We recently had the pleasure and opportunity to catch up with Sarah Saturday from Gardening, Not Architecture and the Earn It Yourself creator. Not only did she take the time to answer questions for Highlight Magazine and our readers but also she showed us how passionate and persistent she is as an artist, worker and friend to the music community.
Interview by McKenzie Hughes // Photo by Noah Jashinski
Outside of focusing on G,NA who is Sarah Saturday?
I was born in Florida and raised in Wisconsin, then moved to California in my early twenties, and in my late twenties decided to throw everything out the window to commit to my music and ideas as my life’s pursuit — which has meant living out of a suitcase most of the past couple years while driving around the country in circles (on tour). I’m currently trying to make ends meet in creative ways, so that I can spend my time doing the kind of work I enjoy. I’ve always been pulled towards music, ever since I started playing violin and piano when I was three, so I think I’m sorta stuck on the music path. My other passion is philosophy — mostly figuring out what mine is, and trying to live it. I guess you could say I’ve been practicing “Bohemianism” for the past couple of years, which is a lifestyle I only recently learned about on Wikipedia, after researching the concept of voluntary poverty. This approach has helped me maintain a strong work ethic and drive to create and find ways to pay my bills and achieve my goals without having to give up the work I enjoy doing. It is extremely stressful most of the time, and sometimes I miss the days of paychecks and leased cars and nice apartments and fancy dinners, but I think it’s in my heart to lead this kind of life, so I’m trying to figure out how to make it work, while also sharing my story with others as I go.
G,NA originally started out to be based online only, while you have done tours and have continued producing music. How does it make you feel to hear and see that others are persistent for you to continue your career?
It makes my eyes well up with tears when I really think about it — honestly. I’ve got a lot of issues when it comes to love and trust, and the kind of unconditional love I have received from people for G,NA has really strengthened my faith in the idea of love. Music has brought people into my life who have become like family to me. I was in bands for eight years when I was younger, and I met people through those bands who are still in my life today, supporting G,NA. Nothing else that I have ever pursued has brought me the richness of experiences and relationships that music has brought me. Beyond my own personal enjoyment, I also have people who genuinely care about me as motivation to keep going and keep trying to make bigger and better stuff. It’s amazing!
You have focused on contributing to the world, which indeed you have, but have you ever not wanted to be known for music or did you have a different goal for your future that music has taken the place of?
I’ve never had a goal that wasn’t music-related, but I did go through several years where I wasn’t playing or even writing music. During that time, I made some headway in the music industry and met a lot of great people who helped get my name out forother things: the Warped Tour, Earn It Yourself, etc. I had given up on the idea of playing music as the thing I wanted to be known for, and I considered other pursuits: management, owning a label, writing, marketing, etc. But after all those years, playing music was still the thing I wanted to do. So I thought a lot about it, and realized that playing music didn’t have to be about “getting famous” — it could be a vehicle that I could use to meet people, share knowledge, and exchange ideas and inspiration. By staying involved in the community that I came from that gave me so much when I was coming up as a young independent musician, I could now apply my experiences and wisdom toward building a new movement to protect and cultivate future underground communities of artists and thinkers. I don’t think that the music I’m making is groundbreaking in any way, but I do think that the approach I’m taking to my music is groundbreaking in the eyes of a lot of younger kids who weren’t around during the DIY era, which was the last time there was any kind of real “philosophy” in the underground music scene. The goals are always changing, but somehow they are always tied to music.
You have handmade shirts for fans and have handmade an edition of your “First LP,” what was the purpose of being the sole-creator behind all your projects with G,NA?
I’ve just always loved fiddling with crafty projects. I’ve made little things as presents for people ever since I can remember — paintings, trinkets, clothes, etc. I just enjoy the process, from thinking of the design to looking for the materials to figuring out how to manufacture something that is durable and still looks cool. When I recorded the first EP for G,NA and put the songs online for free, I made handmade CDs as presents for Christmas that year (2007) and had such a blast doing it. They were the only CDs I had to sell on my first tour in early 2009, and people loved them. I told myself I’d never let G,NA turn into work, that I’d always have fun and treat it like my ultimate arts-n-crafts outlet. Other than the digipaks I had to make when I went on Warped Tour (to have enough CDs to sell after the handmade copies ran out), all my physical releases have been handmade. I ordered screenprinted shirts from my friend’s company for all the touring I did in 2009 and 2010, but I’m almost out of those and I’m working on making a new line of handmade shirts for upcoming tours, with no plans to re-order screenprinted shirts any time soon. I just think handmade stuff looks better and has more value — not to mention that it’s incredibly satisfying for me as someone who loves the process of making something with my own two hands.
G,NA has a tour with Dinner And A Suit that is beginning this January on the 21st. This tour seems like a great way to kick off the new year. Are there any certain goals for this tour that separates it from others?
Yes! This tour is a big deal and I’m both super excited and super nervous about it! First of all, I love that band. They are one of the best unsigned bands I’ve found in years, and just a great group of human beings in general. Secondly, Dinner And A Suit are not only playing the tour with me but also helping me with my set, meaning this is the first tour I’m going to do as a “band” with drums, bass, guitar, keys, etc — in addition to the backing tracks. So far, it’s always just been me and my laptop and light wall on tour. I decided for the new album that a new live show is in order, plus it’s always been my dream to be able to recreate these songs live as much as possible. The goal for this tour is to see how the full band thing goes, and whether it’s something I want to pursue for future tours. If I love it, I might try to put together a touring band, or at least keep touring with other full bands who would be willing to learn my songs and play with me each night.
After having met (Dinner And A Suit) in 2010 at Warped Tour, are there any goals to come after this tour for the Summer?
I’m not sure what DAAS are up to this summer, and honestly I haven’t thought much past the last date of this upcoming tour with them. A lot of people have asked if G,NA will play Warped Tour again this year, but I don’t really see that happening unless they ask me to play. I may be involved with Warped again through my “Earn It Yourself” website, but if I’m not out there this summer then I’ll be focusing on promoting my new album, “Saboteur,” and playing regional shows in the southeast, and maybe putting that full band together and getting the live show locked down for a tour in the fall.
Does G,NA have any surprises and goals in store for 2012?
I’ve got one surprise that I’m waiting to announce any day, about one of my songs possibly being featured on a new television show on ABC. One goal I have for this year, which I’ve already started working toward, is re-launching my Etsy shop with a full line of handmade stuff, zines, and even some of the cool stuff I find at antique stores and thrift shops. I’ve already got a few things up at principiisobsta.etsy.com and I’m hoping that this will be another way for me to support my music while I’m off the road.
“Earn It Yourself”
Earn It Yourself is an idea I came up with about ten years ago, in my old band. It combines the Do It Yourself idea that you should take on the booking, management, production, promotion, and everything else that goes into being a band and releasing albums yourself, with the idea that success can be deserved if it has been earned honestly and truthfully, through hard work, integrity, and quality in your art (or whatever it is you do). It’s a movement to kick-start the underground network of local music scenes that used to be much stronger, especially in the U.S. It’s a movement to educate up-and-coming bands and their fans about proper show etiquette and the importance of having thriving local music communities around the country and the world. And it’s a movement for people who know that there is more to music than record labels and haircuts; that in fact, those things should have absolutely nothing to do with music, and should only come into play when the demand for a band’s music is so great that they can’t keep up with it anymore. (And even then, they should never worry about their haircuts.) I run a website/blog for EIY (earnityourself.com) and have published one zine (The EIY Handbook) in a planned series of zines that I hope will start to spread these ideas. I teamed up with Kevin Lyman to bring the EIY philosophy to Warped Tour in 2010 and 2011, including an entire EIY tour in the spring of 2011 that brought music communities together all over the country for round-table discussions about the state of their music scenes. I’ve spoken at high schools, colleges, and music conferences about the Earn It Yourself philosophy and movement, and I’m hoping to launch a few more initiatives in 2012 to put these ideas into action at the local level, in every city.
We hope you enjoyed our interview with Sarah Saturday. Please feel free to keep up with her and learn more about who she is at the link we’ve provided below! Also, feel free to leave comments and questions for her below!