Bonnaroo Interview: Saro
Saro’s Boy Afraid EP is out now via Mateo Sound
While at Bonnaroo over the weekend, we caught up with LA vocalist Saro to debrief the iconic Tennessee festival and to discuss his newest EP Boy Afraid. The rising electro-R&B/soul artist has been quite busy since first releasing his Robin Hannibal-produced (Rhye, Jessie Ware) debut EP in 2016 — opening for Miguel, landing on Rolling Stone’s ‘New Artists To Watch’ list, and releasing beautiful visuals to accompany his soulful music.
For those new to your music, can you tell us a little about your background and what led to the creation of your sound?
I grew up in LA and went to school for Business Economics, graduated, moved back to LA, and wanted to just get a random job. I kind of fell into a music industry job, working for a manager and through that, I found out that I wanted to be on the music creation side. Slowly started working with more and more producers and then I met the producer David Burris, who I work with now on everything, and we basically formulated this sound together. It felt really right and that’s how I fell into it. We’re still refining and changing things as we go, but it’s sort of becoming my sonic identity.
On your debut EP In Loving Memory, you worked with Robin Hannibal — who has worked with Rhye, Jessie Ware, and a few other unique alternative R&B/soul artists. Can you tell us a little more about working with him, the process behind your newest EP Boy Afraid, and the story you wanted to tell with them?
The EPs always become a collection of songs that I feel fit well together. When we start, the focus is very wide and we revise and revise, and that’s where Robin would come in and provide amazing mix notes. He was a really great finisher for us, telling us what he thought could be taken away or stripped back. You can get stuck putting a lot of stuff into a track, but once you start stripping things away it becomes just the bare essentials and that’s when you find what’s really working in the song. We always do more first and then strip things away, and from there figure out what songs go together into an EP.
It then becomes this living, breathing thing that I then fall in love with and want to create visuals for. The first and second EP are both out and they have visuals for every song, except “Eyelids” which I’m shooting soon. Most of the visuals are out and then we have another coming out soon. I want to do the same thing for my third EP. I’m doing a third EP because I just don’t feel like I’m ready for an album yet. That’s the process though, we’re making a ton of songs and seeing what fits together, speaks to us, and is true to my overarching message.
Going back to your visuals — do you find yourself running through the same creative process as when you’re writing songs? Your videos “TEST” and “Sky Doesn’t Blue” are captivating, complex, but beautifully minimalistic.
Yes, and I’m definitely a sucker for minimalism. I think you can always say more with fewer words. “TEST” was a crazy process, it was the video that the most work went into out of all of the videos. We shot it over a 9-month span, there were five different locations, and I edited it myself — so it was a total labor of love. Like the music, I was refining and whittling it down until I could visualize exactly what needed to be in the piece. Overall, it’s definitely just about the message and not necessarily the bells and whistles of it all.
It’s your first Bonnaroo, what are your thoughts on the festival so far?
It’s hot as fuck, it’s fun as fuck, too. I got here and was a little sick, but luckily I was able to power through and was hopefully able to sing okay during my set. I wasn’t really focused on having fun until today. Now, I’m drinking, enjoying it, getting tan, and seeing some great music. Nile Rodgers was insane — that was my highlight so far honestly.
Is there anyone you didn’t know of previously or haven’t seen live that you’re looking forward to catching this weekend?
I had never seen Kali Uchis and I loved her — everything about her was amazing. I also want to see Dua Lipa, I’ve never seen her and I have a lot of respect for her. I’ve also never seen The Killers and they’re one of my favorite bands. I saw Brandon Flowers once, but it just wasn’t the same – it wasn’t The Killers. So definitely excited about that.
What’s in your festival survival kit?
I feel like I need to peek into my backpack, but probably cough drops, sunscreen, and a flask of tequila that I can crotch in / sneak in.
Post-Bonnaroo, is there anything you’re looking forward to or wanting to share?
I’m looking forward to playing more festivals like this because they’re so fun and a total dream come true to play. Right after Bonnaroo, I’m going back to LA to hide in my cave and continue working on new music. Excited for that as well.