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Australia’s electronic scene is a full-bellied, healthy animal these days. Talented producers are popping up week by week, and the soundscapes of our nation are evolving into a force to be reckoned with.
Melbourne three-piece SAATSUMA are fast becoming an integral part of this evolution, a budding live band who proves that electronica doesn’t always have to come from a laptop.
A collaboration between Memphis Kelly, Cesar Rodrigues and Joel Ma, the band burst into the musical world with clear ambition and talent to match.
Their new single Floating is a brooding exploration of loneliness, insomnia and grief. It manages to stand up as a funky dance track while maintaining creepy undertones appropriate to some pretty bleak themes within.
Catching up with frontwoman Memphis Kelley, the first thing we had to ask about was the name.
“A satsuma is a Japanese citrus fruit, kind of similar to a mandarin," she revealed, "I’m a little bit obsessed with citrus. Also the word is just really aesthetically pleasing.”
A tasty namesake is as great as any, but what about the extra a?
“It’s is a tribute to my number 1 fan mum, Kaarin,” Kelly says.
SAATSUMA are still new to the scene, but they show increasing promise with every release. Storm is a few months older than Floating, but equally spicy. It’s slightly less foreboding, but somewhat eerie despite catchy chorus lines and driving, bouncy bass lines.
It seems dark undercurrents are something to expect when listening to SAATSUMA:
“It’s sort of become an accidental common theme in all our songs,” says Kelly.
Kelly also had the low-down on the band’s formation.
“Cesar and I used to live in a share house together. We were both involved in different projects at the time but one day decided it’d be cool to get together and write some stuff with Joel. We didn’t really have any expectations but it ended up being a really good vibe.”
People are definitely digging that vibe, and just last week the world got the freshest taste of it. As part of Sydney label TEEF’s recent multi-artist charity release Imperium in Imperio II, SAATSUMA released a new track Breathless, a shining highlight in such a strong complation.
“Breathless actually started as a live jam," says Kelly. "I made the beat ages ago and we would just layer it up when we played live with bass and vocal samples and marimbas. When Tommy Faith from TEEF approached us to be a part of the compilation, we thought it’d be cool to try something a bit more experimental. The jam ended up turning into a full blown track, and we ended up surprising ourselves with how much we liked it.”
Although SAATSUMA’s song roster is growing, as a new band it remains on the smaller side. One would worry about how the band would go about playing a full live set…but it would be needless stress.
Memphis and Cesar enlist the help of Lachlan Stucky, Andrew Congues and Memphis’ sister Maddy Kelly for their live shows, escalating their sound in ways only a five-piece could juggle.
"We’re committed to making the live show as exciting and captivating as possible, with a strong focus on aesthetic,” says Kelly.
“I think live performance is without a doubt the most important aspect of music, so I guess this just pushes me to explore how we can enhance our live shows and do something new or different every time we play.”
The Melbourne export are dreaming big, and if they keep pumping out tracks as juicy as the sweet little citrus fruits they’re named after, SAATSUMA are only heading up. Memphis also had some pretty unique advice to share with future audiences:
“Wear protective goggles because our sounds are moist.”
Here’s hoping you soak all crowds ahead, SAATSUMA.
She finished up our interview with a nugget of gold for prospective fans itching for more of what SAATSUMA are serving up:
“We’ve been in the studio a lot recently, working on some new stuff that we’re planning on releasing within the next month.”
Also check out our article on funny band names for a laugh or two.