‘We got lost in the process’: SAFIA head through season change with new album and tour

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‘We got lost in the process’: SAFIA head through season change with new album and tour

Words By Tammy Walters

Over 31 tracks, from the moody monster 'Listen to Soul, Listen to Blues' in 2013 to the titular and cyclical track of their 2019 album 'Story Start or End,' Canberra trio SAFIA have constructed audacious arrangements and powerful production while exploring themes of identity.

However, when it came to creating their third album, the wheels stopped rolling, the cranes of creativity came to a halt, their identity was fractured, and the end of the SAFIA story seemed imminent.

“We started thinking about this album and writing it as soon as we finished Story’s Start or End in 2019, and I don’t know – I think I had a little bit of, not something to prove, but I felt like we could create the most cohesive body of work we’re able to make. I felt like we hadn’t done that yet, so there was definitely a drive or a motivation to make something really special and put everything on the table, like there’s nothing left, and this is as good as we can do. Mentally, maybe that wasn’t the most productive thing to do, especially once the pandemic hit,” explains vocalist Ben Woolner.

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

“Then sometimes too much time becomes unproductive, and with that mindset of wanting to make something perfect and right, it started going deeper and deeper into rabbit holes and we got lost in the process.”

It was the art of falling down in the album writing that made the resolution clear for Woolner and his SAFIA collaborators Michael Bell and Harry Sayers, ultimately leading to their proudest and most mature album to date: A Lover’s Guide To A Lucid Dream.

“I think in my head, from the start, it was like wanting to make something I thought we were capable of making and then getting to a point where we’re pushing so hard and like trying to force these things and reaching the point of giving up. I’m like, “OK well I’ve tried my hardest and I’m actually not very good”, so I think ‘Falling Down’ was that moment of just surrendering and giving up. That’s when it came – losing and then learning that creative process again and learning to have fun in it. Inevitably by the end, it just felt like how we were making music when we first started, when we had no idea what we were doing,” he says.

“The final result, I think, ironically, to me is what we set out to make anyway, so I was very proud of that.”

The product is the trio’s most cohesive, introspective and emotionally driven body of work. Whilst the album boasts a strong poetic title akin to an Edgar Allen Poe tale, notably absent from A Lover’s Guide To A Lucid Dream are the spirits, ghouls and creatures of the night so vividly haunting the melodramatic and theatrical Story’s Start or End and Internal. 

“I think we’re stepping away from that almost theatrical sound with a lot of these songs. I’m sure we’ll come back to it, but there was a lot of wordplay and stuff and like creating sort of visual aspects to the sound but in this almost quirky kind of way and I think at the moment we have been sort of moving away from that. They felt like it didn’t fit in the album or show. I feel a detachment to that stuff at this stage,” Woolner explains.


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Fittingly, they will be weaving their past paranoias, ghosts and other sounds into their tour setlist, including for the resurrection of one of the ghosts of Geelong’s past, The Eureka Hotel. SAFIA will be closing out their tour in the revived establishment’s Eureka Band Room on Friday 8 December, promising to slip in some subtle setlist easter eggs for keen fans. 

“We played Yours and Owls and tried to make a festival setlist – it felt really good but it’s a different feeling in these songs. We’re taking some quirky moments out and made this more cohesive thing, and there was definitely a lot more introspection to the show. It’s just more engaged listening rather than over-the-top big moments all of the time. We’re ironing out how to make it all flow, but the Eureka show will be a bit different, like a bit more snappy,” he explains.

“We’re doing this thing with old songs and taking them to fit the vibe with new arrangements to make the old songs fresh. There’s a lot of easter eggs and subtleties, hopefully not too subtle and contrived.” 

Catch SAFIA at Eureka Hotel on Friday 8 December in the Eureka Bandroom at 98 Little Malop St, Geelong. Get tickets here.