Years ago — when I still lived in Austin and still remembered how to drive and still had an XM satellite radio subscription that for some reason only cost like $10/year — “Dreamers” by Savoir Adore was occupying the Alt Nation airwaves, and I was actively disturbing the entire city on a daily basis while blasting it at top volume and singing along.
This isn’t important whatsoever, but it does offer some context: I really, really dig Savoir Adore.
A few weeks ago — two months after the release show for First Bloom, the first installment of Savoir’s two-part album — I met up with Paul Hammer, the man behind the project. He and his wife Fefa had just moved upstate to Newburgh in search of more space and, back in the city for the day, he suggested meeting at one of his favorite Brooklyn haunts.
We settled into a back booth at Fresh Kills — a cozy, busy cocktail bar in Williamsburg, where I followed Paul’s advice and ordered “bartender’s choice.”
“That’s the move,” he assured me. “I’ve already had everything [on the menu]. I come here every time I come to the city now.”
With two drinks in front of us — an American Trilogy with rye whiskey, applejack, brown sugar and orange bitters for Paul, and a mezcal cocktail with ingredients I don’t remember (whoops!) for me — we settled in to talk Brooklyn bars, finding love via video game, and the upcoming record, which he’d just finished that day.
“Full Bloom is donnnnne!“
And then we took whiskey shots out of little glass boots. As one does on a Wednesday in Williamsburg.
Here’s what Paul had to say…
On missing Brooklyn…
I lived three blocks from here, on South Fourth, for five years. I was dangerously close to way too many things. This is part of what’s dangerous about living in Brooklyn. The very dry way of putting it is it there’s an opportunity to spend all your money, but also you can enjoy yourself — let’s put it that way — all the time, every night. I miss the spontaneity and the community.
On favorite venues of Brooklyn past …
A friend would call me like, “There’s a show at Glasslands, a show at Goodbye Blue Monday…” — all these venues that have like closed and moved on. It’s a sad part about the set up of Brooklyn, but it’s also the exciting part because everything is constantly changing and evolving — for better and for worse. There’s new stuff that’s always opening, and that’s exciting, but I miss Glasslands probably more than any place.
I love Baby’s All Right. I have a little bit of a problem with venues where it feels like you watch a show and you’re immediately kicked out. Baby’s, you play a show and then you hang out all night. It’s about music, and it’s about the community. It’s a sweet fucking bar and it’s where everyone is hanging out regardless of the show.
[And] Elsewhere… it’s so, so perfect of a venue. It’s basically Webster Hall but with even more vibe, and I’m really excited about going there more.
On Full Bloom…
I like to think of it as the catharsis or release to First Bloom.
First Bloom is very cerebral, sort of introspective, and a little bit more intimate. This whole thing [Full Bloom] is more outwardly expressive — the expression of the idea we already started with. The first single [out now] is called “Bloom” — we just finished the music video for it today.
On finding fans (and love) via video game…
After New York and LA, our next biggest city is São Paulo because “Dreamers” was in a soccer video game — the song that plays when you score a goal.
It was the weirdest industry thing that happened to us. It’s the power of this association of having music synced with an experience. It got in front of so many people. It was bizarre because people would come up to us at shows like, “I discovered you from Pro Evolution Soccer!”
And honestly, if it wasn’t for that video game, I never would’ve met my wife.
She’s friends with a São Paulo-based band that opened for us called Call me Lolla. We did this short festival — us, Friendly Fires and Charli XCX like two months before she became international pop superstar. It was this little traveling festival, and we played in clubs. Her friends’ band opened the show, and we had our first date the next night. I met her in the audience — [but] she’d never heard of our music.
On the growing and shifting of Savoir Adore…
The specific intimacy that exists in bands is the weirdest fucking thing. It’s just so complex. You spend so much time with them, and then there’s the added dynamic that you’re constantly in one way or another judging each other because there’s a creative push and pull. So I don’t think it’s surprising things explode and change and evolve. Bands that stay together for a long period of time — even classic bands — most don’t last longer than five or 10 years, or they go through an evolution where certain members leave or change or do different things.
You just really gotta love it. Some people just like it, and then after you tour in a band for five years, there’s a certain point where it’s like… I’ve done this enough.
I especially think something changes for a lot of people at 30 in terms of being an artist. There’s a level of sacrifice, no matter what. I’m obviously a different case, because I have my own project, so i’m super invested. I’m going to keep doing this as long as I can, and maybe it’ll evolve. We definitely don’t tour as much as we used to, but that’s okay. I’d rather keep this going and adapt a little bit than be like “Okay, everyone! We need to go on the road! We gotta play in Columbus for 30 people!”
On his non-Savoir gig…
I look at [jingle writing] as really fun. I turn off my artist brain and turn on my producer brain. So European Wax Center is like, “We want a psychedelic rock song like Tame Impala with a female vocal.” Cool, this will be a fun challenge — what would I do if I was producing a band like that? Lauren [of Savoir Adore] sang on it, and it was perfect.
I [also] did a Realtor.com series with Elizabeth Banks last year. They called it the Not-Yous campaign. That one I was really proud of because they let me sing. (Usually they don’t me sing.) They were like, “We want a weird ‘80s indie pop song,” and I was like, “I’m your guy!”
On hearing Savoir songs in public…
I heard ‘When the Summer Ends” at an H&M recently, and I desperately wanted to tell someone, This is me!
“Dreamers” came out seven years ago, and I heard it only once, out at a cafe. I’m checking out — and I was single, I think that weighs into it — and I go, “Hear this song? It’s me.” And this barista — it was so perfect — just goes, “Cooooooool.” I remember instantly turning not red, bright purple, and just took my coffee. I think I cursed myself from that point.
On tourmates Eighty Ninety…
They are very handsome, no matter what. I need the dim lighting and the hat.
On a formula for success…
It’s this weird combination of constantly having to kind of rethink how you break music but just constantly accepting the fact you’ll just never know. There’s no magic formula. It’s almost this weird combination of work as hard as you can, try to control as much of your artistic vision as possible, but also accept the fact that at the end of the day, the entire music industry might just decide, you know what — country music this year!
On officially finishing the record…
It’s the best! It’s confusing, though, because i’m used to being stressed out. It’s a common but bad habit for freelancers in general. We feel the need to be stressed out or we feel like we’re not working. But this is my one day that I’m totally free. Then I’m going to wake up tomorrow and there’s going to be an email like, “The album art is not high-res enough,” and I’ll be like, “I’M BACK!”
+ SAVOIR ADORE DOES BK: PAUL’S BROOKLYN PICKS
“The Brooklyn Museum is incredible. We ended up playing there back in 2008. After that, we got friendly with the people who did some of the programming and played there three times. Every time we played there, the people were so friendly and were showing us what they were working on and different installations. It was cool because it just feels like a much more accessible version of The Met or MoMA. It’s also the difference between Manhattan tourism and Brooklyn tourism. Everything here feels more casual and intimate, [and] the Brooklyn museum is beautiful.”
200 Eastern Pkwy, (718) 638-5000, brooklynmuseum.org
“I lived three blocks from here, on South Fourth, for five years. I come here every time I come to the city now. My favorite environments are always the places that take their craft as seriously as possible but also don’t take themselves seriously… there’s not this pretense, there’s no snooty front, there’s no separation. This is almost like a DIY space where your favorite band is playing. There’s no separation between the performer and the fan — and I’m the fan, you know what I mean? Here, I meet the bartenders, and I talk to them, and it’s just chill. This is the best cocktail you’ll ever get, but you don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong. And that’s a thing! I almost never go to a restaurant with tablecloths, even if it’s the number-one restaurant in the world, because i don’t love that environment. [Here] it doesn’t feel fancy, but the quality is fancy.”
161 Grand St, (718) 599-7888, freshkillsbar.com
“One of my favorite bars. For a few of my friends with dogs, that’s the only bar they want to go to. It has this beautiful backyard… it’s like a dog run, but the owners are getting drunk.
It’s also one of the only bars that’s consistently open ’til 4am. And it’s also… certain bars just attract musicians more than others, and often it’s the ones that are the cheapest — it just works out that way. All of the venues are still around this area. Touring acts play Music Hall, Brooklyn Steel isn’t too far from here. So when I lived on South Fourth, I’d get a text message at 2am like, ‘Dude, we’re closing down Lucky Dog. What’re you doing?’ And I’m like, ‘Nothing, sleeping… but I guess I can go do this.’ Those are some of the nights I regret, but they’re memories.”
303 Bedford Ave, (347) 294-4971, facebook.com/luckydogbrooklyn
“McCarren Park is one of my favorite places.
The last 10 years of my life have been focused around this circle between Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick, whether it’s music venues, rehearsal spaces, where we hang out, where we get in trouble, where we don’t get in trouble…
McCarren, as soon as it got warm, I have these memories of Turkey’s Nest — you get a styrofoam cup with a margarita and you go to McCarren Park. There’s something about it that for me is this landmark — you know, walking through the park, listening to our latest mixes, or walking home from rehearsal. It’s definitely the most nostalgic place because I’ve walked through it so much in different seasons…. I have all these memories. And it’s interesting because every city has their McCarren Park — a smaller park in a hipper neighborhood — and I don’t know what it is, but there’s a certain energy to that. I love it.”
Bonus content: “I tried to work out there once and failed miserably.”
776 Lorimer St, (212) 639-9675, nycgovparks.org/parks/mccarren-park
Prospect Park Bandshell
“My other favorite non-North Brooklyn [spot] is the bandshell in Prospect Park. That’s the coolest fucking thing — a bucket-list thing to be able to play that. It’s such a Brooklyn level-up achievement.”
141 Prospect Park West, (718) 683-5600, bricartsmedia.org
]This interview has been edited and condensed.]