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(Cash Savage, centre, And The Last Drinks)

AS BAND NAMES GO, Cash Savage and The Last Drinks isn’t a promise or a threat, but the kind of band that spreads across your consciousness the way they – all seven of them – spread across a stage. You can hear tense post-punk nudging against muscular folk/rock, power age rock stood just behind far horizon songs that ache with space, and a surprising level of tenderness in plainspoken tones sharing space with critiques of late-period capitalism and unforgiving questions of straight male “normality”.

There’s a new album from them, called So This Is Love, which both lives up to its title and digs in a lot further still, sometimes in uncomfortable ways as mental illness is as frankly discussed as crass exploitation. It’s the band’s first in five years. A few things have happened to, and around, Savage since 2018’s Good Citizens. You may be familiar with some.

Doing a zoom call is “almost triggering for me” says Savage from her Melbourne home. “For a moment I’m like, can I leave the house? Am I okay? Yes I can.”

“I always feel like I need to go get a beer when the 40 minutes goes up. I’m conditioned: oh it’s beer time! Then unlike no, no it’s the middle of the day and you are in a meeting, don’t get a beer.”

As a sometimes footy coach as well as musician, does she have an official beer o’clock? 11am too early; midday kick-off?

“Not anymore. During lockdown I had a 4pm one.”

No breakfast beers?

“Now I drink big at times – like when I’m drinking, I drink beer – but otherwise I don’t drink. So no, I don’t often think about having a beer at 11 o’clock in the morning. Unless my Zoom meeting finishes …”

Speaking of Covid habits, during lockdowns when she moved back to Port Albert, in Gippsland more than 200 km out of Melbourne, did she pick up some life skills, or improve any? Whittling? Homebrewing?

“I did teach myself – I’m not sure if I’m supposed to tell you this – a series of knots. All different rope knots. I thought what would be a cool thing to learn that no one knows you know but then in the right moment you are like, ‘well actually, I know a half hitch, I can fix that for you’,” Savage says. “So I taught myself a bunch of knots, which I’ve since completely forgotten.”

Well, maybe it’s like riding a bike: put a rope in Cash Savage’s hand and it might all come flooding back without thinking about it if she is making a double fisherman’s knot or a Carrick bend.

“I tried to do a lot of things with my hand: I built a lot of things,” she says. “One of the skills I became really good at is talking to people with mental illness: I really brushed up on that knowledge, and learnt a lot of language around mental illness. But yeah, what did I do? I did a lot of fishing: I found a lot of solace in that. I became a better cook, but as soon as the last lockdowns were upon us I couldn’t fathom the idea of cooking any more so I would just eat the worst foods.

“After making these incredible dishes after catching fish, getting things out of the garden, I went to eating pea and ham soup in a tin. Until someone saw the tin and then I felt such a shame that I stopped.”

Presumably she did the smart thing and decanted those tins into a big pot so it looked like home-made kept in the fridge.

“No, I didn’t do that unfortunately. When my daughter is with me now I cook and we have good healthy meals; when she’s not around … yeah, I can’t be bothered with that anymore.”

Shame or not, let’s face it, Savage is going to be a lot more useful in the Apocalypse than someone like, um, me: she can tie a knot, fish, cook, and then sing you a song about everything.

“Hmm,” she says doubtfully. “Let’s check back in in 10 years. A post-apocalypse check-in.”

We shouldn’t forget that there was one other skill she picked up, though back in Melbourne this time, after lockdown: DJing. Just how skilled is she on the decks? And will she really answer to the stage name Cash Daddy?

“I don’t really use decks; I use a mixer and stuff on my computer. I don’t know, I feel I’m getting better at it. I think it’s one of those things that as soon as you are paid to do something then you are that thing. I guess it’s a very capitalistic definition of professions, but I am paid to be a DJ, therefore I am definitely a DJ,” she says.

“When I first started DJing I was doing very basic starting and stopping of tracks. Now I do a lot more than that, because that was boring. And [collaborator, Melbourne techno musician] Carlson’s always encouraged me to fuck with the tracks a little bit, so I do now. He has stopped encouraging me, so maybe I’ve fucked with them too much [she chuckles]. That’s something I picked up post-lockdown. I bought a brand-new piece of equipment, that I’ve never used before, and the first time I used it was that Meredith. Before we went on stage I said to him, this will definitely be the worst I’ll ever be at this piece of equipment.”

Does she have a signature move or sound in her DJ mode?

“Not really. It’s not really my gig, you know. The great thing about DJing does for me is I get to take out all of my – well not all of them – disappointment in the patriarchy on Carlson, and he takes it. So I get to rip on him for being a white man, a white CIS man, and the crowd seems to really enjoy that I’m ripping on the white CIS man in the room. So good on him for encouraging that and taking on my criticisms, or observations.

“So maybe my signature move is ripping Carlson through the whole gig.”

It’s good that we CIS men of a certain age, still have a purpose as fronts for the patriarchy. Otherwise, absent that, we would be even more useless.

“Well unfortunately, with your uselessness, you have all the power,” Savage says pitilessly. “So you’re not quite useless.”

Teach us to tie knots and watch out world!

So This Is Love is out now.

Cash Savage And The Last Drinks will play: Minerva, Ballarat, May 19; Torquay Hotel, May 20; Brisbane Powerhouse, June 1; Eltham Hotel, June 2; City Recital Hall, Sydney, June 3.


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