Words by Keane Fletcher
For Gold Coast-based musician Saint Barae, music isn't just something you dance around to in your room at night. It can also be used as a tool for bringing people together, a cathartic way of connecting people from different walks of life with different life experiences over topics they might find too difficult to address. Albeit with some very catchy synthpop!
'Speaking from a writer’s perspective, songwriting is my therapy. There’s something extremely healing about vocalising and writing down all the things I’m most insecure about...But beyond that I think music is one of the few things in this world that can connect people from so many walks of life and belief systems to be present together in a single moment - anyone who’s been to a great music festival knows exactly what I mean.'
And while Australia's music festival days might still be a little way off, at least we know when they do start kicking off, Saint Barae will be ready and raring to go. In fact, if you're lucky enough to be Queensland based at the moment, you can catch him live at Black Bear Lodge this coming Wednesday the 25th of November. Personally, after the year we've all had, I think some feel-good 80's-inspired synthpop is exactly what the doctor ordered!
Ahead of his upcoming gig, we recently caught up with Saint Barae to talk all things music, inspo, and the importance of speaking your truth.
1- Where in the world are you based at the moment?
The Gold Coast, Australia.
2- How would you describe your sound? Who are your musical influences?
My music draws a lot of influence from synth sounds of the 80’s and blends them with the sleek, glossy percussive beats of modern pop music. I’m really inspired by Brit-pop acts like The 1975 and Lily Allen, not just for their signature sounds but also by how they approach difficult topics in such tongue in cheek easy to digest ways. The contrast of the sparkling light music against brutally honest lyrics feels so purposeful - to me that’s pop perfection.
3- How does the songwriting process usually work for you? Do you have a discipline when it comes to writing and recording, or does inspiration usually take you by surprise?
Lately I’ve been working with a lot of people I’ve never met face to face which is both crazy and really cool! I like collaborating with producers who can bring fully realised instrumentals to the table and let me do my thing over them. In that sense my songwriting process has been a very lonely process of curation and reflection, but I think I needed that quietness and stillness to make the record I’ve been working on for the past year. I like to start with the title and work backwards from there - I think starting at what is usually the end helps me feel grounded and connected to whatever story I’m trying to tell.
4- How has 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work and creativity? Have you enjoyed having more time to create or has it been stifling?
It feels really weird to say given how difficult this year has been for so many people - but for me personally 2020 was a year that needed to happen. Having my physical circle of contacts limited kind of opened me up to this new avenue I’m in of making songs with people in countries I’ve never been to like Germany and Sweden. The internet is a mind blowing tool for creativity when the right minds align and I’m so excited to share the rest of what I’ve made in lockdown.
5- Your latest single 'Hollow' is a cathartic synthpop gem about the difficult task of choosing forgiveness over revenge. Can you tell us a bit about the story behind this song? What do you hope listeners take away from it?
I wrote Hollow recently after I’d come out to my parents over the phone and my mind was kind of spiralling into this negative space of what would happen next. That anxious energy of not being accepted by people you love is really the essence of the track. I come from a very religious background and I know so many young queer people out there have lived this exact same experience of feeling hurt and rejected because of something they cannot change. So really, this song is for me and this song is for them, it’s a love letter to anyone who has been made to feel less than for living their truth. I’m really proud of what I achieved writing Hollow because in many ways it’s a cathartic release, a declaration of independence from the past.
6- Do you believe music can be a useful tool for helping people address difficult topics? In what way does it help open people's minds to new perspectives?
Absolutely! Just speaking from a writer’s perspective songwriting is my therapy. There’s something extremely healing about vocalising and writing down all the things I’m most insecure about because it validates them and makes me feel like I’m not insane haha. But beyond that I think music is one of the few things in this world that can connect people from so many walks of life and belief systems to be present together in a single moment - anyone who’s been to a great music festival knows exactly what I mean. And I guess I’m not trying to change the world with my music - I just want to tell my story authentically and let it help the people it needs to.
5- How do you feel the internet has affected your career as a songwriter? Have streaming services like Spotify and Soundcloud made things easier or harder for artists to get noticed?
I said it earlier but the internet really is the greatest tool we have as artists. It can be overwhelming trying to stand out in the sheer volume of music that is being released everyday but I also think that’s a beautiful thing. Anyone can be an artist if that’s what they want and everyone should be able to. The industry has changed so much and I think not having major labels gatekeeping pop music has led to some crazy experimentation that’s going to continue to change the industry as we move forward.
7- If you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be?
I would change the negative ideas people have with pop music in general! Or this false storyline that electronic music is soulless and ‘fake’. The way that music is made is purely a medium and some of my all time favourite records fall into the heavily electronic category. I feel like as genre lines become more blurred people will realise that music is for everyone and it doesn’t need to be this tribal, categorised box. I’ve been working on a record that has everything from electric guitars and organs to samples of a music box - all in one track! It’s like nothing is off limits now and we have a world of sounds and influences to play with.
8- What's coming up next for you?
2021 is gearing up to be my biggest year yet. I’ve got another lead single from my currently unnamed project dropping really soon and a couple of unexpected features with local and international artists that are waiting at the gates to be unleashed. This next year is also gonna be my biggest comeback to the live stage yet with a whole handful of shows already in the works, speaking of which if you’re in Brisbane I’ll be in town next on Wednesday the 25th of November to party with Josh King at Black Bear Lodge!
Thanks for stopping by Hipland!