Fay Milton talks to Gigwise about crowds, phones and her hatred of tweeness
Alexandra Pollard
10:59 14th July 2015

"You know, all these twee bands with indie nights and the clothes and the shoe-gazey, shy kind of knocking knees, floral thing..." If only there was a way to transpose onto the page the disdain that drips from the voice of Savages' Fay Milton. "Like, the worst part of it being this kind of fake, self-deprecating kind of attitude, self-deprecating stage talk from twee indie bands." Those last few words she practically spits down the phone.

Since Savages released their debut album, Silence Yourself, back in 2013, much of what is written about them has included some, or often all, of the following words: "severe", "intense", "cold". Their music is jagged and dark, meandering between a general sense of unease and one of full-on possession, and onstage they're wide-eyed and uncompromising. Aesthetically, too, they defy gendered expectations of softness and vulnerability with cropped hair, black clothes and sharp cheekbones - theirs is a beautiful, poetic androgyny.

In doing this, Savages have exposed how deeply entrenched people's assumptions about "all-female band" are. Case in point: "You’re an all-female line-up," asked one interviewer last year, "but you play far more intense music than the tweeness that might suggest." It's being reminded of this vaguely insulting question that prompts Milton (who, in conversation, is warm, articulate and prone to bursts of laughter) to begin her diatribe against the word.

"When we started the band," she explains, "it was coming from an era where there was just a slug of tweeness and to be honest, possibly more so even from boys than from girls - I'm not gonna say men and women, it's boys and girls. I think Savages grew out of a reaction to that."

"Not completely", she adds, "but part of who we are today is a reaction to tweeness, and being bored of tweeness, and not fitting into that twee world that was surrounding music at that point." There was also an illusion, we suggest, that this self-deprecating stage style was the only way to be authentic. "Exactly!" the drummer agrees enthusiastically. "Authenticity can be something completely flamboyant as well, you know - a huge, wild shiny outift is just as authentic as that man in the plaid shirt."

They might not be ones for wild shiny outfits, but Savages' own brand of authenticity has attracted a fittingly intense fanbase. The relationship between the band and their audience, says Milton, is an "energy collaboration." The concept sounds a little abstract, so she elaborates in more literal terms. "We played a show in Ireland the other day, and there was this particular guy in the front row with bright green hair who was singing every lyric and just really, really enjoying it. Shows can be difficult if you're tired, or you can't hear well, or you're not sure if the song's going well, and then sometimes you can look at those people, and they're a member of the band in a way. Giving you the energy that you need to give them the energy. It's like a feedback."

It works both ways though. "Sometimes you can be playing your heart out, and you look down and you see someone yawning or looking at their phone - and it's totally OK, I yawn during gigs that I'm really enjoying because I'm tired - but when you're playing and you see someone yawning..." she laughs, "It's really off-putting."

You're not likely to see too many people looking at their phone during a Savages gig. A few year ago, they made headlines when they began putting signs up asking audience members not to use their phones.

"It's amazing actually," says Milton when we ask if the signs had a noticeable impact. "We were just talking the other day about whether we continue with those signs, and we're thinking maybe we don't have to, because people don't hold up their phones at our shows anymore. It's always annoyed people but now people know it annoys people, and people are more aware that they're annoying the people behind them, and they're getting in the way of themselves enjoying the show."

"I feel like there've been a few gigs recently where we haven't put up those signs and we haven't had anyone filming the shows or taking pictures - everyone's just been singing and partying and dancing, so perhaps there's no longer a need for that."

She thinks for a moment. "Or maybe everyone's memory cards are full."

Savages play the BBC 6 Music Stage at Latitude on Saturday 18 July. 

This weekend's Latitude Festival at Henham Park in Suffolk will also be headlined by Noel Gallagher and Alt-J, while also seeing performances from Manic Street Preachers, James Blake, Laura Marling, Caribou, The Vaccines, Wolf Alice, Years & Years, and many many more. For Latitude tickets and more information, visit here