5 writers, 5 questions, 1 band, hand-picked by MWA. Welcome to FIVE x FIVE. This week: Champaign-Urbana born, Santah.
A band that has never shied away from re-inventing themselves with every release, Santah has been making their own brand of ethereal indie rock since 2006. Their 2011 album White Noise Bed is an impressive mix of styles and ideas that do a great job of showing off the band’s talents. With a new single out, a record release show tonight at Schuba’s, and another full-length LP in the works, keyboardist Tommy Trafton took some time to answer a few of our questions for this week’s FIVE x FIVE.
I got to see you guys play in Urbana a couple times and it was always an awesome show but how has the transition to Chicago, then a national/canadian tour, changed Santah and how are you guys still the same college town band as before?
Santah would not exist if it weren’t for Champaign-Urbana. The town was a very nurturing environment for musicians to start bands and pursue music. Rent was cheap, there was a good amount of venues, and there was a tight-knit scene that was very supportive and active. Of course, Chicago is a tougher town to live in, but there is a lot more happening here and we do feel very at home here. There are great people involved in the scene in Chicago, and it’s been exciting to watch like-minded bands find success and grow in this city. I think there is a lot of potential here and Santah is proud of our Midwest roots.
What was your favorite part of releasing You’re Still A Lover through Saki Records on Vinyl? What can we expect from the “Awwh Man” / “Won’t Be Long Now” limited edition 7″?
Our last release, You’re Still A Lover, was an amazing experience. Due to all of the touring before the release, we never really felt settled in Chicago up to that point so we were eager to meet and work with locals that actively participated and made a difference in Chicago’s music scene. In this sense, saki was perfect for the release. For Awwh Man, we wanted to try to release it ourselves. With it being a 7”, the record seemed doable with our own resources. It has been a while since our last release, so we wanted to give something new to our fans and wanted to make it feel personal and direct from us to the listener. With a DIY release, you also have more immediacy and control over the project, and we wanted to retain that up until our next full length.
What was it like to work on the Wes Anderson tribute album I Saved Latin and was it tough to cover “Five Years” by David Bowie but still have Santah flare on it?
We were very excited to be a part of I Saved Latin. Wes Anderson’s films have such a signature aesthetic to them; visually, but even musically. And American Laundromat Records did a great job recruiting the artists for the compilation. Covering “Five Years” was a blast for us and the arrangement and recording process came together very naturally. It was a fun song to put our own spin on as we were just as much referencing Seu Jorge’s Bossa Nova makeover of the song as we were David Bowie’s original recording. The song is also a favorite of our producer Matt Dewine, and we were able to record the cover analog on tape solely off of era-true recording equipment.
Has your approach to writing changed at all from White Noise Bed to “Awwh Man” and the upcoming LP? Have your influences or inspirations shifted in the last few years?
Santah still subscribes to all of the same ideals that White Noise Bed was built upon, but now we have a much better understanding of who we are as a band. We still like to write using real instruments in a room together. We do, though, more than ever, want to get people moving and dancing at shows so you can expect our new material to be more ‘dance-able.’ Personally, as the keyboardist, I’m trying to expand our sounds by incorporating more synthesizer sounds while still maintaining an organic quality to our instrumentation.
What’s in the works for after the new single is released? Is there another full length on the way?
“Awwh Man” should be seen as an initial taste of our upcoming full length, which is well on its way to completion. The band considers it to be part of the same body of work. This next full length is by far the most ambitious project we’ve ever taken on, spanning a collection of 20 + tunes from the last 3 years of the band’s existence. Of course, when the time comes, we’ll be narrowing the tracklist down to a more digestible amount of songs, but at this point, we want to give all of them the attention they deserve and see them out to completion.
Santah’s new single is available via bandcamp. The limited edition 7″ vinyl will run you only $10 and comes with a digital download. Don’t wait to long to snag one, the 7″ is limited to only 150 copies!