“It’s probably the proudest achievement of my life so far,” declares Memphis LK when talking about the debut album, Overflow from SAATSUMA. It’s a beautiful record, ebbing and flowing through ten tracks that themselves become parts of an aquatic theme.
One may assume that SAATSUMA have come out of nowhere, but it’s been building up slowly in their hometown of Melbourne. Memphis and the other half of SAATSUMA, Cesar Rodrigues, collaborated with Joel Ma (Joelistics, TZU) initially, getting together for weekly writing sessions at Joel’s home. “We started taking SAATSUMA seriously as a project at the start of last year and we were in a studio for last year. We moved into our own studio at the start of this year, so we’ve been in there heaps, just writing, and we ended up getting to a point where we had all this content and we were going to release an EP and then we were like, ‘Why don’t we just go straight-up with an album?’ All these songs were cohesive with each other and they almost tell a story in a way, so we turned it into a body of work.”
It’s a family affair when it comes to the SAATSUMA story. “I’m really, really lucky to have such a supportive family,” Memphis says. “Pretty much my whole immediate family are creative people; artists, musicians, so I’m very grateful for that because they’ve always supported my creative path. My sister [Maddy] and I are obviously very close and have always written and performed together, so when we were putting together the live band it was a no-brainer to get her on board to play synth and do backing vocals. Declan [Kelly, her brother] mixing the album was also a no-brainer. He’s an amazing producer [Dream Kit] and he makes electronic music as well, sort of similar vibes to what [we’re] doing, so we had a good idea what we wanted out of it, so yeah, it’s really nice to keep it so close in the family and have them all on board!”
When discussing family, it’s hard not to mention Memphis’ Dad, the one, and only, Paul Kelly. Memphis had been blessed with a similar ocker timbre in her voice, something unique when it comes to local electronic music. So, what does Mr Kelly think of his daughter’s electronic sound, quite removed from his own Australiana singer-songwriter classics? “He’s good with words, but he’s a man of few words. He’s always been really supportive of what I do despite it being very different to what he does. One thing I’ve always found pretty impressive with Dad is that he doesn’t just listen to one genre of music. I’m always going, ‘What are you listening to?’ and he’s got like, Kendrick Lamar playing or something. He’s got a very diverse range of things that he listens to and that he appreciates so I’m sure he can get on board the SAATSUMA train!”
Returning to the album and its textured synth and electronic sounds (headphones are a must!) I bring up the fact that the album, at times, has a cinematic feel to it. Memphis reacts positively, “Ooooh, that’s awesome!” and goes on to discuss the process of creating the intricate soundscape. “The process with our production is super collaborative. One of us will have the initial idea and then we’ll take it into the studio and layer it up from there. We’ve got a really great set-up with a lot of analogue synths and drum machines. That’s cool to hear that you hear it as an immersive sonic experience because that’s something we’re really conscious of when producing. Trying to get not just the sounds right, but also that spatial, atmospheric textural stuff as well.”
It feels like Melbourne is an integral part of Memphis, SAATSUMA and their sound. I ask who in the scene has helped the duo reach where they are today. “The main one worth noting is Ella Thompson from GL and Dorsal Fins. We actually sent Ella a couple of our earliest demos that we’d written before SAATSUMA was even a thing and she was like ‘Oh, this is cool. Dorsal Fins are having a launch, do you want to support!’ and so that was how our first gig came about, which is pretty amazing for her to have done that because we didn’t even have a name or a band together. It was literally just demos. It was great for us to get our shit together!”
That single launch in January 2016 established the duo on their path, but she drops more people that have helped along the way. “A lot of inspiration for our writing and production on the album came from Fortunes, GL, Banofee, Harvey Sutherland, Kllo, Leisure Suite. There’s just so many amazing electronic acts around Melbourne and everyone’s very supportive of each other.” The Melbourne scene is thriving right now and it’s an exciting group to be in.
The SAATSUMA live set-up takes the sound to a new level. With a successful album launch in Melbourne recently, including dance routines – “It was my dream!”, exclaims Memphis, talking of her dancing on stage with her sister, Maddy. When will they be in a town near you? “When we can afford to tour! When the bank account says, ‘Yep!’ We are definitely planning on doing an album tour around Australia, in Sydney and all the main cities, hopefully by the end of the year. If not this year, then it’ll be in February next year!”
Overflow is available on vinyl and all digital outlets now.