For a few years, Oakland CA’s Saviours were rising stars in the world of meat n’ potatoes heavy metal. The band toured relentlessly, impressing crowds worldwide with energetic sets and some of the most likable metal around. Harmonized leads and bong-rattling riffs? Check. Fearless forays into NWOBHM-level speed? Check. Shirtless, whiskey-soaked vocals reeking of badassery? You bet.
After a truly brutal touring cycle in 2011, Saviours went quiet. Shows were sporadic and seemingly random, with only a couple of short coastal treks being made over the last three years. With a decade now under their belt, Saviours reconvened for a pair of anniversary shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I managed to catch the latter date at Thee Parkside, where I saw the band play an hour of their finest tracks. The riffs were mighty, the solos cut like lasers and singer/guitarist Austin “Fuckin” Barber did not wear a shirt. Classic Saviours in other words. I had the pleasure of chatting with Barber and guitarist/soundman extraordinaire Sonny Reinhardt before the set. We looked back on their ten years as a band, their recent relocation across California and what their future holds among other topics.
Ten years of Saviours: what goes across your mind when that fact is mentioned?
Austin: Fuck, I don't know man. What a blur.
You guys went kind of inactive for a couple of years. What happened?
A: I was just aspiring to be a normal person, just work a job. I'd never done that before. I wanted to just chill out and pull back the reins on touring a bit. So we did that, I moved to Los Angeles... I don't know, it took a little while for us to get motivated and get back together again. We needed something or someone to kick us in the ass to do some shit. Now we got a new record deal, some new songs and this ten year thing has got us motivated to play some shows. We've had half a record written for two fuckin' years.
When you moved to LA, how did that affect writing new music and practicing it?
A: It just made it hard to get together man.
Sonny: We also ended up starting other bands too. That was kinda good as far as us wanting to keep doing it, you know?
A: I started another band where I just have to play bass and it is easy and fun. The basslines are just dumb as fuck, caveman basslines. Anyone in this room could do that job. "This is nice, I don't have to be fuckin' singing and doing guitar shit at the same time!" It's pretty cool. So I got stoked on doing that.
So would you be a vocalist if you didn't have to be?
A: It's just my lot in this band but no, I dig it. I had forgotten that I dig it until we started jamming again.
I feel obligated to ask this. What happened with Carson [Binks, former bassist]?
A: He was just too far away. We needed a bass player close to me and Scott [Batiste, drummer]. Sonny, fuck man, he's always on point. I could use a little more practice myself. Me, Scott and this other dude who ended up being Andy Anderson, who totally rips, we can get together, practice and move forward with the band. With half of the band up here in the bay, it's hard for just me and Scott to practice as just guitar and drums. We need bass in there. Our songs sound a little fucked with just one guitar, but we can pull it off. It was a location thing man, we couldn't afford to practice without a bass player.
Do you consider Saviours an LA band now?
A: California. That's what I've said for the last five years because we'd have dudes from San Francisco and Oakland. We'd always say we were from Oakland because that's where we were from at first, we all started in Oakland. Time goes on, members change and now we're just California, whatever.
Can any of you imagine Saviours being a heavy touring band once again, or are you permanently over it?
A: Maybe not a heavy touring band, but who fuckin' knows man? I don't know where we're going to be at this time next year. I'm at the point where I'd like to make it more special, and just do a US tour once a year, a European tour once a year, some one-off shows, fly to the East Coast or do the West Coast. Our days of touring six or seven months out of the year I would assume are behind us, I'm pretty sure about that. We've done that already... I'm not stoked to leave home for seven months at a time, there was a time where we were into doing that, but now we all got other shit goin on.
It seemed like every year was supposed to be the year that Saviours broke big, but it never really happened on that massive scale. Was that frustrating?
A: No, I never really gave a fuck. I never really cared about making a whole lot of money or being popular... I don't think we play shitty enough music to be extremely popular [laughs].
In the ten years that Saviours have been around, have you accomplished your musical goals?
A: Totally man. We've done some records that I'm really fuckin' proud of, I got to tour the world and make so many good friends. That was kind of the greatest thing for me. I can go anywhere in the world, make a phone call or two and have a place to stay and some friends to catch up with. I say the same thing to them too, they can show up to my house and I'll have some beers and burgers on the grill. I'm happy with what we've done, and I'm happy to continue doing what we're doing.
That leads me to want to ask about the new record deal. Given that you guys have been inactive for a couple years, how did that deal surface? What did the label see in the band?
A: We've been talking to them for three or four years since our last contract was up after we delivered the last record...
S: That was two and a half, three years ago. These guys are a European label that approached us at a festival in Belgium and we've just stayed in touch with them.
A: They'll write us once every few months, "What's up? You guys wanna do this?" and we're like, "Yeah man, we should do that..."
S: Now we're getting closer to having enough songs to actually have a new record. We'll make an official announcement later as to who exactly it is.
Does the new material still sound like the Saviours we know?
A: Yeah, same shit man. Maybe a little bit faster, we always kind of ride the speed wave of getting slow and then fast sometimes.
S: It's all over the place, some of it's kinda slow, some of it's more fast.
A: It sounds like the last two records put together to me, Accelerated Living and Death's Procession. That's just what I think anyway.
S: It's a logical progression.
Did any of the projects that you guys were involved in have any influence on the new stuff?
S: For me, not really.
A: Me neither man.
S: It's like completely different playing with Necrot than with Saviours.
In what way?
S: Well, the tuning I'm playing in Saviours is in D. With Necrot, we go all the way down to B. A lot of the songs were written by my bass player and I learned them. It's a completely different style, plus there aren't two guitarists in the band. Saviours have always had two-guitar interplay. It's just totally engineered different song-wise.
Sonny, now that Saviours are 3/4ths based in LA, what compels you to stay in Oakland?
S: I just have a ton of friends here. I can get by doing music here, doing sound and all that stuff. I have a great living arrangement at the moment, I haven't really decided if I'm going to stay here forever or not, but for now it seems to be fine for me. I'm not in a huge hurry to get into the LA rat race. It doesn't seem to bother these guys too much.
A: Nah man, I'm getting sick of it too. I'm ready to move to the country. But no, I love it man, there's few other places in the world where... I'm not college educated but I'm a man of many hats. I can do all sorts of shit, so my situation down there is good. LA is the best place for me in that regard. If I moved out to the country, I'd probably be a construction worker or some shit.
S: I've definitely thought of living in the country too. Buy some land, build a house.
A: You can't do that in Los Angeles or the Bay Area.