A band that has shot to stardom in the last few years is SAFIA. As festival staples and guaranteed performers, this three piece know how to get the crowd dancing. With a string of hits, nominations and awards for their debut album Internal, and their last single racking up a million streams online, SAFIA is no stranger to success and know how to make a good tune.
We had a chat with lead singer Ben Woolner about their new single Starlight, and discussed the bands new sound, pre-show rituals and Ben’s pet preferences.
BYO: How do you feel about the new single?
BEN: It’s a song I love. It’s in the world now, so I’m not too concerned because I love it so much. I think its been received well and its good to see that people are having the same kind of connection to it as we do. I suppose we’ll wait and see how it goes.
BYO: It’s a bit of a different sound for you guys, could you tell us about the recording process and how you changed it up a little bit?
BEN: This song kind of came at an important time. We’d written a lot of songs, and we just tried to narrow down on that vision of where we wanted to go. At the time we were very involved in music and very busy, so I kind of just went down the coast to escape all music and just have a week and relax. That’s where that little demo came out of, out of nowhere. I brought it back and I showed the guys and everyone seemed to connect and respond to it, and I think there was not much intent or thought, it was purely just natural. I think that natural feel really stuck through for a lot of people, and then we built on it from there and tried to create this world that the song seemed to be creating visually for us.
BYO: Is Starlight a hint at a new album in the works perhaps?
BEN: Yeah, we’ve been working on a lot of things and I think the sounds that we’ve been leaning towards, whether that’s conscious or unconscious, has lent itself to a more spacey and other-worldly kind of sound. I think what we really want to do is make immersive music, and make music that people can get lost in, and first and foremost, that we can get lost in. I think when we make music it’s a very cathartic, meditative experience for ourselves, and once it’s out in the world then it takes on a new life and ceases to become our thing. I think that we’ll be making sure that we try and make it as immersive as we can and invite people to get lost in music. Sometimes, in a consumerist society where there is such fast gratification, fast consumption, we forget to really get lost in the music and enjoy music for what it is. So, I think that’s just what we’re trying to aim to do.
BYO: You’ve got a few gigs and festivals coming up. Do you prefer playing a stand alone gig or do you prefer playing in part of a lineup?
BEN: Firstly, we’re just grateful to get any shows, so that’s a good start. They’re two different things really. A festival is always great fun; there is always a lot of friends back stage so there is always a lot of catching up. That aspect of community is great and you can feed off the energy of the festival. You know what to expect and you can really make it this super energetic and positive experience. Our own shows we can really dictate the mood and the energy the whole time, and it can be more of a dynamic set. We can make it more introspective, we can give it bigger moments and really explore the full range of what we have to offer, which sometimes you can’t do at a festival as much.
With our own shows, you know that people are there and bought tickets to see you, so you want to give them the full range of what you have to offer. But with a festival, part of the fun is you might be getting a whole range of people that’s never seen you before, or might not be into your kind of music, so it’s a chance to win people over who otherwise might not have understood it or known about it.
BYO: Tell us about your pre-show rituals. Is there anything you guys eat, drink or do to hype yourselves up?
BEN: I’m usually off by myself warming up, making ridiculous vocal noises. Michael and Harry usually try and sync up their headphones, and I’ll try and join in occasionally if I’ve warmed up sufficiently. They’ll kind of have a silent disco while they do drum warm ups and get some energy. Then just before we go on stage the guy who does our monitors, our fold back, plays us a playlist of drum or bass or grime. It’s pretty hectic so I think that gets us ready as we’re walking onto the stage, and then he turns it off.
One show he forgot to turn it off so one song was starting and I still had drum and bass pumping in my ears, and I’m like “Please turn it off!”
BYO: Who would you nominate as the funniest or craziest member of SAFIA?
BEN: We’re all kind of mellow in our own right but I think it’s actually when we get together; that’s when we collectively kind of go a bit mental and turn into very cheeky boys. It’s the collective of us three when we’re together that kind of makes us dissolve into stupidity and it’s kind of funny.
BYO: Couple of fun questions - Dogs or cats?
BEN: Both, it’s two different kinds of relationships. I’ve always grown up with dogs and cats. Obviously, its hard to go past dogs because its unconditional love and they’re amazing. But I also love cats because you have to earn their love and it involves respect, and they have a lot of quirks to them as well so once you really get to know and love cats they can be quite hilarious.
BYO: Beer or spirits?
BEN: I’ve been really enjoying beer lately, I’m not sure if that’s just to do with the sun being out; we’ve been enjoying it a little too much. But yeah, usually a beer unless it’s a late night in a good environment, then I’ll have a nice whisky or something like that.
BYO: Savory or sweet?
BEN: I want to say savory, but my Dad has a sweet tooth and kind of gave me that. I’ve always been trying to battle my sweet tooth because once I unleash on sweets, I’ll eat the whole thing, so I try and go the savory route.
SAFIA will be touring the east coast in November for a string of festival appearances and sideshows. Sydneysiders can catch them at the Metro Theatre on November 1.