SXSW Interview: Sivu
I've often heard that a man's best friend is a dog- I'd like to argue in favor of the sandwich. Sitting in the outdoor part of a cafe in downtown Austin, London's Sivu (James Page) and I realized that we'd ordered the same veggie melt. Is there anything better than a friendship forming from music and sandwiches? That's a whole other article entirely, but suffice to say that it's a definitive "NO" on my end.
Both absolutely starving that afternoon (there isn't much time to eat during the SXSW madness), this delightful English gentleman offered to go "halvsies" as my sandwich wasn't quite ready. With seemingly kind blue eyes, and twitch of a grin that threatened to fully bloom throughout the interview, we spoke initially of my time spent living in England and his crazy adventures in LA. The platform of this being an interview quickly parted ways and ease washed over. James speaks in stories; he painted a picture about his past, present, and future that permeated a sense of almost contagious nostalgia.
Kick Kick Snare: There seemed to be a very strong sense of “connection” as a theme within the last ep, especially with the art direction of the flowers on your face and those growing up towards the sun. Was that intentional?
Sivu: No, that was completely unintentional- we didn’t plan that. We did that photo and it came all from that really. That artwork was going to be the artwork for the last ep that came out, so the video was based around that picture. So, it was never really a conscious thought.
KKS: I’ve seen other interviews that you’ve done, and they, too, mentioned the aspect of reaching out. I felt it really with the “signals” aspect of your band-
S: Oh, yeah! Well that only started because I wanted a way for all the social media to be connected. It’s also a reflection of the whole sonic thing going on in the record- all the sounds of glitches. I wanted to keep that element of signals and it felt right, too, with that aspect. And that is kind of the theme that has run through everything.
KKS: On the other hand, I can't help but notice that "Can't Stop Now" is decidedly upbeat compared to your other tracks that lean towards the more sentimental and slow side. What was the creative process behind this track?
S: When we recorded it we absolutely hated it. I just kept thinking, "This is so shit, we can’t put this out." Then it kind of felt like the start of the year with a lot of other singer/songwriters putting tracks out. We then just thought, “fuck it,” and put it out. It’s a bit more upbeat. (laughs) But, no, it’s been really fun and nice to do something a bit more lighthearted. Especially from the video perspective we had a bit more fun with it.
KKS: How did you start working with Marika Hackman? To me, her voice is threaded silk.
S: She's the best. We both work with the same producer, Charlie Andrew. I was working on the track "I Hold" and it kind of felt like it needed something else. The production was already complete, and I literally asked Charlie if he thought Marika would be willing to be on it. And, yeah, she was really up for it- came into the studio, sang on it, and we got on really well. She then came to me with a song that she was working on and asked me if I wanted to sing on it. We then did a little cassette release- it was literally like that Now we're really good friends and I just love her.
KKS: Have you done any odd jobs before landing in music?
S: Oh, yeah! (laughs) I left school at my A Levels (college entry levels) and I worked in a bar. Then I worked for an insurance company, which was so shit. After that I moved into an office and I worked for a repossessions company-that was really horrible. That was bad, like that was really bad, for a year. I moved to London and then I worked again at a call center. After that I worked in a shoe shop.
KKS: I've worked in a call center, too, while I was in college.
S: Yeah! It's tough- it's really hard. My hats off to anyone, but, you know, you have to pay the bills.
KKS: Going back in time a bit, I also noticed in the song “Bodies” that it’s flooded with biblical references. They’re pretty unavoidable. This is a two-part question-
KKS: 1) Are you religious and 2) was there a reason for the symbolism and iconography?
S: Well, I’m actually not religious, and I never grew up being religious. Sivu actually started because I was always writing my own stuff- like the standard stuff. “Oh, my girlfriend…” this kind of stuff- and then a friend, Simon, had this St. Christopher’s necklace on and told me the story of St. Christopher. I had never heard it and I found it really interesting. It kind of stuck with me, so I wrote this song “God Speaks In Tongues” and that inspired that. I quite like the idea of using those stories whether you’re religious or not. That “Bodies” track was after that reference. I like the idea of putting a different spin on it- rather than singing so obviously about me. The song is about wiping the slate clean and starting again, and that just seemed like quite a good analogy. In that way it wasn’t focused on me so much, but it could potentially be about something else. From a writing perspective it was just more interesting.
KKS: That is really interesting and makes sense- as if you were looking from above. Not talking about God-
S: Yeah! And I think when people first hear it they ‘re like, “Oh God, he’s trying to rub it in peoples faces.” It honestly wasn’t. It was just a way to write and push myself.
KKS: One thing that I love is that people seem to want to put their own name on the proverbial wall, and I think people do that with music. I’m wondering why you chose music as a way to say, “Yes, I’m here” in your own scribble of handwriting? (laughs)
S: Wow, that’s good, I’ve never heard it like that-I just think that it, well everyone says the same thing, but I left school and I was in a band. We were all kind of traveling and touring in my own band, then when that ended, and I was playing in other bands. It was never a conscious thing- I knew I always wanted to play music and, well...I've just been really lucky.
Listen to Sivu's latest ep "I Lost Myself":