Samantha Sprackling aka Saffron has had a fascinating career so far, from performing in the West End, as vocalist and dancer with 90’s rave duo N-Joi, and working with greats such as Robert Smith and The Prodigy….Eventim Spotlights spoke to the Republica singer to find out more!
Was there a turning point in your life when you realized you wanted to be a performer?
I went to see The Jam and it was at Brighton Centre, and little did I know it was going to be their last ever gig. They were one of my favourite groups growing up. Then Paul Weller walked on stage, he’s just the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. His attitude, the way he walked, his shoes, his parka, his guitar, his cigarette, the whole thing, and he is still one of the greatest singer/songwriters this country’s ever produced. I just wanted to be him!
How did you meet Tim [Dorney] and Andy [Todd co-founders of Republica]?
I had been assigned to Warner Brothers as solo artist, but I realized I wanted more of a band sound, so I went to see the label Deconstruction who I knew from the N-Joi days, and demand that they give me a record deal and they told me to go away and get a band together.
So basically, I had a month to find some musicians and make some demos, so I asked a couple of friends and I just basically said, “Do you want to be in my band?” So we wrote a couple of songs and I went back to the label a month later and they signed us. We were very lucky.
Do you guys have a set process for writing? How does it happen?
In the early days, we spent any money that we had on equipment, so I always knew exactly what kind of sound I wanted. At the time, it was to mix electronica with guitars and a punky vocal. It’s difficult to do musically and it hadn’t been done before, so it wasn’t popular or anything. Even the label at times were like “what the hell are you doing?”
We’ve always written, recorded, and produced ourselves mainly or we’ve always chosen to work with people we feel are amazing like Ben Gross, who we worked with from Los Angeles and Andy Gray, who were great producers in their own right. I’ve been very lucky to have worked beforehand with people like Neil Maclellan who’d wrote my early demos with me, who’s the project producer.
Also, I’ve been extremely lucky working with people like Tom Holkenborg who’s now gone on to write big movie soundtracks. He just scored Divergent and 300: Rise of the Empire. I wrote 3 songs on his album which was number 1 in Holland. One of them was Beauty Never Fades which was used in the Animatrix and A Scanner Darkly with Keanu Reeves, it was number one in the dance charts.
Do you write the lyrics for all Republica tracks?
I mainly write lyrics and melody, but we’ve all have a say in everything that we do which partly explains why we’re called Republica. It’s a gang thing, not so much a democratic thing. Tim’s our keyboard man, Andy is our computer wizard and Johnny [Male] plays guitar, I play guitar, Alix [Tiernan] is our punk guitar player. So basically, we each have our roles, but we all have a say in every single musical part that gets written.
You’re a really versatile vocalist, so what was the transition going from musical theatre land to the gig scene like?
I was in London, a kid really, in a West End show and going to Acid House clubs, so it was the beginning of dance music as we know it and dj’s and people were like, “Well, if you sing on stage, go and try to sing in the studio.” Starlight, and then it later the Rocky Horror Show, were probably the only show I could really do. It was quite punky, kind of fitted my character. It really wasn’t that difficult for me because the music I had grown up with was so indie, indie/punk rock.
When I think of UK ’90s bands, you are one the first people that comes into my mind because your image is really strong. What’s the inspiration behind your personal style and how do you think it shaped your career?
Well, I often thought if I was anti-fashion if that makes sense. I didn’t really follow anyone else’s style, I was a bit of a tomboy and am still always wearing Doctor Martins or Brothel Creepers.
I just one day decided to dye my hair red, so I think that that obviously helped quite a lot because people could recognize me – it’s not just the singer, it’s the singer with the red hair. It kind of also went along with a lot of our artwork which we, in the early days, has always gone a bit red and black or has had Russian or Chinese Communist artwork that we liked. With the writing, the way we felt with the group name, and red is obviously a big colour in that.
I think maybe because I was anti-fashion, that maybe people saw a bit of themselves in me because I was one of the gang really.
So you’ve collaborated, with people like The Cure and Prodigy. Can you tell us a bit more about what that was like and how it happened?
The Prodigy were always friends before Republica because I was in a rave group called N-Joi, and Prodigy started around the same time in Essex and we were going to all the raves together. We did hundreds of gigs together. A lot were illegal in those days, those big warehouse events and it really was a big music revolution and also a social scene that hadn’t been seen before.
Yeah, so it’s wonderful. It’s really just mates asking a mate and we’re still friends today. I’m going to see them in a few weeks for their new album, just went to Number 1. I’m very proud of Liam and the boys!
Working with The Cure was amazing, and actually all of Republica love them, they’re one of our main inspirations. I met him and wife, Mary, at a Smashing Pumpkins gig with my friends Gary Numan and his wife, Emma. It was like meeting one of your heroes, and then a little while later I got a phone call and saying would I like to sing with him? It was such an honour and a privilege to sing a duet, and we did a video and I got to actually do a live gig with them in Paris, which was amazing, and a TV show!
Have you seen many changes on the live music circuit over the years as a performer?
Oh, gosh yes. I know it’s a lot harder now for new bands coming up because the whole landscape is digital music and everything has changed, but I think that live music will out…the good will out.
I think new bands have to understand that you have to tour and tour and tour, it doesn’t just happen, because music is so last minute these days. It’s very important to tread the board and literally, to go up and down on the motorway in that van and play as many clubs and gigs as you possibly can to get noticed because there is so, so much competition out there now. You’re battling with the big commercial pushes unfortunately of the majors, they don’t seem to be really developing groups as much as they did.
What do you think about the way technology has advanced for example about people taking photos and videos and on their phones and that sort of culture?
I know some bands hate it. I don’t mind it all. I literally nearly week go to a gig and I see it all the time, but I think, really, it depends on the music or artist, but I certainly would never do that, I wouldn’t unless, maybe after the show or something, I’d have a photo.
I went to see Kate Bush who I’ve waited 35 years to see her last year, and when I was there not one person, not one person had their phone or anything out. I know she asked for people not to, but, really, it was such a fantastic show, but you couldn’t keep your eyes off it, why would you want to do that?
I have her ‘1979 Live at the Hammersmith Odeon’ video from when I was a child and it’s worn out now, but I used to play every day religiously. That and Stevie Nicks, ‘White Winged Dove Tour Live’ and I just was mesmerized by these women because in those days there really weren’t that many, well especially not individual women singers. I didn’t want to be them, but I wanted to be like them in that they’ve written their own songs and they’ve managed to get on and have established albums and live shows, it’d be these incredible live performance.
Aside from Kate Bush who are your musical heroes?
Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks, obviously. Well, I think for me personally, it’s a mixture of punk and electronic. Echo and the Bunnymen, Ian’s a long time friend of mine, but I was a fan before I met them. As I said, The Cure, the Clash, but bands like The The and Talk Talk I love as well.
Gary Newman’s music had a huge effect on me. We were very lucky and we did a duet with him as well, for his Random album. Him and his wife have been close friends ever since. It’s been really wonderful to have worked with people you grew up with and then to be friends as well.
Bands like The Slits, and Hole, with the whole riot girl movement, I was very much into. This was the ’80s when I was growing up so those were the kind of more punky women were those that I wanted to be like.
What should we expect from your gig at Under the Bridge?
Well, as you may know, the last couple of years, we’ve gone back to touring and we’ve had such wonderful response, really, that’s it’s been quite overwhelming because you never know, do you, after all this time. You just don’t know because everything’s changed, it’s all been very commercial music the last ten years, but I saw another band that I loved growing up The Selecter and I got to meet Pauline Black. I fell off a golf cart at the Isle of White festival to meet her, I literally fell off the side of it and ran towards her, but I’ve been talking to her on Twitter! People like that, that I love they’re back and it’s incredible.
We wanted to make sure it wasn’t a nostalgic trip, but we do obviously do our hits. It’s half and half aspect and for Under the Bridge, we’re going to preview a few of the new songs off our album, which we’re writing at the moment. It’s exciting and it’s such an amazing venue as well.
What does the rest of this year hold for you guys?
With writing, it has to be right even if it’s taken us years. We did have an EP out a couple of years ago and that took about 8 years…we take a long time, but it has to be right. We all have to agree, like I said before.
Last year, I don’t know how many gigs we did, but we were out for months and we did 21 dates as special guests of Bob Geldof from the Boomtown Rats and then we went off to Dubai and Germany, and we went to Tel Aviv, which is amazing and we’re getting to go to lots of places we haven’t been before. We’ve been to places like Romania and, we played in Transylvania for 20,000 people, it was a festival, but we weren’t quite expecting that response. It was brilliant. These countries, especially Romania, was under Ceausescu regime in the late ’90s and you could get put in prison for listening to a piece of Western music or even owning a CD as it was illegal.
The new songs are coming on ever so well, so we’re just going to see how they play out live because I think our hard core fans would let us know whether they’re going to go down well, because you’ve got to choose which ones go on the album. We are going to focus and get this album where we’re happy with it, so then we can get back out touring a lot.
Don’t miss Republica at Under The Bridge this Friday! Tickets available here.