Sunday, April 21 2024

Welcome to our exclusive interview with the dynamic duo behind the electrifying sounds of Songs for Sabotage and their latest 8-track album ‘CLEAN TRAUMA.’ Hailing from the vibrant musical landscape of Los Angeles, California, Songs for Sabotage infuse the pulsing spirit of indie electro-pop with nostalgic echoes of the ’80s. Drawing inspiration from iconic acts like Tears for Fears and Depeche Mode, this duo adds their own fearless flair and a precise measure of cult chemistry to the mix. Originally forming on the bustling streets of Brooklyn, the band comprises Swedish-born vocalist and guitarist, Lina Sophie, and the talented producer and multi-instrumentalist, Richey Rose. Their sophomore full-length record, ‘CLEAN TRAUMA,’ released on March 13th, is a non-stop dance party, which caught our attention here at TIG with its catchy hooks, introspective lyrics, and synth-driven beats.

Thanks so much joining us and congratulations on the new album, ‘CLEAN TRAUMA,’ which we’ve really been enjoying at TIG! The title suggests a mix of purity and pain. Could you explain the album’s themes and how they come through in your music?

Thank you!! Glad you’ve been listening and digging it. You’re totally correct… that is the essence of the title. It came about when we were talking about childhood moments that are generally seen as “good clean fun,” but in retrospect perhaps they impacted us more deeply / traumatically than we realised at the time… so we said it was more like “good clean trauma,” and that’s how we arrived at the title. The album’s themes are associated with all of this, with the lyrics mainly focusing on regret, self-loathing, and loss (the song ‘Owen’ is about a friend of Richey’s who went missing in 2016)… that would be the ‘pain’ element. Perhaps the ‘purity’ comes from the catchy melodies and upbeat songs.

So, ‘CLEAN TRAUMA’ balances dark, introspective themes with catchy melodies. How did you manage this balance in your songwriting, ensuring neither aspect overshadowed the other?

We really tried to make the lyrics as brutally honest as possible while keeping the music wistful and melancholic, and with driving tempos. Every song is about someone or something, or an experience we’ve had that left us feeling empty or devastated… at the same time, every song is basically a dance pop track. We really wanted to put that into the songwriting since all of our favourite music and art is cut from the same cloth.

Songs for Sabotage 1

You’ve shifted to more synth-based sounds compared to your previous work. What drove this change, and how did it affect your songwriting and production approach?

We’re both huge fans of electronic pop music; we’ve been influenced by artists like Daft Punk, Justice, Aphex Twin, Robyn, etc. since we both started writing music, despite playing in mostly punk / garage bands before SFS. So, we always tried to sneak electronic elements and textures into our songs, even before CLEAN TRAUMA. The tipping point for this album that lead us in a more synth-based direction was when we wrote the track ‘SORRY.’ It was written entirely a Roland JDXi, which is a little analog synth with a built-in 4-track. Normally we use it to help demo material that eventually gets played on guitar / bass, but this time we loved how the demo sounded, and Lina wrote all of the lyrics to the loop we’d made on the synth. Once we’d kind of came up with that formula we started to apply it to other song ideas we had, so the album immediately shifted into a more synth-based direction.

As a duo handling everything from songwriting to production, how does this dynamic impact your creativity? What advantages come from controlling every aspect of your music?

Well, considering we’re both control freaks it allows us to feel safe. It also makes us accountable for anything we deem poor / substandard. It allows us to continue to move the goal posts forward with every release… to write better songs and make better sounding records. We’ve learned to trust ourselves and also know that when we stand behind something we’ve made, it’s truly a reflection of ourselves as artists. No one is steering the ship except us. We’re not influenced by surface level things like trying to fit into a scene or having a sound that might currently be fashionable. We’re able to just make art for ourselves and let the chips fall wherever they may… we’re not controlled by anybody or anything.

Your music is influenced by bands like Tears for Fears and Depeche Mode, yet it’s uniquely yours. How do you blend homage with creating your own sound?

We’ve been listening to bands like DM or Tears since we were little kids (we were both born in the ’80s), so those influences are almost subconscious at this point. When we intentionally reference something as profound as either one of those artists, we will typically do it in a way that pays tribute, or is a bit tongue-in-cheek. For example, the melody to the opening keyboard riff in ‘PILLS’ is almost identical to the main guitar line from Depeche Mode’s ‘Enjoy the Silence,’ arguably their most popular/well-known song. To us it’s a blatant interpolation but we’ve yet to have anyone mention it. We also do it with lyrics – the line, ‘the bitterest pills’ was influenced by ‘The Bitterest Pill’ by The Jam, which is one of our all-time favourite songs. It’s these types of references that help us create something that’s unique to ourselves while leaving a little ‘bread crumb trail’ for anyone who’s paying extra close attention.

How do you translate your studio-produced music into captivating live performances?

A lot of pre-production. We’ve spent countless hours remixing studio tracks into material we use for live playback. Everything you hear live is either happening right then and there on stage, or was recorded / played by us at some point earlier. We’ve also spent a lot of time engineering our live setup so we have full control of our live audio / stage mix, which helps us perform better. We don’t have the budget or fanbase to merit hiring a dedicated audio engineer, so we do our best to fill that role ourselves. We also really try to make our live show sonically heavier than our albums.

What’s next for Songs for Sabotage? Any specific goals or directions you’re aiming for in future projects?

We’re planning to do a west coast tour this fall, probably up to Seattle and back down to SoCal. We had booked one for this February but unfortunately had to cancel it because of some personal / life things that came up (mainly our 14 year old cat, who Richey had had since 2011, was diagnosed with terminal cancer… and needed a lot of love and care during his last bit of time here with us… he recently passed away – RIP Prince). We’re also going to press CLEAN TRAUMA on vinyl! It will be our first ever vinyl release.

OK, time for a fun question… If ‘CLEAN TRAUMA’ were a book, what genre would it be, and what would be the central theme or plot? Describe the essence of ‘CLEAN TRAUMA’ – the book!

I feel like it would be a graphic novel with an extra layer of romance / nostalgia baked into it… like The Crow meets Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids’… a coming of age story amidst urban decay. There would still be a general theme of revenge, but instead of the main character simply seeking outright revenge they would eventually become an empath and help their enemy change their ways… after making them suffer for a while, of course.

As we conclude our time with Songs for Sabotage, we’d just like to thank them for taking the time to chat with us. From the streets of Brooklyn to the vibrant scene of Los Angeles, their journey reflects an evolution marked by fearless experimentation. With ‘CLEAN TRAUMA,’ they’ve created an album pulsating with emotion and nostalgia that invites you into a world of catchy hooks and synth-driven beats. As they continue to captivate audiences with their sound, we eagerly anticipate the next chapter in the story of Songs for Sabotage. Until then, follow them via their socials and keep an eye out for upcoming live dates.

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About Author

Matt Warren

Matt Warren is a Cheshire based musician who studied contemporary music and composition. When not writing for The Indie Grid he enjoys watching 'Breaking Bad' on continuous loop and going to gigs. Since a youngster his fave band have been 'The Beatles' (with 'Cardiacs' in at a close second)... and this still applies to this day.

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