Synths, sonics and that special vinyl feeling: we sit down with Memphis LK of SAATSUMA

A Melbourne act known by their juicy namesake and even juicier tunes, SAATSUMA have been turning eyes and ears since they dropped their debut single Storm early last year.

Defying the modus operandi of their electronic contemporaries, a month ago SAATSUMA released their debut LP Overflow harbouring less than two years experience as a band. But unqualified is about the last word that comes to mind when experiencing the soundscapes hidden within.

With SAATSUMA’s album out to the world and a Sydney appearance at The Plot lined up, we sat down with frontwoman Memphis LK for the latest.

saatsuma overflow LP

Belying expectations to release their full-length album Overflow, it’s clear SAATSUMA have no shortage of ambition, talent or eagerness.

HAPPY: Hey, what’s going on? What are you up to at the moment?

MEMPHIS: I just re-organised our studio and labelled everything and put everything in drawers and cleaned up all the mess and it feels SO GOOD. I was feeling a bit creatively blocked because of all the clutter in there and now I’m like okay let’s fkn GO.

HAPPY: So Overflow has been out to the world for almost a month now, what have the first reactions been like?

MEMPHIS: Honestly so humbling and overwhelming. It’s been really great to have feedback from people who have been listening to the whole album in its entirely. That’s the experience we hoped people would have with the album. An immersive, start-to-finish ~sonic experience~. It’s also always been super interesting to hear other peoples’ interpretations of the songs.

When you create work that you’re so close to, it’s so easy to lose perspective. You listen to it over and over, it starts to lose its meaning and its significance to you fades. Hearing other people’s take on your work breathes new life into it; it reminds you why you created it and gives you a greater understanding of the song in ways you never would’ve expected.

HAPPY: Are there any non-single tracks that people have been really vibing?

MEMPHIS: I’ve had a lot of people say they really resonate with WITH U, which I’m stoked about as that’s one of my favourites on the album.

HAPPY: I saw you’ve pressed it on vinyl too! That must have been pretty special, especially for a newer band.

MEMPHIS: OMG it is an actual dream come true. The moment of holding that vinyl in my hands, the body of work that we poured absolutely everything into, was honestly one of the single greatest moments of my LYFE. I cried. It was a huge time.

HAPPY: It’s pretty bold to do an album, at least a lot of bands in the electronica sphere seem to avoid it, but you went straight for it. Could you talk me through that decision?

MEMPHIS: We were at a point last year where we were just in full-blown writing mode, and we were just on this incredible roll of making new content every time we were in the studio. We initially thought of putting out an EP but we had all this content that worked so cohesively together, it just felt right to go straight into an album.

I’m so glad we made that decision. It’s the most honest, open representation of us. And I fully believe that in all the hours of work put into creating this album, we were able to really hone in on and define our sound as musicians and producers; an opportunity we probably wouldn’t have been afforded if we had released a smaller body of work.

HAPPY: You seem to be sporting some awesome gear across the live videos I’ve seen. Your arpeggiators are extra juicy… is there a chord, note, or sound you always find your hands falling to first when programming a sequence in?

MEMPHIS: THANK U!!! We are in love/lust with our synths. And thank you for noticing the recurring arpegg theme in our work. It is potential overkill but it’s also not. I can’t speak for Cesar here as he’s way more musically trained than I am, but when I’m programming a sound or sequence its usually something I can hear in my head that I just try to replicate. It’s more intuitive for me rather than premeditated. I love using the Moog Sub37 because the sequencer feature is great and it also just sounds really hot.

HAPPY: Where do you fall on the hardware/software debate? Everyone seems to have their two cents.

MEMPHIS: I’m sitting on the fence here. I learnt to make electronic music in the box, so software instruments and plugins have a special place in my heart. I’m a strong believer that you can create good music regardless of the gear you’ve got. I think a lot of the time people can get caught up in tech-talk, and for people who have never made electronic music before, or don’t have access to any gear, it can be a seriously intimidating world to approach. Sure, having sweet synths helps, but it’s absolutely not necessary.

Don’t let the broey-tech-head side of electronic music stop you from doing it. If you’ve got good ideas and you’re passionate about what you do, you’re going to make good music!

HAPPY: Is there a ‘secret ingredient’ piece of hardware you record with but don’t necessarily take on the road?

MEMPHIS: Oh yessszzz. The Juno-106 and Korg MS20 live in the studio and feature in a lot of our recordings. We used to use them both for gigs which is PRETTY OUTRAGEOUS because they are so temperamental and fragile. Once we were able to afford it, we got substitutes for live shows/touring – a JP-08 module and the Moog Sub37. We use all of these in the studio now.

HAPPY: Speaking of live shows, you have The Plot booked for the moment but not a ton else – when can we expect the next string of SAATSUMA shows?

MEMPHIS: TBQH, when the album was released we just couldn’t afford to take the full band on tour, as much as we would’ve loved to. We’re in the process of planning a national album tour for February 2018, so stay tuned internash honeys.

HAPPY: Is the live show undergoing a facelift?

MEMPHIS: We’re constantly giving the live show a facelift. After every gig there’s always a bunch of notes that we work towards fixing and refining. Every show we learn from mistakes and we figure things out. It’s a gradual process.

HAPPY: What’s next on the cards? Say, when it’s 2018 and the album has had some time to sit.

MEMPHIS: I think touring the album once it’s had a bit of time to be absorbed will be really great. I’m looking forward to that. I’m personally really terrible at doing nothing. It makes me feel sad, like I’m wasting time (I realise this is something I need to work on and be okay just doing nothing lol but I find it really hard). But it’s also kind of good because it drives me to keep creating.

I’ve been in the studio working on new stuff for the past week or so, potentially content for the next album (!???!???!??!) but we’ll see. I’m also keen to spend a bit of time in Berlin next year, writing and hopefully playing some shows in Europe. That’d be the ultimate dream.


Catch SAATSUMA in 2017:

Sat 18 Nov – The Plot – Parramatta Park, Sydney – Tickets
Thurs 23 Nov – Loop Project Space & Bar, Melbourne – Details