Photographs by Nicole Fara Silver
Just around the corner from his home in the heart of Bed-Stuy, Andrew Savage, best known as the frontman of Brooklyn-via-Texas indie darlings Parquet Courts, launches a long, high-arching shot toward a net on his local basketball court. His form doesn’t exactly resemble that of Steph Curry, but nonetheless, the ball swishes through the net. (Swish takes on a very liberal meaning in this scenario.) The multi-instrumentalist sees me jotting down some notes after his latest attempt and recites what he imagines those notes to be. “Savage’s prowess as an athlete startled me,” he begins his calculated guess. “I knew he was a talented musician, but a jock?”
That was just a taste of Savage’s omnipresent dry humor. A few months prior, I’d seen Parquet Courts perform a mid-day set at the Governors Ball music festival, where Savage’s easy wit made for an amiable contrast with his loud, pointed musical output. “Thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo for inviting us to his ball,” he quipped not long into the set.
2017 marks the first time in seven years without a new project from Parquet Courts. (The regularity of those releases no doubt gave way to a constantly expanding fan base.) But that consistent output isn’t coming to a halt: Savage is preparing for the release of his first solo album, Thawing Dawn, out this October on his label, Dull Tools, which is headquartered in his Bed-Stuy residence. As always, his writing and recording comes credited as A.Savage—as in “oh, he’s just a savage.”
The 10-track, 45-minute-long record is an amalgamation of a few things, combining songs that pre-date the existence of Parquet Courts with others that were written in the past year. The album, including the songs written long ago, was recorded in three sessions—in December 2016, as well as March and June 2017—at THUMP Studios in Greenpoint. Thawing Dawn includes sounds, moods, and ideas that never fit with Parquet Courts, nor with Fergus & Geronimo, Savage’s previous project. “It just didn’t feel right for anything else,” he said, now on a couch in his apartment in lieu of a basketball court. “You know? It felt like me.”
Feeling like himself is an important element of Thawing Dawn, which hones in on a theme of living in the moment. Savage’s favorite song on the album is “Ladies From Houston”; during its seven minutes, the song transports him back to a certain long, late, drunken night. “Whenever I play the song, something magical happens and I go back to that night and that moment,” he says as his cat, Frida, daintily walks between us on his couch.
When preparing to record the album, Savage found himself listening to a range of music rooted in the ‘70s—listing John Cale, Nico, Kevin Ayers, and Brian Eno as influences, before realizing that he was, indeed, naming solo projects from accomplished artists who had each garnered their fame as part of a popular band. Savage notes that Eno in particular managed to transcend the association with any specific band, group, or act. “At this point, not many people still think of Roxy Music when they think of Brian Eno. They just think of Brian Eno. Some people probably know him best as the guy who did the Coldplay record.”
As he listened to those records, he questioned the deeper meaning of what, exactly, it means to be a solo artist.
In the lead up to Thawing Dawn’s release and subsequent tour, Savage—never one to slow his own breakneck pace—has been hard at work writing songs for the next Parquet Courts album. When he heads to Texas to record with the band this September (due out next year), he will return to a familiar project after dedicating himself to something he can truly call his own.
It’s an exercise in starting over for Savage, who has seen an increase in venue and crowd size that corresponds with the increase in popularity and catalogue of Parquet Courts. Where the band played the Governors Ball show in June to around 15,000 people, the crowd at Savage’s show at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn just a few nights later was closer to 15. It wasn’t Parquet Courts—it was A. Savage. Even for a seasoned professional, the tension crept up. “I was nervous, I had butterflies, I was shaking,” he said, reflecting on one of his first solo shows. “I think that’s really cool to still be able to have that feeling. It’s very special that music can still be that for me—it can still be the nerves and the excitement.”
It’s not that he doesn’t think Parquet Courts is exciting. “But I could play a lot of those songs in my sleep at this point, because they’re so embedded in my muscle memory, I don’t even really have to think about them when I’m playing them. When I’m doing one of these newer songs, I really have to think about it and be on my game, and remember the lyrics. It’s one thing to do a kind of emotionally vulnerable song with a band, but it’s another thing to do one just by yourself.”
And when a musician tours constantly, performing the same songs for months and years on end, it’s only natural that they might not feel butterflies as they hit the first note for the hundredth time.
Savage won’t often be playing his live shows with just himself and a guitar— he’ll usually be accompanied by a full band—but the change up, playing smaller venues, smaller crowds, dive bars, is something that he’s eager to welcome back into his life. “It’s just good to know that there are ways to avoid becoming jaded and becoming perfunctory with music, which is the last thing that I would want,” he says. “Because it’s one of the most special things in my life.”