Saint Lane: Locked In, Not Down

The Artist on quarantine, socially distanced shows, and Kanye West

At the Oxford Art Factory, Gold Coast artist, Saint Lane, took to the stage with just his laptop, midi controller, and microphone. His vivid style of music and fashion was about to be unleashed for 70 seated members of the audience. Opening for Lime Cordiale, Saint Lane had the difficult task of re-introducing a post lockdown crowd to live music. Having previously toured with artists like 360, Dune Rats and Earl Sweatshirt, a mosh pit turned jazz bar was a distinct change of pace.

The ‘When Did We Grow Up?’ singer is one of the first Australian artists to return to the stage post lockdown. Citing The Beatles, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne as influences, Lane’s music has a distinctly unique flow and essence.  Defined by his desire to make music that will last – rather than suit trends – his songs like ‘The Family’, ‘Hickeys’, and ‘Compliment My Shirt’ are catchy while being deeply personal. Born in Auckland, Lane moved to Queensland during high school. His story is one of drive and resilience, with hardships and experiences extending far beyond the uncertainty of lockdown.

I recently spoke with Lane over the phone about his experiences touring with Lime Cordiale, being in quarantine, and the connection an artist has with their audience. Our exchange has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Where were you before the start of COVID?

A: I did a tour in January, I went through the whole country. That was pretty big, so I was like imma treat myself and go to Canada and just live in the snow for a little bit. When I left, COVID wasn’t even really a thing.

Q: So, you were abroad when everything started spiking up?

A: Yeah, they started talking about closing the border for Australia and we were like we should get out of here. When I got back I had to go into mandatory quarantine.

Q: What was that like?

A: I’d always hoped there would be a point of time where there would be nothing to do. I’d always thought it would be house arrest actually. So I was like, at some point it’s going to happen and when it does, I’m going to play the Resident Evil games. I’d never had time to play them, so I just decided to do it. Then I played the whole series, 1- 7, in a week.

Q: Man, that’s dedication.

A: Yeah, I was like, it’s probably not healthy to just do that, so I jumped on a call with my producer Dan and we made a song in like a couple of hours and that’s the next single that’s going to come out.

Q: Is that the usual time between creation and release?

A: I think it is the fastest I’ve done, other than ‘Hickies’. Apart from that, all the songs are at least a year old once they come out. I have a song releasing at the end of the year called ‘The Water’ and that will be 3 years old by the time it comes out.

Q: Was that the new song you played at Lime or was that ‘The Fire’?

A: I think I might have played both? I do a different setlist every night on the Lime Cordiale tour. ‘The Water’ is like Gospel and ‘The Fire’ is a Tame Impala-y influenced track.

Q: Is ‘The Water’ inspired by Kanye West?

A: You’d think that but we recorded that song two years before Kanye did ‘Jesus is King’

Q: What are your thoughts on Kanye’s recent actions?

A: I love Kanye, he’s my favourite artist of all time, I just got an ‘808 and Heartbreaks’ tattoo last week. I think he… I think he needs some help, I think he’s mentally not really all there. It’s sad to see him freak out a little bit, I think he feels like he’s in danger. He has some serious mental health problems.

Q: I think it’s hard, he has such a cult following, while also being so controversial in the media. I don’t think Society has worked out how to have a conversation about someone like him yet.

A: Yeah, like he’s so polarising to the point there’s not even a person second most polarising to him that isn’t a politician. I think the only person that could come close is Morrisey but he doesn’t even have Kanye level status.

Q: Yeah for sure, Kanye is just a figure in and of himself.

A: I see like old ladies walking around Chatswood in Yeezys, like that’s his whole branding, he’s bigger than music.

Q: During lockdown, different artists started to make Podcasts or Live Stream shows, did you dip into that wave of creativity?

A: Nah, I mean my show is heavily dependent on interaction and talking to the crowd, ‘the chat’ you know. It’s hard to do ‘the chat’ when you’re not with the people in person. So my show doesn’t really work the live stream thing.

Q: You’re almost doing a mix of Stand Up and Music on stage

A: Yeah, to do comedy on Instagram Live is just the worst.

Q: Twitch attempted it recently. It was this combination of Comedians going up there and trying to interact with both the crowd and Twitch comments and it just wasn’t quite right.

A: I feel like the tech just isn’t ready to launch on that just yet. It’s missing a fundamental element. It’s like when we just had Taxis, we were almost there but they were missing something. Now we have Uber, which won’t be the final stage of the Taxi but at this point in time, it kinda is. Taxis were such a hassle but no one thought there would be an alternative to that. Then Uber came along and changed that space. Live performances are at a taxi stage right now, we just need an adjustment and it’ll be at its Uber stage.

Q: At what point did you go, ‘It’s safe enough to start gigging again’?

A: Oh, dude, I’m not the person to ask this. I would have been gigging the whole time if I was given the option. I would have taken the risk, that’s how much I love it. People think it’s a monetary thing but I would’ve done that shit for free if people wanted to come to the show.

Q: Having the small crowd now, is better than no crowd right?

A: Any day, I love the small crowd. I used to do Stand Up when I was a teenager, but since then I’ve only been doing crazy shows musically. I haven’t really been back to a small environment, where everyone is seated. It’s cool man, you get to flex a new muscle.

Q: You played one of the largest festivals in Asia, ‘Ultra Korea’, last year, what’s the approach to a show like that, compared to 70 people at the Oxford Art Factory?

A: Before a big show, it’s like getting ready for a fight, like a boxing fight. There’s a video  of me online from before I opened for J.I.D and Earl Sweatshirt. I’m there punching the air, doing push ups, getting a sweat on, its physical man, my show is pure cardio. It’s like 30 minutes of a beep test, it’s screaming and it’s explosive. At a massive show, there’s barely any jokes, there is the call and response but there’s not any storytelling.

For one of the small shows now, it honestly depends on the crowd’s reaction when I walk out. If I walk out and people cheer, I’m like ok, it’ll be a fun crowd, I can do some jokes and they can dig a couple more songs than normal. But like every 1 in 4 shows with Lime Cordiale at the moment, you have to win the crowd over. They might just be strangers to my shit or they have nerves cause they don’t know if they’ll like you. I like all the shows though man, I’m into it, performing is my favourite part of music.

Q: What’s having that connection with an audience like in a room of 60 people, compared to tens of thousands?

A: It’s like a girlfriend vs stranger at a nightclub, both of them have huge pros and cons. The stranger at the night club is exciting and different, it’s all gross and sweaty and it might all fall apart at any second. That’s the hype show. The smaller gigs are like being with your girlfriend, its calm and its intimacy. You can look out and see the people, it’s not a blur, you can really see people enjoy the set. If you throw out a joke, you can see them laugh. I’m connecting with people on a different level with this tour.

Q: Is the bigger or smaller show more daunting?

A: The intimate show makes me so nervous, every time before I go on. Every night, I’m so nervous, like sickly nervous. I find it easier to perform in front of 20,000 people than order coffee in the morning. At a massive festival or show, it’s a sea of people, they’re anonymous almost. There’s no faces or individual reactions, it’s a big old sea. On a small show, it’s so intimate. If you’re not doing good, you’ll know.

You can bomb in front of 20 000 people because statistically, someone out there will be having the time of their life, even if it’s just because it’s loud. In a small show though, you know, you can see it on their faces, you can’t ignore it on their faces.

Q: Do you get heckled?

A: I’ve been heckled once on the whole tour, there was this girl and I was like ‘Do you want to hear more songs?’ and she screamed ‘Yeah, Lime songs’. So I just said ‘Mum, I asked you to stop coming to my shows’, everyone laughed and she was just kinda quiet for the rest of the show.

Q: Weirdly, as bad as heckling is, it almost personifies the nature of these shows. It shows just how different the small room environment is.

A: Yeah man, everyone is having the time of their life on this tour, that’s why I love it. Every crowd is different, every show is different. You don’t forget these shows.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I mean hopefully, things do start to open up, they’re doing standing shows in Auckland and Perth. I hope Lime Cordiale continues to tour, I think they’re the only guys touring in the country at the moment and I’m so grateful for them having me along.

Long term though, hopefully, my next single blows up and I don’t have to depend on my friends and bands. I want to build a relationship with my audience and do more shows. If they love the chat, I’d love to get to the stage where I can do comedy and tell stories during the big shows too.

Q: Thank you so much for your time man, it’s been great chatting

A: No worries, thanks man, enjoy your night!

Saint Lane’s next single ‘Dusty’ Prod. by David Duke, will be out August 14th

You can find Saint Lane at @lanethesaint or Saint Lane on Spotify.