Killing it.

Words by

Kristanna Sutton

In case you hadn’t noticed, SAFIA is killing it right now. 

The band's members, Ben Woolner, Michael Bell and Harry Sayers, are one of the most in-demand young acts in Australia and have been since nabbing a spot on the Groovin The Moo lineup in 2012.

After almost a dozen Australian Top 100 singles and a handful of major festival gigs (casual SXSW, Splendour and Falls Fest), the Canberra trio knuckled down for their first LP which dropped this year. Now, they’re gearing up for a national headline tour, so we sat down for a chat with vocalist Ben to find out more. 

It seems like forever since you guys played your first GTM in 2012. How’s the ride been for you since then? 

It’s been really good actually. It’s been super gradual but at the same time, it’s felt like things progressed quite quickly for us. Luckily, we’ve achieved each stepping stone gradually, which has been nice. It’s allowed us to grow as a band, and improve and learn as we go. We’ve been super lucky in that regard.

You’re about to take the album on one of your biggest tours yet. What do you love about being on the road? 

Getting to play the songs and seeing how they’re translated to the fans is obviously the best part of touring. Especially this time around, with an album out. We have no idea which songs are going to connect more with different crowds and different people. It’s going to be really fun to see.

Any bad parts to touring? Do you dislike any of it? 

The physical, actual travelling is by far the worst part. Playing the show is amazing but that’s often a very small percentage of it. I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of airports, aeroplanes or vans. There’s a lot of sitting around, there’s a lot of downtime and a lot of early mornings. Obviously, if we could tour without that stuff it would be better, but that’s part of it. It’s better than having to get up early and do a normal job. 

Recently you’ve toured with some of your bigger inspirations (Disclosure, The Presets). How is it brushing shoulders with those guys? 

It’s been great, especially from the early days. It’s been invaluable. Coming from Canberra, we were the only band – this was four years ago – doing the electronic live thing. We were lucky enough, even early on, to be getting the support from those acts like The Presets, Rufus, Disclosure and even Rudimental. They were all great, super friendly and we even learnt a bit of knowledge. We definitely learnt a lot from people like Rufus, which helped us get ahead. It was really valuable for where we are now. 

Are there any particularly crazy moments that you’ve experienced on tour? 

There’s the typical party stuff but one of the funniest stories was when we were in the UK. On the first day we got into London on the first day, got to our apartment and then got stuck in a very tiny lift for about four hours. Which was crazy, probably not that fun. There were four of us in there and only two people could sit down at a time because it was that small. That was definitely a memorable one, for probably the wrong reasons. 

Looking back, what would 2011 Safia think of what you’re up to now? 

(Laughs) I don’t think we ever really had expectations of being a big touring band, especially to the level we've been able to get to. When we first started doing [electronic music], we just wrote some songs for fun, we never had any intentions of putting them out. We were just playing computer games and hanging out. To see it evolve from that to where it is now, is definitely insane. I don’t think the 2011 us would believe it. 

Quickfire Questions: 

Music is... everything.
The best meal of the day is... breakfast, for me. 
I’ll never wear... fedora hats. 
My parents always tell me to... um… clean (laughs). 
The best hangover food is... either a smashed avocado breakfast or another drink – depending on what the vibe is, and how sunny it is. 
Marriage equality... should be a thing. Love is love. 
My most used emoji is... probably just a classic smiley. 
Ask permission first or apologise after? 50/50. If I’m feeling diplomatic I’ll ask permission, otherwise just do it. 
Last song I listened to was... what did I just listen to? Whatever was in the car. I think it was an Amity Affliction song. 
My favourite place in Australia is... either home in Canberra or maybe the south coast at Mollymook (NSW), where we had our first place. 
Major venue goal for Safia... let’s shoot for the sky and say ANZ Stadium. 

You can catch SAFIA on its all ages tour from October 21.


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