Savoy Talks To Us About Their New Sound, 2 New EP Releases, and How They Came Up With Their Name in iEDM Exclusive Interview
This hybrid of live instrumentals, electro-house drops, and a ton of lasers known as Savoy are fours stops into their latest tour after just dropping their latest 6-track EP Tomorrow Today Pt. 1.
Savoy members Ben Eberdt, Gray Smith, and Mike Kelly are not your typical EDM group. This rock-tronic trio has been adding a unique touch to their tracks since their beginning days in college.
I got the chance to sit down with them before their show at the Fox Theatre in their former college town Boulder, Colorado.
iEDM: Your “Tomorrow Today Tour” started last week in Richmond, VA. How has it been going?
Ben: It's been good so far. It has been great to get back on the road. Our new set is something that we're the most proud of, just because it kind of encapsulates our entire career in one set. And coming out with a new EP right before the tour, working that new style into the live performance has been really cool. We have reworked and remixed all of our songs. It's so cool because it's not just remix after remix, but we kind of spread it all out and combine it all together in different ways.
So some songs in our performance will include parts of like four different songs from our past. It has been really cool to just kind of take the whole catalog and use it on the road. It's been a lot of fun.
Gray: It's also by far the most live show that we've played. Everyone is playing live instruments the whole time, so it just makes it a lot more fun for us to perform. That's what we all grew up doing- performing. So we're just on stage having a blast the whole time.
Mike: With the new EP we definitely wanted to make a musical experience for listening. It's still dance music, but there's a lot of layers to dive into, it's not just about raging. It has been cool to remix all those songs and making new edits. Even these new songs that people have never heard live before, we're changing them completely from how they are to fit the high energy of the live show, so it has been really live and energetic.
iEDM: You've hit about four stops on this tour so far, how has this new live performance been going so far?
Ben: It's been great. This show is the most rock n' roll, and it's the closest to what we initially set out to do. As far as taking the rock, and really bringing that to the stage, yet still having the output be something that's very much like living in the dance world.
It sounds like something we've always been chasing. So to be able to finally pull that off, and really put on a rock n' roll show, but have it be "dancy" as hell, and mesh all those sounds live has been the most fulfilling thing.
It was our goal when we first met as musicians, was to do that. We have gone up and down this crazy roller coaster to get there and to find ourselves, and sometimes it takes really delving into the electronic side of things for years to figure that shit out, because it's complicated. Then obviously bringing back the instruments and the rock that we all grew up with, to be able to do that on stage has been what we're all about. We're definitely looking forward to doing that in Denver and showing everybody what's up.
Gray: We've always been after making music that sounds current. Like it was made in 2017, but also being able to rock the stage like a hair metal band would have done in the 80s. So to be able to combine those two worlds- which I think this tour has done that closer than any other shows we've ever performed- is huge for us. We're super stoked about it.
iEDM: Which stops on this tour are you most excited about and why?
Ben: Obviously Colorado, it feels like home to us. This is where Savoy started, and we're always pumped to play here. Other than that, Chicago is a great city, we love going there. The last stop on the tour is in Austin, Texas and that's on of our favorite cities in the country. Just hanging out there in general is a lot of fun.
Gray: The last couple stops have been really fun! It's always great not knowing what to expect and it ends up being a great show. Austin, and actually Richmond is really fun, D.C., but also in the past Indianapolis has been great to us. Minneapolis is another place where we are not sure to what to expect and it turns out being fucking crazy. So that has been just a great experience for us in those two cities, we're really stoked to go back there too.
Mike: I think Ben and Gray kind of nailed it. I'd also like to add that I'm pretty stoked about playing Detroit. Something that we've never done as a live band. I'm trying to get up in there and see what it's all about. That's real America and you can argue that electronic music was kind of born there, so that's something I'm looking forward to.
iEDM: You guys are about to play two shows in your home state, Colorado. How does it feel to be home performing for all the local support you have?
Ben: It's awesome. Colorado has always been the rock of what we have done. The most in-tune fans based off the fact that we've played the most here. This is where Savoy started, and where we all met. It's always just the shit to be back. People take care of us here.
Gray: It's special to be back for sure. Some other towns will have good crowds, people will be partying and raging.. but when we play here we can just tell that people really know our music, so that adds another layer of depth to the show that is especially noticeable for us. We really appreciate it and it just makes the performance that much more fun.
Mike: There are so many times in the set when we have an a capella of one song playing over the instrumental of another song that we remixed. And yeah it's cool if you don't know the songs, but if you actually know what's going on and how hard we've worked to bring all these songs together from like six or seven years of history all together in one little segment. It just happens for a minute. You can see there are people out there like "dude, I saw what you did there and that was sweet". It's cool knowing that some people are actually getting it. That's what we wanted to do ever since we saw Daft Punk play Red Rocks. We thought that was really cool, to take all the elements of your songs and make one continuous story.
iEDM: How did you guys first team up and start Savoy?
Ben: We all went to University of Colorado in Boulder. Mike lived next to me in the dorms, and Gray lived in the next dorm over. He was walking around playing guitar one day, and I ran up to him and said "yo, this is why I came here, I'm looking for people to jam with". So I grabbed my guitar then and there and we jammed. Then I said "hey I know this dude that can play drums," and we have literally been doing that same thing every day since.
Gray: The first time Ben and I jammed we ended up with a crowd of like 25 people just jamming out. And we were like "nice dude, we gotta keep doing this."
Ben: Yeah, it was a typical college moment.. playing two acoustics in the quad, I think we were playing a Grateful Dead song. From there we all lived together from Sophomore to Senior year, and by that time we probably spent close to on average eight hours a day every day playing together. By the time we graduated we got a booking agent and never looked back.
Mike: And there are so many kids at CU that are trying to play music, but it's hard to find people that are willing to put in the time and make it a priority. We were lucky to find each other. From day one we had goals and we wanted to take it really seriously. We were willing to not do this thing or that thing that everyone else was doing in college. Of course, we still had a great time, but we always put the music before everything else. Yes, we also took school pretty seriously too, but the band was our focal point of our time there.
Ben: I remember in college turning down girlfriends. They really wanted to be my girlfriend and I just said "I can't, I have to make music." That was our life. That's all we did.
iEDM: How did you come up with the name Savoy?
Ben: We all majored in business, but we took a Jazz elective together. We learned about this place called The Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, NY. Essentially, in the 30s there was a swing era of jazz, which at the time was literally the young people's dance music.
So The Savoy Ballroom was created as one of the first dance clubs ever. It was also known for having some of the best musicians from that time like Benny Goodman to Big Band Jazz to just really swinging, dance-jazz music. It was also a really notable place in the 30s where they didn't segregate, anybody that wants to come can come in here in dance.
We learned about that in class together and it took on a really symbolic meaning for us. It's kind of what we're all about. This is the institution that started it all. It's no longer standing, it's not there anymore, but that's what gave us the idea.
iEDM: How do you differentiate from other EDM groups?
Ben: The rock n' roll attitude, and the fact that we're only playing our own original music. And the fact that we don't make music for DJs, we make music for us and our band.
You're not gonna just pull a Savoy song and mix it into a DJ set, because we don't have the same formulaic arrangement that a lot of EDM producers have. They have their intro beats and outro beats, it's geared for the DJ to be able to mix in easily, and it's geared for people in a nightclub where they don't necessarily need to know the song, but they want it to sound like any other song. It's made for that purpose. Our music is different.
We make our music for the music. I know that sounds cheesy but it's different. I feel like a lot of the time EDM is made for a specific response in a specific environment, AKA I'm going to drop this banger in the club or at a festival. Our music has that vibe, it's big and building, and it has the big releases and drops.. but it's much more based on the melody, musicality, and our influences which reach far deeper than electronic music.
We're listening to like Steely Dan and jazz you know the greats that shaped modern music. That's what we think about when we make music, and I don't feel like a lot of our peers do. And I don't think that they would say that they do. I think we have a different drive and set of inspirations that we lend to our creative process. That would be my take on it.
Gray: Sometimes we will make songs for our live show, and sometimes we will make songs just for us to listen to. I think we've always made songs in the past only thinking about our own live show, rather than thinking that someone else is going to play our song. That has never really been a mind set for us. I think that's why our music differs.
Also, when you've been producing as long as us we just have our own ways of doing things, which gives you your own style. As far as seeing us in concert, as Ben said, you'll only hear Savoy original music at our shows. The live instrumentation sets us apart as well. We still have the quality of a dubstep DJ, but we're still a band. You don't see a ton of people doing that.
Ben: Yeah that's basically our whole thing and what we're all about. Our music sounds like it's as big as any electronic artist, but stylistically stylistically it doesn't sound anything like that for the most part. It's just really unique to us. I don't know who I would compare us to, really.
Gray: We have a bunch of songs that sound completely different. Sometimes we're just in different head spaces, I guess. We don't put any limitations on ourselves. We're never like, "we're this style or that style". I mean, we do have our focuses, but we allow ourselves to branch out here and there if we want.
Mike: I feel like a lot of our peers in the electronic music world are more focused on the trends, or fitting into a certain style, or label, or they're just trying to make a sound because it sounds crazy. We've been guilty of falling into those kind of temptations before.
In the last two or three EPs especially, we've been trying to make music that sounds classic. Something that sounds like it could have been made today, ten years from now, or even back in the 80s and 90s. We want to make music that sounds like music that could stick around for a while. There are so many producers making music for now.
Everyone always says that about music as they're getting older, but a lot of it (and admittedly so by the people making it) is nonsense, and they just think it's hilarious. It works for the live setting, and the kids that are enjoying it are just there to have a good time so they kind of see it as whatever. And we still want our music to be fun, of course. We just take it very seriously and want it to be something that has some artistic integrity.
Gray: Yeah, we definitely take our shit pretty seriously.
Ben: We don't want people to look back on our music and have one of those "oh that's when trap was big" moments. When you listen to our music we want you to think "oh, that's a good song because it has redeeming song qualities, not just a stylistic barrage of fad."
Gray: Not to say we've never had influences of trends, but even when we did our stuff just sounds like our take on something. For some reason it still kind of sounds like us.
iEDM: What did you guys want to be growing up? Did you always want to be musicians?
Ben: I always wanted to be a musician. I only wanted to play guitar my whole life. That's all I've ever done.
Gray: I wanted to be an architect.
Mike: I started when I was 3, so I've always just thought "that would be awesome if it happened." I used to be super into Dave Matthews. I would just practice to Dave Matthews songs, I was in about 5th or 6th grade. I remember playing to Live at Red Rocks and looking at the album cover, and going through the booklet like people used to do when they bought CDs and records.
I remember looking at the pictures of Red Rocks and it looked like the most alien, crazy place ever. I couldn't imagine playing there. That was when I was a kid, so it was pretty cool making that dream come true. It was like being a quarterback and winning the super bowl. So I try to take those moments in when I'm on stage at a place like that. Like, this is real life. Going to college at CU, we were in that audience looking at that stage so many times.
Gray: It's really cool to have those moments. You can never take that away from us. So that's something we cherish a lot.
Mike: Even playing The Fox (Boulder, CO). It's a relatively small venue, but we went there multiple times a week for like six years straight. I still get a giddy feeling when I get to play on that stage, or when I get to go back stage. That's one of our favorite places to play because it's so nostalgic and it is the epitome of success. It's still a blast today.
iEDM: Your 6-track Tomorrow Today, Pt. 1 EP just came out a few days ago. Tell me about that.
Ben: I think this one really just encapsulates what we've been trying to do for a long time... to make real songs. If you listen to the arrangements, it's a song. It's not electronic music, it's not EDM. At all. It's electronic, but they're songs. That's the most important part.
Each song is based around a melody and a core change and it's beautiful and pleasing to listen to. And then there are just so many live instruments strewn in. All the drums are live, all the guitars are live, yet it still sounds like a solidly produced electronic album at the same time.
It's great to have worked with a bunch of vocalists that get what we're trying to do, which is not easy to find. A lot of vocalists don't understand what it is we're trying to do. Which is kind of odd, but it's true. It's something that we've struggled with; finding the right collaborators. We feel like everyone we've worked with on this EP is the shit and really nailed the vibe we were going for for each song.
The most important thing that we set out to do was creating an EP that you could listen to in your car or in your living room. You can listen to this music when you're chillin', or you can put it on at a party and turn up to it. Especially when we play live, we flip everything and it get's crazy for the live show. But the EP was meant as a listening experience, not a banger experience.
I feel like we've accomplished that. I don't normally listen to my songs after they're finished, but this EP I find myself listening to it and it's kind of shocking. It came out on Spotify the other day while I was at the gym and I was like "sweet, this is the jam." I encourage people to just turn it on when you're by yourself; it's a good experience.
Gray: The cool thing about it that we're proud of is that it's music made with electronic instruments... but you have to listen to it more than once to get everything. There's a lot of stuff in there that we did live that you may not notice the first time listening. That's what kind of helps the lasting quality, because you can listen to it over and over again. Then maybe the next time you hear it you might notice something new that you didn't notice the first time.
Mike: We're really proud of it. Just to find that blend, that balance of live, and band, and also that party feel-good dance music. I feel like it checks all the boxes. I think when we make music, we want to give the listener the premium space as far as listening and prioritizing them at that moment, but at the same time when they listen to it they should feel like they read a biography about us as musicians, and understand where we're coming from, and I think it does that. I think it's pleasing for the listener, but they get what we're all about at the same time.
iEDM: You guys in the past have featured an insane laser show on your Mo Lasers Mo Problems Tour. What can we expect for this tour?
Gray: We should get our laser guy in here, he'll tell you!
Ben: We're rollin deep with a shit load of lasers, as always. It's just cool to have those things. They look insane, no matter how many times you've seen them. They're so sick. I will say, the fact that we're so live this tour.. like Gray is ripping the bass the whole time, Mike is obviously an animal on the drums, I'm doing my thing on the guitar.. plus everything else going on up there. I'd say the laser show is as good as it has ever been, it's fucking awesome, but there's also a lot more to look at outside of the lasers now. Like the more and more we add to the show, it enhances the performance all around. Visually, it's a cool thing to see. What we're doing on stage isn't something a lot of kids are used to seeing.
Gray: We love the lasers, and we're definitely bringing them around, but for us it's not the most important thing of the show. The most important thing to us is the music and the crowd. The fact that we're all playing live really enables us to connect with the crowd and feed off their energy, which is the coolest part about it. The lasers are just an added bonus to take things to the next level.
Mike: I feel like the lasers are the fourth instrument in the band. Now that there's a lot more musicianship on the stage, it's important the lasers highlight the moment instead of being the moment. A lot of DJs are bringing more and more production as a distraction since they're really not doing that much. Now that there's so much going on, I think they're more of a supportive role for us. When they do come out full force, and have their moment just like a great guitar player has a great guitar solo, the lasers have that moment too. But they should definitely be able to slip back into the darkness when the timing is right.
Gray: Another important thing to say about the lasers is that everyone has seen lasers now.. and they're great. But our lasers are ran by the same operator every time and he knows our music like the back of his hand. It goes perfectly with the music. Even if someone else were to have the exact same lasers, they don't have the person that has been with them every single time. He's like a fourth member of the band. I think that really sets us apart.
iEDM: Do you guys have any big plans after this tour?
Ben: We thought about the idea of releasing a ton of VIP edits and all the different crazy live shit that we've been playing for years. We just want to keep releasing music.
Gray: We definitely still have a lot of stuff on the back burner that's waiting to hop up front. We didn't just finish 6 songs for the last EP and that was it. We have reserves so we're excited to release some other stuff.
Mike: We almost have another EP already written, which SPOILER ALERT: It will probably be Tomorrow Today Pt. 2. Then there are like 10 other songs that we play live that aren't on either EP. So we're trying to figure out creative ways to release them, and it could be cool to just get them out into the world.
Ben: Yeah, just more new music!
iEDM: What advice would you give aspiring music producers?
Ben: I would just say focus on trying to be unique. I know that's just so broad. But I feel like so many bedroom producers grow up wanting to emulate the sound, and it's natural to want to emulate the sound of your idols.. I get that. That's how you learn to play an instrument. That's how I learned to play the guitar; I wanted to sound like all my favorite guitar players. But I think it's about taking it a step further, once you can achieve that it's about finding your own voice in the music community.
I do find in electronic music in today's climate, one thing I find a lot is that a lot of producers are just trying to sound like everyone else. You go to an EDM festival, you can't tell me that every stage sounds exactly the same. A lot of these guys are playing the same songs, and same sets... like fuck that shit. Do your own thing. It's not easy. It's going to take longer, and it's going to be way harder, but that's what art needs. That's what art is about, and that's what the culture needs; people doing things differently.
Gray: My main tip would be to spend time on production, but learn an instrument, or music theory. Learn music. Most producers that are really good that have been around for a long time know music. Get a leg up on the people that don't know scales and stuff like that. It also gives you so much more satisfaction knowing how and why music works.
iEDM: Do you have anything else you’d like to say to your fans?
Ben: Thanks for sticking with us, and giving us a shot... letting us do new shit. No, we're not fulfilling every lifelong Savoy fan's desire of us to keep making the same shit over and over. But we appreciate the freedom to keep growing. If our fans are sticking with us that's dope. So thank you!