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CHANGING GEARS

Paige Savill - I Call Val
Paige Savill - I Call Val

Nominated for WA Music Industry Asociation Awards for Most Popular Live Act and Most Popular New Act in 2018, I Call Val have been away for about a year now.  But it hasn’t been for any kind of holiday or celebration of their success.  In fact, the hiatus, brought about by a split between the band’s personnel, has been no picnic at all.  “We’ve been through some trauma with the changes in the band,” front woman, Paige Savill, told Around The Sound when we sat down for a chat at Rhubarb Records in Leederville.  “It’s not something we’ve experienced before, and it was difficult.” 

Now, I Call Val are back, with a new lineup and a new single, ‘Ain’t Nothing I Can Do’.

…the world needs bands and artists of the likes of I Call Val and Paige Savill

Paige Savill is a larger than life personality.  She reminds Around The Sound of a modern-day Soo Catwoman, who used fashion to make a political statement and was one of the first women of 70s UK punk subculture.  The similarities run to more than just fashion sense and make up.  Interviewed in 1999, Soo Catwoman told The Independent, “I never wanted to live a rock’n’roll lifestyle. I want to be who I am. I think that is the most important thing for me and that was what punk was all about. It was about self-expression, and if you’re being true to yourself it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.”

Savill is continuing what is now a long line of female performers whose intention is to change the world.  Without their strength, their integrity and their undeniable talent, today’s contemporary music landscape would be far different.  Imagine a world of music where we’re still stuck in the miasma of cock rock.  How much our culture and evolution would suffer without the likes of Catwoman and Savill and every female identifying artist, past, present and future, who has been gutsy enough to be themselves and take their art to the world via what is still a male dominated industry and society.

I’ve always needed to be a performer

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Paige Savill, I Call Val

As we explored Savill’s drive to create and perform music, we learned that the urge to create is not the frivolous choice it can be seen as when viewed through the fourth wall.  “Personally, I’ve always needed to be a performer,” Savill told us, “so the goal is to be able to perform in front of as many people as possible and to engage as many people as possible.  I feel like I’ve not really had much time lately to expand on that on stage. It feels like I’m still in transition.  I feel like I’ll be on my deathbed saying, ‘I still wanted to do more!’  It is a major transition right now, it’s not just like a personal growth thing.  The lineup’s changed, the sound is changing, the gears are all changing.”

The lineup change Savill referred to has seen the nucleus of the band, Savill and long-time collaborator and guitarist, Adam Rossetti, remain in place, with three new members — David Brennan (drums), Nicholas Scafetta (keys) and Brendan Yang (bass) —  joining them.  While the changes may have been precipitated by ‘creative differences’, it’s given Savill and the band an opportunity to take things in a different direction, as shown in new single, ‘Ain’t Nothing I Can Do’.  This song is a highly polished piece of pop dynamite with vocals that take the best of Kylie’s coolest, housiest moments, and wrap them up in a disco-influenced groove that is a declaration of the band’s sonic intentions.  It’s bold, it’s confident and it’s filled with sonic goodness.

Speaking about ‘Ain’t Noting I Can Do’, Savill said, “For me, I find it really difficult to allow myself to be moved by music.  Particularly in crowds.  I want to be on the stage!  When I’m in a crowd, I don’t like feeling unseen, unheard, moving to something that isn’t my own.  It’s that urge to create and be a part of what’s happening up there [on stage].  This song is about letting go of that adult mind, that working mind and letting the music move you like it would have done as a child.”

Savill, like many artists, has spent much of her life dealing with anxiety and an internal questioning about the value of her creativity.  Speaking to her, it’s easy to get the impression that the confidence she exudes as a performer and songwriter is something of a trick of the light.  Self-confidence isn’t something that comes easy to her.  “I think I’m constantly battling that, as a creative person, as someone who’s in the industry, to be able to let yourself go of that judgement and criticism,” Savill told us.  Managing mental health issues requires, at some point during the process, insight and self-awareness.  With ‘Ain’t Noting I Can Do’, Savill is bringing her own processes to light through her songwriting.  She’s not only creating music that has delicious aural flavours, she’s also releasing her demons and, in doing so, giving her audience an opportunity to release theirs, too.

It’s a great leap forward from her early days as a musician.  Of this, Savill said, “When I wanted to be in this industry I didn’t ever picture myself writing music. I didn’t picture myself managing.  I didn’t picture myself producing.  I didn’t picture myself doing any of that.  I just wanted to be on stage.  But, I had to do it, no one else was going to do it for me.  There are moments when I feel kind of frustrated, I guess.  Why didn’t I start writing music when I was younger or get involved in production at an earlier stage?  That’s just been the process, that’s just the path that I’m on.  But I don’t think that frustration does anything for your art and your state of mind.”

Savill’s frustration with herself and her sense of her own limitations was, at times, palpable during our conversation.  In an industry where critics are overabundant, it’s often the internal voice that is the artist’s biggest barrier to making it, whatever that means.  Listening to her speak, though, it’s impossible not to wonder how much of her early sense of what she could achieve as an artist was constructed by the gender stereotypes that continue to run deep in the music industry.  Women still don’t have equal representation across the layers of the industry and there are those within the industry and in the general public who question whether and why this should be an issue.

I Call Val

Well, it’s an issue because, prima facie, the simple mathematics show that women remain underrepresented and underpaid across all roles in the music industry and, while it looks like things may be improving, there’s a long way to go.  So, it’s an equity issue.  But it’s also an issue of cultural richness.  We’re far poorer in terms of range, diversity and sheer quality of output without the equal involvement of women in the creation of music.  Artists like Savill are progenitors of that cultural richness and we should all be thankful that they’ve got the determination, persistence and lack of choice that she and most creatives have about their careers.

I think that everything’s political

Paige Savill, I Call Val

For Savill, music and politics go hand in hand, they’re necessary companions.

“I think that everything’s political,” Savill told us, “so music is.  The element that I bring to songwriting that I always want to be very present is that there’s a strong message and a strong theme lyrically.  I want to say stuff.  I want to either open a dialogue and have it continue, or provoke thought, make people feel uncomfortable.  Or, feel like they’re understood.”

Taking the open invitation, we asked Savill about her politics, to which she replied, “Where do I begin?  Everything that keeps me up at night.  Everything that should keep people up at night.  Capitalism is one that did play a role in ‘System Is Failing’, along with the beauty industry.  We touch on poverty in one of our songs.  We’ve got one coming up that’s about, particularly, men who find it difficult to get on board with not having as much privilege as they’ve had. And then I’ve got songs where I want to explore my own privileges and how I can pass the mic onto other people who deserve it.

“I’m a white woman.  I’m a very privileged person and I feel like people should be listening to my voice.  That’s because I’m told that my voice does matter.  Sometimes less than men’s, but I’m told it does matter and I want to use that for good.

“I want to talk about climate, I want to talk about our bloody government.  I want to explore grief, real grief, and be able to convey that in a sincere way.  I want to talk about the meat industry and how we use animals.  That’s a really difficult thing to convey lyrically.  I’m trying to find my feel with lyrics, because I don’t like just being on the nose.  I’d rather someone listen to one of our songs and love it and then find out that, say, if they’re homophobic, it’s very pro gay.”

Safe to say that Savill has enough on her mind for a lengthy career as a songwriter and performer.  Listening to I Call Val’s music and seeing them perform, few would disagree that they, and Savill, are deserving of a long and illustrious career.  Of course, talent and drive alone don’t win out, but all things being equal, I Call Val deserve their shot at the big time.  Why?  Because they’re very, very good at what they do, but also, because the world needs bands and artists of the likes of I Call Val and Paige Savill.  They make the world a better place just through the existence of their music and if they can also help one person feel uncomfortable, or understood, then all the better.

Besides, as Savill herself told us, “If you’re going to do anything to make a living, why not do what you love?”

I Call Val launch ‘Ain’t Nothing I Can Do’ at Lucy’s Love Shack on 26 October.  Get more information here.

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