hap­pens if you go main­stream? Is that some­thing you want or would rather avoid? If the mu­sic crosses over we’ll em­brace it, but we’ll never change the way we write for a com­mer­cial au­di­ence. We’ll keep writ­ing weird and wonky. Safia, NightQuar­ter, Satur­day

Elec­tro in­die three-piece Safia formed in Can­berra and list Pu­rity Ring and Ma­jor Lazer among their in­flu­ences.

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