Cash Savage is just trying to stay out of her own way and let her music do the talking

Cash Savage is just trying to stay out of her own way and let her music do the talking

Cash Savage & The Last Drinks
Photo by Naomi Lee Beveridge
Words by Dan Watt

The Melbourne songwriter reveals the only aspect of the songwriting process she understands, is that she doesn’t understand the songwriting process.

Cash Savage has been sharing her life and experiences with audiences for over a decade now. The vessel for this consummate storytelling is a rollicking iteration of folk-rock that is powered by Savage’s vocals, and guitar that is then enhanced by her six-piece band, The Last Drinks.

In 2018 the band released their fourth studio album Good Citizens, the contents of which herald a sweet spot in Savage’s songwriting. The album topped RRR, PBS and many Beat writer’s Album of The Year lists.

This resonance was generated from the huge mirror the song’s lyrics held up to individuals who live on the right side of history, (generally) reside in Melbourne’s north, and harbour the belief that the patriarchy, along with Scott Morrison, can get fucked.

If this is your first time reading about Cash Savage & The Last Drinks, please don’t be fooled into thinking that the songs are entrenched in an idiomatic local-only code.

Far from it, instead tracks like ‘Good Citizens’ and ‘Better Than That’ are ensconced in the atmosphere of ‘now’, with their appeal as hard to pin down as the abstract concept that fuels it – the zeitgeist.

“I’m not one of those songwriters who are like, ‘There’s a topic, I need to write about it’. I usually write songs by having a guitar in my hand, think about stuff and then it comes out,” explains Savage.

“When I wrote Good Citizens, it was for me to sum up a time in my life that spanned about six-months. When I listen back to that album there are songs that I know if I wrote them again now, they would be very different.

“So while I am currently working on songs for what will be my next album, I don’t want to talk about what those songs may end up sounding like because I don’t want to impede upon a process where I have no idea how it actually works.”

In the aforementioned title track ‘Good Citizens’, Savage explores a common form of self-sabotage that we dress up as the inevitable paradox of the five-day work week. She sings, “And Saturday is going to be a big night/And Monday morning is going to be rough.”

When this powerfully self-reflective storytelling is coupled with Savage’s earnest singing voice, over the top of music that sounds like a funeral march, the impact is profound.

Savage reflects on how the nuanced ‘Good Citizens’ manifests in a live setting.

“I like to keep it stark so none of the intensity of the recording is lost,” she says. “From the very first time I wrote and played that song to when I play it now, the intensity and the emotion it evokes in me has not changed.”

At this point of the interview, Savage deftly avoids being drawn on whether Melbourne has a north/south divide by drawing attention to the fact Melburnians give a massive fuck for local music city-wide.

“Props to the people of Melbourne who come from all over to go to St Kilda Festival. Everyone has sat on that 96 tram under the armpits of a heavy, sweaty punter for 30-minutes to get to St Kilda Festival in Melbourne life.”

“I am really excited for our set because the band is gelling so well at the moment,” says Savage. “That’s the lineup of Rene Mancuso [drums], Joe White [guitar], Kathleen Mear [violin], Nick Finch [bass], Jess Zubkevych [guitar] and Roshan Khozouei [keys]”.

Cash Savage & The Last Drinks are playing St Kilda Festival on Sunday February 9. Head to the festival website for the full lineup.