Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #130. Subscribe to our print edition here!
Cash Savage & The Last Drinks are back with another set of polarising heart-pounders. Matt Doria catches up with their titular heroine to riff on the two most important things in her world: honesty, and a good Telecaster.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: don’t listen to Cash Savage when you’re feeling particularly emotional. The 37-year-old Melbournite holds back not an ounce when she pours her heart into a tune, whether it be a scathing takedown of the men that question her talents, or a heartfelt crooner on former loves. The fourth LP with her backing band, The Last Drinks, is Good Citizens: a rumination on the varied levels of societal shittiness that permeates the world in 2018. Like those before it, the record’s objective is blunt. Whether it’s á la tight and temperamental Telecaster riffs or a vocal harmony soaked in sultriness, Savage wants you to feel the pain that she feels; her music is a weapon, and she attacks like her namesake in the spirit of catharsis.
“To me, I feel like that’s what a good song is,” Savage tells us. “I definitely write with myself in mind and try to keep it as real as possible. With my other albums, I’ve touched on subjects that were already universal, like grief and love and things like that, which… Y’know, you’re not breaking any rules by writing a love song or a song about loss. But for this album, I was really was trying to write from the perspective of what the world looks like through my lens, and so more than ever, this album was very terrifying to write. But it’s also been reassuring – other people are having these same experiences, and the feedback that I’m getting is that the themes on this album are equally as universal as the themes on the other albums.”
There’s a sharp sense of purity to Savage’s prose, met in equal measure with guitar playing that feels decidedly loose, in such a way that you can tell she isn’t trying to fake sincerity. It makes sense – Cash Savage and the guitar go together like cheese on pizza.
“It’s funny to be interviewed by a guitar magazine,” Savage muses. “I’ve been playing the guitar since I was 11, so it’s always just felt like a bit of an extension of me. Y’know, I’m not a gear nerd. I have my Telecaster, and I just recently got a delay pedal and a reverb pedal. I was just interviewed by a European magazine and they asked me about all of my gear and I was like, ‘Well, I’ve got a guitar amp and a guitar, and I love them dearly!’ But I really do love the guitar. I can’t write on any other instrument. I’ve tried to write on the piano, but it just doesn’t work for me. It has to be a guitar. So I don’t know – there is something between the way my mind thinks of the lyrics and the way I approach the guitar, but I’ve never really given it enough thought to crack that code.”
As vital to Savage as the shirt on her back, the frontwoman is never too far removed from a fretboard. “I try to have my guitars around me all the time,” she says. “When I’m writing an album, I’ll take a different guitar into the studio each time I go in; not until the very end will I just stick to the one guitar. Because I find that my fingers get stuck on certain guitars in certain ways. If I take another guitar in, it looses me up, it frees me from the guitar I was playing before it and I play differently. So, I’ll often borrow mates’ guitars or mess around with the studio’s gear, and then what I usually do is just take one guitar and a few beers in, lock myself away for a while and see what happens.”
While she’s eager to get as many new strings under her fingers as possible, there’s one guitar Savage always goes back to: a pitch black American Standard Telecaster, decked with a rosewood neck and tortoise shell pickups, wound with heavy 10-52 gauge bottom strings that lend her riffs a thick, almost baritone‑esque chunk. She stumbled into the guitar during a 2015 trip to Nashville, of all places, and like a toddler’s first taste of ice cream, she was immediately sold.
“I used to play a hollowbody, but I’ve found that they’re just too temperamental on the road,” Savage explains. “I didn’t want a Strat, though, because they’ve got all those mid tones I just don’t like. And then when I was writing the last album, one of the guitars I borrowed was my friend’s Telecaster, and it just… I didn’t want to give it back! I don’t know, I just found myself being drawn to the Telecaster sound.”
As it turns out, Savage’s love for the humble Telecaster is one that runs in the family. “When I was a kid,” she reminisces, “My dad had a mid-to-late ‘70s model Telecaster – which he sold, which I’ll never forgive him for – and whenever he was out of the house, I remember I used to sneak it out of his room, plug it in and play shitty Nirvana covers. I would feel like such a rockstar! So I think my idea of what a guitar sounds like was probably shaped by that, and so I’d just been looking for that again since. And when I played another Telecaster, of course, I found it.”
Good Citizens is out now via Mistletone / Inertia
Cash Savage & The Last Drinks
Friday November 23rd - Croxton Ballroom, Melbourne SOLD OUT
Saturday November 24th - Croxton Ballroom, Melbourne
Thursday November 29th - The Foundry, Brisbane
Friday November 30th - Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Saturday December 1st - Uni Bar, Wollongong
Saturday December 8th - Mojos, Fremantle