Concert preview: Savages seek something new on Adore Life

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

"I need something new," repeats Savages singer Jehnny Beth near the midpoint of the British post-punk quartet's sophomore full-length,Adore Life.

It's a line that could have doubled as a mantra throughout album writing and recording sessions, which found the band stretching beyond the clenched-fist fury of its 2013 debut,Silence Yourself, incorporating warm, open-hearted emotions that occasionally run at odds with the tough, angular, chill-inducing instrumentation. "Love is the answer," Beth surmises on "The Answer," drawing the audience closer even as muscled drums and spiked guitars swing like barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bats holding it at bay.

"At the beginning, it didn't seem right to do a record about love songs. There were too many people doing love songs at the time and it didn't feel necessary," said Beth, who joins bandmates Gemma Thompson (guitar), Ayse Hassan (bass) and Fay Milton (drums) for a concert at Ace of Cups on Sunday, May 15. "Then it became really important to talk about love, because that's all we were feeling onstage. We were feeling so much love and warmth, and because we didn't talk about these things we were classified as this serious band, and as a band that was almost not human. And I think that wasn't true. That's not how we felt. That's not how the shows were. That's not what we were experiencing every day. So that's what we wanted to put on the record."

Songs, in turn, express vulnerability - "I'm not gonna hurt you/ Cause I'm flirting with you," Beth advises on "Sad Person" - a far cry from the hostility of early tunes like "Hit Me," where she defiantly begged an adversary to "hit me with your hands" as the music rumbled with brawler's ferocity.

"You always have to change, I feel. For me you never reach a point where it's like, 'That's it; I found myself!' It's a constant search," Beth said. "Music is the same. It's a constant search for being better and doing things better. You can't go through life without things impacting you and making you see things differently. If you're an artist … you find quickly you have to question how you do things and find your own voice. It's the nature of being an artist. It's what you need to do."

Though centered on love,Adore Life refrains from the chipper exultations typically scrawled inside Valentine's Day cards, instead exploring the knotty, complex emotions that often go hand-in-hand with the term: jealousy, regret, hope, heartache, anger, fear and joy included.

"What I'm interested in, and I certainly don't have the answer today, is to find the freedom in love, because the problem with the actual feeling of loving someone is it doesn't really come for free. It comes with a whole package of emotion you don't really want to deal with," said Beth, who explored similar concepts in her former duo John & Jehn, particularly on an unreleased third LP that traded heavily in themes of erotica and sexuality. "Yes, jealousy might be a natural reaction from loving someone, but it doesn't mean it needs to be kept. I think you can get free with time and experience … and that's what I'm interested in and looking for in my own life. I think you can only be free in love when you're 80 years old or something."

This idea is often reflected in literature, surfacing in works like Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera," where the author ruminated on the late-life love between longtime partners, writing, "It was the time when they loved each other best, without hurry or excess, when both were most conscious of and grateful for their incredible victories over adversity."

Beth, however, is still engaged in battle, a fevered pitch that surfaces both in her prodding words - "My lyrics question [love] and work to understand the complexity of that concept," she said - and in the quartet's stage show, which finds the bandmates attacking the material with a physicality and a savagery befitting its name.

The singer can trace her long-held respect for the stage at least in part to her childhood experiences with theater, and lessons absorbed from her director father.

"When I think about it now, [drama] was my first call. It was where I learned the first rules of stage," said Beth, whose earliest onstage experiences included a role in a Moliere comedy, among other parts. "I would see my father shouting at the actors after the plays because they'd done something they shouldn't have done … and being like, 'You can't do this if you want to be serious as an actor. There are rules!' And that was essential. It was important. This all stayed with me, and to me stage is sacred. Stage is a message."

Ace of Cups

8 p.m. Sunday, May 15

2619 N. High St.,

Old North

ALSO PLAYING: Head Wound City