We talk creative

The sound of Saar with Boris Patchinsky

Published on 15 Dec 2016 by Guillaume

Ten years ago I met Boris Patchinsky while studying sound engineering. He was definitely committed to the science of sound, closing his eyes, focusing on the music and always looking for precision. We lost contact for a few years as everybody was living their life apart, then I had the joy to find out Boris was playing in a Post Rock band called Saar. Post Rock is one of my favourite kinds of music as it’s triggering emotion through progressive structures. It was then obvious to ask Boris a few questions about the band.

saar

Boris, can you introduce us to Saar?

The band was formed around 2010 in the Parisian suburbs by the guitarist and main composer Yann Desti, as a vehicle to explore the unending possibilities offered by sound expression, in an instrumental rock configuration. He was at the time – and still now for an important part, mainly influenced by the already fading but still sonically important “Post-Metal” european and US scene. The soundscapes created by acts like Cult Of Luna, Caspian, early Bossk, Isis and particularly the French band Year Of No Light all had a huge impact on the first incarnation of SaaR. After a first self-titled EP released in 2011 with guitarist Julien, bassist Aurélien and drummer Mounir, they added a third guitar player, Seb, and recorded their first LP “The Last Day”, with a darker, heavier, and more ethereal grit to it – YONL”s “Ausserwelt” had just come out and surely had its impact on the band’s sound… They put together a french tour to defend the album, then the band went through quite a lot of lineup changes before becoming stable as a 5-piece band. In a nutshell, Mounir left the band to focus on his thesis work, and was replaced by present drummer Constantin. Seb had to go too, and for a while was not replaced, reducing the guitars to only Yann and Julien. Then Aurélien left to concentrate on his ambient experimental project Noise Above The Ocean, and I was asked by Yann to replace him. We recorded the new album “Sol” in this lineup in 2014, before being joined by Alex to pick up Julien’s guitars duties, who had to leave the band for family reasons. And more recently, we extended SaaR to the present-day stable quintet formation, with the addition of the multi-instrumentalist and singer Paul. This guy plays guitars, synths and percussions and does a hell of a job at all these duties, plus he screams like he means it… He really pushed us to the next level musically and sonically. We’re all good friends and are humanely and musically settled now in this five members configuration.

I know you’re playing a double role in the band as a bass player and as a sound engineer, is that right?

Yes, I’ve met Yann when I was working as a sound engineer in a studio as we were recording another band he was playing with, CoolCoolCool, a power-pop act in which he was holding bass duties. We instantly got along well together, as we shared this common love for noisy post-rock sounds, and soon he asked me to master the first SaaR’s LP ‘The Last Day”. It was an honour for me to work with a band which sonic experimentation, ethics and DIY approach to writing was echoing deeply to my own idea of how an underground band should be doing its thing. I then recorded a single for them, “Rise” in winter of 2013, still as sound engineer. A few months later, I receive a call at work, it was Yann, asking me to join the band as a bass player, which at the very least was quite a surprise, as I had never hold a bass in my life – I mean I’ve had a few bands as a guitar player but really nothing that fancy! But that’s the way it works with Yann, he has an almost mystical thing going with some people and tends to go with his guts feelings. Whatever, I said yes, learnt all their repertoire on an old Yamaha wretched bass, passed the audition, and like two weeks later I had bought a MusicMan Stingray and we were doing our first show together… That was crazy for me, but it just happened like that. In 2014, when we were thinking about recording our next album “Sol”, they offered me to endorse engineering duties, besides playing the bass, so that I found myself triple-hatted, recording the album, playing the bass on it, and then mixing the whole thing… I thought I was going to lose my mind but somehow it worked and I am very proud of our new album. I have to mention my good friend Tim Bickford (who also plays bass in Merge), who helped me a lot during the reamping/mixing phase, which took something like a whole year to get done, because we all have day jobs and this process of mixing is very time-consuming . That was a lot of sweat but he did a great job helping me to get that record done.

We’re very excited about the new album, what can you say about it?

Right after the “Rise” single was recorded and I joined the band, Yann began talking about recording a new full-length album, with a central theme based around Sunrise. Despite our music being instrumental, we wanted all the songs to be thematically connected via a common element. For example, the opening track “Rise” alludes to the last sunrise witnessed by a man who is crucified, while “Sol” evoques the sunrise on a battlefield, “On My Skin” evoques the first sunrise warming up a father’s skin holding his newborn child in his arms, and so on… This is also why we chose to put a sun on the cover of the LP – although I have to add that the resemblance with Radiohead’s last album cover was purely coincidental! That was the work of our graphic artist Benjamin Leloutre, who did a great job. We recorded it at our friend Adrien Schlienger’s private Studio 89 in a big farm in the middle of Burgundy’s countryside, in winter of 2014. Some parts were recorded entirely live, like the doomy “Lux”, for which we felt a kinda Breachian dirty sound was needed. For most of the other tracks we used overdubs in the studio. This was a lot of fun, with the dizzying feeling of being out-of-the-world, locked up in a farm-turned-recording-studio for a few days, and basically creating something out of nothing was a great experience. Mixing, as I said, was quite a journey but in the end we managed to get through the entire production process by ourselves. We then sent the album to be mastered in Portland by Brad Boatright, who’s got an impressive background in mastering heavy music, having worked with acts like Pelican, Old Man Gloom, Sunn 0))) and also remastered Sleep”s “Dopesmoker”. He’s an audio genius and did a terrific job polishing our record, thumbs up to him! In the end, we got our record pressed in CD and vinyl, and made it accessible on our bandcamp for people to listen to. At the same time the record was produced, we put together a European tour with our friends from Wolve, to promote and defend our album on stage. We’ve just come back to France after a dozen intense shows last november in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Czech Republic, as I’m writing these lines. We’re so thrilled with the audience we got abroad, people were amazing and really responsive to our music, I can mention Oldenburg, Stuttgart, Zurich and Bremen as personal highlights. I guess it sounds a little bit cheesy but this was really a life-changing experience, both as a musician and as a human being. It was hard and tiring at times but we did it, and we did it TOGETHER.

I love Post Rock, but I think some bands are sounding the same and are using the same recipes, what’s different with Saar?

I would say that the “Post Whatever” tag remains a generic label to gather together a broad range of bands and sounds that, in the end, doesn’t have that much in common. Surely you will find a common ground between all these bands – the use of unusual time signatures, the Soft/Loud dynamics, the puzzling and over-lasting structures, the view of instruments as cosmic landscape builders, you name it… But then what makes a band or record unique is a matter of subtle alchemy between band members, the way they play together, the quality of songwriting, and the soul and work they put at playing the songs live. All that “post” hype, like any other “genre” tag, sure helps to bring a local underground scene together, giving listeners a “clue” as what to expect sonically if they come to your show, but then again this is not more than an artifice, a way to stereotype a band in the listener’s brain. As far as SaaR is concerned, our sound has evolved in such a drastic way since its inception that we do not play anymore songs from “The Last Day”, which at the time could have been considered pure Post Rock – the darker/swirling/Ausserwelt-style shoegazing side of it. On “Sol” we tri@ed and found new places to exist, not being so tied as to fit in a single esthetic pocket. Each track lies upon its own continent, and we are quite happy with the way they all blend together as one little planet, floodlit by its multiple suns.

Now that the album has been completed, what are your expectations for the future?

With the tour finished and all the experience grasped from it, we’re now ready for going back to the studio to record some new material, bringing the next SaaR vision to life. We’ll probably be hitting studio at the beginning of 2017 to record this new EP, which will be entirely recorded live. We’re also working on a festival in Paris that would gather actors of the present french “Post” scene, and are planning to go back on tour before the end of the year. We are also searching for an indie label to support our music, even in Australia! Thanks Guillaume for you support.

Official website saar.bandcamp.com


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