Sunday, 17 October 2010

INTERVIEW: Seven Saturdays

Seven Saturdays

The bond between Scotland and the USA stretches back over 300 years, when scores of tartan-clad immigrants braved the Atlantic in search of a better life. Since then, our Western cousins have enthusiastically tightened this ancestral knot; retreading and rejoicing the steps of their lineage while almost singlehandedly fuelling our tourist industry.

Curiously, Jonathan D. Haskell, the man behind swooning Los Angeles outfit Seven Saturdays, has no Celtic heritage to call upon; no tales of family fortune at immigration doors to tell. Instead, Haskell’s Scottish love affair evolved from a schoolboy’s need to know about our favourite mythical beast:

“I remember in elementary school having to do a ‘country report’ and, of all the places in the world, I chose to do mine on Scotland,” explains Haskell. “I'm sure at the time I just wanted to read about the Loch Ness Monster and maybe bulk up my report with various illustrations on the creature, but that overarching interest never really faded.”

A move from the Hollywood Hills to Edinburgh in 2006 helped Haskell clear his head following the breakup of his former band, Angeles Drake. Describing Auld Reekie as his “dream place”, Haskell discovered sanctuary in the city’s historic ambience where his creative sensibilities were amplified by the sights and sounds around him.

“[In Edinburgh] I was basically doing nothing but walking and exploring everywhere, and drinking of course, but I began to get excited again about doing something musically. I actually started writing songs again, with vocals and words,” he says. “But when my money ran out and I returned to LA, that sinking feeling of dread returned. I simply couldn't jump back into the LA music scene as just another shitty, unoriginal band.”

Fed by a fear of stagnation, Haskell focused his newly-inspired energies on a solo project, Seven Saturdays. The expansive instrumental symphonies he was producing were a significant step away from Angeles Drake’s Coldplay-infused rock. Unsurprisingly, this gigantic stride into the unknown was accompanied by bouts of self-doubt.

“When I played the demos for my girlfriend when the whole project was taking shape, I remember asking her if she thought anybody would be into a band based around the Fender Rhodes and acoustic drums.” he recalls. “She and I agreed that it would most likely be a self indulgent flop."

Rather than flop, Seven Saturdays has high-jumped Haskell into the spotlight. Evoking gushing adjectives from the likes of Stereogum and Drowned in Sound, his eponymously titled debut EP has drawn comparisons with French relaxants Air and Brian Eno’s more ambient dalliances. It’s just the kind of spur Haskell’s confidence needed:

“Critical praise of sorts is validation of years spent working at this - I would be lying to tell you that I didn't care at all,” he confesses. “The good reviews last in my head for a few hours, and then I'm back online working, booking, promoting. It's just one part of the machine that tells me I must be doing something right."

Freely admitting he has no interest in pursuing glossy pop aesthetics, Haskell’s eyes are fixed on musical fulfilment. Yet, the subtle film noir nuances and cinematic lens of his work discloses a hankering for more optical stimulation.

“Visuals, film and lighting all play a big part in the live show,” says Haskell. “To me they're equally as important as the music because I'm trying to create a sensory experience for the audience. I want the audience to feel like they're in the middle of a globe encompassed by amorous noise and moving images. Like audio suffocation.”

This claustrophobia is a fundamental plotline in Haskell’s wordless compositions. Seven Saturdays is undoubtedly music for the urban recluse. It’s the sound of someone ill-fitted to the bustle of inner city life; ablaze with antipathy towards its monolithic skylines and congested pavements. But somewhere along the line, Haskell has made sense of his surroundings.

“LA is like a vacuum. It sucks you in and grips tightly, making everything and everywhere else seem unimportant,” he says. “It's very hard to leave. But once you do, you notice a renewed sense of peace immediately. But again, musically, I have really found my place in Los Angeles. Somehow the harsher this place is for me, the more I put into my music. I guess I like making pretty sounds in such chaos.”

Eyeing up a UK tour within the next 12 months, Haskell is looking forward to making a return to the place he calls home. It may have been four years since he last stepped on Scottish soil, but one memory keeps the country fresh in his mind: “The unmistakably miserable weather,” he deadpans. “God, I love that.”

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