Words by Hannah Lally
A pumping touring schedule has seen Safia perform to consecutively sold-out headline shows, crammed festival crowds, and a popularity that has relentlessly grown with every new move they make. In this year alone, the three-piece have taken on America and Europe for the first time, laying the groundwork for what will undoubtedly be an exciting international future.
Safia have returned home just in time to release their hotly anticipated debut album Internal, and embark on their biggest national tour to show it all off.
It seems this electronica and indie threesome has been around forever, with iconic singles being pumped out consistently over the past four years. The Canberra natives have soared in national and international success since their very first release of ‘Paranoia, Ghosts & Other Sounds’ and playing at Groovin The Moo way back in 2012.
The boys’ first full-length effort features plenty of new material, and favourites ‘Over You’, along with ‘Make Them Wheels Roll’ and ‘Embracing Me’. Vocalist Ben Woolner is stoked to head out on the road again with a packed catalogue in the biggest shows they’ve ever done.
You’re just about to kick off a huge national tour, how excited are you?
Super excited! It’s going to be really good putting on a show with a whole catalogue of new music. We test ran the show in April and May and to put it on in these venues is going to be super epic.
Safia has toured with singles plenty of times before, how will these shows be different?
When you’re only touring with singles, every song on the set is out and it’s something that people know. But we haven’t done this before, so there’s going to be a lot more prep.
How does prepping for these live shows compare to playing at festivals like you have?
For these shows it’s been heaps different and more fleshed out, there’s more room to go off on tangents and explore the songs. You’re not confined to 40 minutes where you have to bust in all the big moments and singles into a festival set. It can now be more fleshed out and you can take the crowd with you, it doesn’t have to be all big moments, it can be more dynamic and free.
So what can we expect in these upcoming shows?
It’ll be very big production, a very visceral experience from the performance side and visually and lights. It’s a bespoke set-up with some amazing collaborations with artists and designers. They’ve done work that complements every song individually and gives it this visual element people can immerse themselves in, which just adds to the performance.
You’ve just come back from America, and Europe before that, how did those shows go down?
They were really good, they’re still small in America, it’s still grass roots over there but it’s definitely picking up and to see the fan base build has been really nice. It was a lot of fun!
You guys have finally had time to write the debut album Internal, has that been a long time coming?
Ever since the first single, it’s always been looming there because we’ve just done singles for so long and to finally get all this stuff together has been good. To show people a larger body of work from start to finish, rather than just one thing has been good to do and we’re keen to show people all of our work.
What was the process for the album like?
It was very much a team effort. We complement each other in better and different areas and it works really well. When we write, we never get stuck on something for too long, it seems to come together pretty quick. So it’s just a matter of finding time in our hectic touring schedule to settle down, it all came together quite nicely.
We tried to write on the road but it’s pretty exhausting and nothing really came of it. We did a few stuff in London where we made the record, but it wasn’t really ‘til we came back home that it all happened. We were hermits for a few months, just around family and friends. You don’t feel the pressure as much when you’re at home.
Was this album based on personal stories, or a mix of inspirations?
Yeah they range from personal stuff to a lot of writing and storytelling in the third-person is what I do. The production of the song often inspires the lyrics because it’s very visual and I can see the words. Songs like ‘Counting Sheep’ was very easy to decide the content because the production was already creepy. So some songs are personal, and some are full of storytelling painting the imagery.
It’s going to be nice to finally have it out. It’s good that it’s helped us work out how we work together best and we’re already motivated and excited to move on to new music and new direction. It’s definitely a stepping stone that will guide us.
The ride since you started seems to have been hugely positive, how is it looking back on where you’ve come?
It’s been so good. We’ve tried heaps of different things and trying to make every song different and people have been super open and we’re super appreciative of how open-minded and positive everyone has been no matter what we’ve tried.
So hopefully we can extend that more with the album. The main focus was to have a cohesive album, and we wanted for every song the listener to remember after one or two listens, because they’re distinctly different – rather than hearing the same song 12 times. We’ve been super grateful and we’ve had free-reign to do whatever we want.
With the success that’s met every one of your singles, have you felt any pressure when writing?
We don’t necessarily write singles for radio or anyone else. It’s always writing for whatever is fun and that spark that gets us super excited in the studio and we keep building from that. It’s just stuff that we really like and we’ve been lucky that that translates to people so far.
The main focus is to make it different and stand out and if it sounds different to everything else on the radio, then we can be confident we’ll stand out. We’ve been able to do so much even before an album, that’s crazy. We still write in the same space as where we started and it still feels comfortable and fun.
Safia is coming to the Thebarton Theatre on Saturday 22nd October.
Tickets on sale here.