No Novelty and Nothing to Ignore: An Interview with Molly Bartlett of Sauna

Posted by on March 27, 2014

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Sauna is a garage pop group started by four high school friends in Denver, Colorado: Molly Bartlett (lead vocals), C.J. MacLeod (guitar), Ethan Hill (bass), and Samantha Davis (drums). The band has always been responsible for crafting some of the most addictive and catchy pop songs since their inception, but recently, their approach has blossomed from the humor of earlier songs to include the beautiful melodies and rare honesty found on their new album, Cheap Date, reissued last year on cassette by Burger Records. Molly took a brief moment to answer some questions about the band.

On the new album, “Cheap Date,” it seems as if the band has lyrically moved away from earlier tracks like “Glitter Party” or “Croctopus.” Has the band changed its direction or focus at all?
To me, it felt like a natural shift of focus. I think we wanted to be taken more seriously, or less like a novelty, so when we would collaborate on lyrics we would try to avoid “joke songs” while still keeping the fun involved. Even on our most recent tour for Cheap Date we did play “Glitter Party” at every show.

What was the recording process like for the new record, and were these songs written specifically for the album or had you been playing them for a while?
We thought we were going to be forever done [as a band] at the end of summer 2012 as we were going off to separate places for school, so recording all of these songs almost never happened. Four of the songs are very old. Two songs were written right before we left, and some were written as we recorded when we were all home in Denver for a couple weeks. “Sittin’ Tight” was the song we wrote long distance — CJ and Ethan wrote their parts in Denver and Sammy and I finished it up in Seattle.

Will a single member of the band write a song, or do you write them as a group?
Usually CJ or sometimes CJ and Ethan would come to the band with a backbone, or a whole song, and we all would write our own parts. There was always a lot of collaboration involved when we would work on a song.

What is the music scene like in the band’s home base of Denver? Do you have any favorite bands from the area?
It’s fun! There’s a lot of good shows and great people making music in Denver. It’s interesting because it feels a little isolated as a city, but the people involved with music are so welcoming and rad. I want to mention like five of my favorites that are no longer bands, but I’ll resist. Pizza Time is awesome, CJ and Ethan play with them when they’re in Denver. Other favorites that are actively playing: American Culture, Lisa Prank, Cop Circles and Chase Ambler.

imageSpeaking of your tune “Croctopus,” the band has said in an interview that you wrote it to be like a B-52’s song, and I thought it was so cool to find out that you actually got to open up for them. What was the experience like?
It was a surreal experience. It was amazing to be able to open for such an influential band that we all love. We didn’t get to meet them or go in their green room which was slightly anticlimactic, but we were still ecstatic about it.

The band’s spoken about having a novelty of age at the time the you formed, and it’s wearing off as time has passed. What is your opinion on this perception your audiences had when you first were playing together?
At the beginning, being known strictly as “that teenage band” was hard because it felt like people either loved or hated us for being young and not for the music we were making. The truth is we were young and we still are so it’s nothing to ignore. If it’s a reason that we got to play cool shows when we were very new and still figuring things out, then I feel like it just isn’t fair to complain. We’re lucky to have gotten such great opportunities.

What is the story of the first show you ever played?
CJ interviewed Robin Edwards of Lust-Cats of the Gutters (and Lisa Prank) for the high school newspaper. CJ told her he had a band when he was just playing music with Ethan at the time. Robin asked if he could play so we agreed to playing. Robin Edwards is totally the reason we’re a band. The other half of the Lust-Cats, Alex Edgeworth, lives in Vermont now, but they get together and play sometimes so check it out if you’re ever lucky enough to see them!

What is the current state of the band with members currently situated in a long-distance relationship? Are there plans to play again after the band is reunited?
Everyone is in such different places, two [members] are outside of the country, and we all stay busy, so it’s a hiatus of sorts. I hesitate in saying never because we’ve called “never” before and then returned and toured for two months.