May 13, 2020 Interview – Savannah Pope
True art should not be limited, it should push boundaries and stimulate the senses. Within the expression of music, we often see an artist weighed down by the shackles of conformity for the sake of fitting a mold to be commercially marketable. Thankfully there are artists like Savannah Pope who follow their instincts and create what they believe in. A unique talent, Pope has been enamored by artistic expression for many years, and in the last decade became the lead voice of a band called SpaceCream.
Diving deeper into her own self-exploration, she has since gone solo as a singer-songwriter, releasing the highly engaging debut album Atlantis in 2019. A combination of raw, powerful vocals, sincere lyrics, and the vibes Rock-n-Roll was meant to have, Pope is a rising star. Recently releasing her compelling new music for the song “He Sees Me,” Pope sat down to chat about her start in music, her inspirations, future releases, plus a whole lot more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in music most of your life and eventually would turn your passion for it into a career. First, tell us, what inspired you to pursue music professionally?
Savannah Pope – I was involved with music more or less peripherally until about 6 years ago, when I decided to go for it and put a band together. I’ve written songs as a form of release since I was a teenager, mostly out of necessity for my own sanity. I was actually interested in pursuing visual art first. Music kind of crept up on me, in that I just happened to fall in love with performing. It was a total fluke, and one I’m really grateful for. It’s given me a lot of room to expand my visual art as well.
Cryptic Rock – That is great to hear. Music and visual arts complement one another too. Your story is quite interesting. You were in a boarding school as a teenager, then traveled aboard. How would you say these experiences shaped you as an artist?
Savannah Pope – That’s a nice way of putting it. More like an abusive cult in Virginia posing as a privatized reform school. We were imprisoned there, and they did insane things to us. Most of those places, called “therapeutic boarding schools,” have been shut down now. Though some are still hiding in plain sight. Quite the American phenomenon. Anyway, that trauma is a big part of why I’m so motivated to make uncompromising, uncensored art. Freedom and expression are privileges that I don’t take for granted.
As for travel… I lived in Spain for a year, where I fell in love with all sorts of art I had never been exposed to before. Goya, Velazquez, Almodovar. The femine aggression of Flamenco. My family moved around a lot as a kid, and I have also been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit on my own. That’s where a lot of my inspiration has come from.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like art is a therapeutic release for you. It is also fascinating how traveling influenced you as well, but more in a positive fashion. Prior to performing as a solo artist, you were a part of the band SpaceCream. How has being a solo artist differed for you?
Savannah Pope – Yes, that was my baby for a while! Going solo has been really cool, though not without its own challenges. I completely have to motivate myself now, but I feel much freer to explore different sides of myself. With a concept like SpaceCream, I was more or less tethered to Glitter Rock. While that’s still one of my top musical influences, I also have a lot of other ideas to play around with.
Cryptic Rock – It seems like you have certainly spread your artistic wings solo. Your music is Rock-n-Roll to the core. That said, in 2019, you released your powerful album Atlantis. What was it like writing and recording this collection of songs?
Savannah Pope – That was my first solo album, and a great opportunity to explore some of the varied aspects of myself I was just talking about. I had a great time hand-picking my collaborators on this album, song by song. It runs the gamut, yet somehow all fits together. I mean, “Rock n’ Roll No More” is almost a showtune! “Daddy Issues” is pure, silly Rock n’ Roll. I don’t even fucking know what “Ms. Moreau” is! But I love them all, and they belong together. I’m especially proud of the titular track, “Atlantis,” epic slice of baroque dystopian Prog that it is.
Cryptic Rock – They all fit together well and make for a fresh, exciting listen. Of course much of the intrigue comes with your quite distinctive and intense voice. Comparisons are not fair, but for argument’s sake, let’s call you a female Robert Plant, or better yet, a modern day Grace Slick. So, tell us, how did you shape your exceptional voice?
Savannah Pope – Hah! Awesome. Though I’m with Jay Z on refraining from comparing artists too aggressively. We can’t help what comes out of us if we’re really being genuine. I have no idea how this voice happened. I was born with opera lungs, I guess, and they just got bigger and bigger as I sang along to things. First it was records. Then my little acoustic guitar, and then a big Rock band. Practice is everything.
Cryptic Rock – Well you have something special for sure! Beyond your music, you have also showcased a very unique, artistic image as well. What is the inspiration for you behind the imagery you bring with your music?
Savannah Pope – Thank you! I’m obsessed with detail. I’m entranced by color and intense craftsmanship. I have no interest in pop art, really, or minimalism for that matter. I’m more attracted to the amount of care and humanity that goes into a visually complex piece of art. Take Klimt, Schiele, and Otto Dix for example. They painted such beautiful and detailed portraits of the ludest, saddest, funniest, weirdest things. A lot of non-religious baroque paintings are like that as well. They present every aspect of the human experience in a beautiful way, without censoring their subject matter. That’s pretty much where I come from artistically.
Cryptic Rock – Very interesting. Speaking of which, you recently released the song “He Sees Me” with an extremely compelling, colorful music video. What is the story behind this song and video?
Savannah Pope – “He Sees Me” is the first love song I’ve ever written. It’s about how scary, messy, and ultimately beautiful it is to completely let someone in. The video draws quite a bit on my background as a painter – hyper-contrasted, color-saturated, detail-oriented. I think it illustrates the meaning behind the song pretty clearly!
Cryptic Rock – It does and it is a beautiful song and music video. In modern music, we have seen a generic approach to singing – meaning there is quite a bit of auto-tuning, which leaves a lot of music sounding hollow. How important is it to you, as an artist, to showcasing your raw emotions in your singing in an unfiltered manner?
Savannah Pope – I think it’s really important. I’m not big on auto-tune, personally. I’ll do a lot of takes and comp my favorite parts, for sure. I definitely put a lot of work into making sure I’m singing well, and I can be a perfectionist. A lot of what I pick has to do with feeling. Sometimes the little vocal imperfections are what make the song really land.
Take “He Sees Me,” for instance. I’ve gotten my fair share of haters telling me that my voice is too intense on this song… that it actually scares them. I think a good amount of that is just sexism – people are still terrified of feminine power in any form. I think the other part of it is that people are used to vocals being dumbed down. What I’m talking about in this song – love – IS intense! It’s scary! It’s not some sweet, easy thing. It’s beautiful because of its honesty, I think.
Cryptic Rock – Keep doing what you are doing. The intensity is what makes the music real and makes you unique. You are a singer emotive in your approach, so what do you feel when performing your music?
Savannah Pope – I love performing! I miss it so much. That energy exchange is so powerful. I have really bad anxiety most of the time, day to day. Before I perform my own music, all that fear accumulates in my stomach. I feel ill. Then I get onstage, and it turns into something else. It drives me at first, and then just fades away completely when I play a great show. I love that feeling.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like a wonderful release. Can we expect some new music from you again soon?
Savannah Pope – Yes. My new EP, You’re Such a Human Being, is due out later this year. I’m currently doing pre-production for my second video as well.
Cryptic Rock – That is exciting and something to look forward to. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror and/or Sci-Fi movies, what are some of your favorites?
Savannah Pope – Oh man! That is so hard! I love movies. I enjoy a lot of Horror, particularly campy, and surreal Horror. I just adore Sci-Fi. I named my old band SpaceCream after The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), which sort of falls into all of those categories. You know the scene when David Bowie takes off his human suit and shows his girlfriend how aliens get it on in space? Just spinning around in zero gravity without genitals, rubbing galactic goo all over each other? That’s SpaceCream. So, yeah, obviously I love that movie!
One of my all-time favorites is Invasion of the Body Snatchers from 1956. It really takes its time getting under your skin. Another one is The Skin I Live In (2011) by Pedro Almodovar. I’m crazy about the impeccable shots and surreal melodrama! He’s such a delicious weirdo!
Shadow of a Doubt (1943) is high up there as well. I think it does an amazing job of showing how alone women are made to feel when they trust their own instincts.
My favorite Sci-Fi film of all time is probably The Fifth Element (1997). I am just so floored by how much effort went into every frame of that movie. It’s definitely a little campy, but it holds up because of the great style, imagination, and practical effects. There’s a kind of soul to practical effects that lives on forever, no matter how much we develop technologically. I mean, look at Metropolis! It still looks incredible.