The Archer sounds like a phantom-like call from the past, but all the pain in it is now
Jessie Atkinson
12:59 10th January 2020

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Sleepy and melancholy, Alexandra Savior is awake at nine in the morning. “I got my coffee already” she says huskily, slowly, musing on her new record The Archer a full four hours before she usually rises.

Despite the time, it is with a magnetic personality that I converse eight hours away in dusty L.A.. Like The Archer - and its predecessor Belladonna of Sadness - Savior is enigmatic, despondent, exhausted. From beyond the ocean and a phone line, the musician and visual artist nevertheless leaves a sure impression as a figure of relatability and mystery. She’s quiet and measured, shy and pessimistic. Her responses are slow-burning, her attitude self-deprecating.

Of the subject of our discussion, The Archer, it’s hard to imagine that she’s proud. “I don’t like a lot of what I make”, she smiles down the line, “I have bursts of inspiration and if I focus on getting into a trance within that, then it’s easy to not think about how much I hate everything that I do.”

The half-an-hour LP dropped this morning (10 January). It’s a smart and brooding sepia landscape of haunted keys, cinematic guitars and precious vocals that whisper and swell with the agonies of loving, being loved and suffering manipulation. Like its predecessor, it's an imprint of an inventive lyricist and emotive musician. Still, it becomes clear - when combined with a self-professed pessimistic personality - why Savior might be so tentative about her output.

“My label lost interest and I ended up getting dropped,” she says slowly, narrating the bridge that she walked between her first and second records, “nobody was responding to me, and my manager quit.”

Fearful that the opportunity to be a musician had departed forever, Savior went to school to study Psychology and Literature. “I started nannying and trying to scheme up what else I could do with my life,” she says of that time. Within a fortnight, she had been picked back up on the back of demos for The Archer, but still now she fears: “my career is over.”

It’s hard to see how it could be. Her output is consistent, painting angry pictures from shades of a soul intrigued by the beautifu, the damned, and how the two intersect.

“I’m really interested in manipulation tactics and relationships that are psychologically abusive,” she says of the distinctive, stirring lyrics she writes. “You bit my head right off with your tiny little mouth, and I licked the blood from your lips” she sings on title track ‘The Archer’, which she wrote on Christmas Eve for her then-boyfriend: “I thought it was a love song…and then I realised it was about how terrible the relationship was.” She laughs, quietly, shyly. That painfully thin line between love and manipulation became the theme of the record.

Savior’s songs and their videos also spring from a fascination with the twenties, thirties, sixties, and in general, “things that are old.” As a result, Savior’s songs sound as though they’re calling ahead, phantom-like, through time. But much of that pain and storytelling comes directly from Savior herself, an old soul though she is only twenty-four.

The Archer is Alexandra Savior’s second record, but the first that she feels belongs to her - in the public consciousness at least. 2017’s Belladonna of Sadness was written alongside Alex Turner, a detail that brought much attention to her first full-length effort, but also, she tells me, plenty of misconceptions.

“I know what my experience was with the last record…but as a woman, your experience is always shadowed by societal expectations” she says, referring to suggestions that Turner was mostly responsible for the direction - and overall success - of Belladonna of Sadness. On The Archer, she says, “there’s still been this assumption that a man did it for me.”

Her perseverance is hard not to admire. Carving out time between episodes of crippling insecurity and overcoming periods of anxiety and depression, Savior ultimately bears succulent fruit. In addition to her languorous, painterly lyrics, Savior wrote all of the guitar lines you hear - "except on 'The Phantom’”.

She also directed the visuals for singles which now amount to a small clutch of beguiling short films. In the visuals for ‘Howl’, Savior accurately captures the empty debilitation of anxiety and depression by lying, curled or prone in various places, as if caught by its beam mid-movement. “That’s how I feel every time I go into public” she offers.

Though it translates impeccably into gorgeous, evocative and relatable art, Savior struggles in the studio - another reason why the making of The Archer is such a gift. "Usually the first day I’m in the studio I have an emotional breakdown and cry in front of everybody," she smiles sadly down the phone, "it’s really scary showing people songs that you’ve kept to yourself and introducing them to professional musicians with their own tastes..."

But she did it, and here is the art to prove it. As she considers when I ask how she overcomes the bullshit - both external and self-generated - "there’s a reason you keep doing it." 

The Archer is out now.

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Photo: Laura-Lynn Petrick