Today marks a new beginning for SAIS – not only has she dropped her debut single ‘The Novelty of You’ at midnight, it’s also her birthday. “I don’t know what I’m going to do to celebrate it all, I live in the middle of nowhere,” she admits. “The only place to go out is Spoons around here, so I might just celebrate inside.”
The ‘middle of nowhere’, for the Canadian native, is her home in the Somerset countryside with her boyfriend and cat Io, and she’s grateful it provides the remote rest bite necessary to balance her non-stop music-making lifestyle. The budding artist speaks of the relief and excitement she feels on the eve of its debut, as the road to release has not been easy: “Technically, I made this song three years ago but we lost the original files. So we’re releasing it as a demo, because I thought why not? It’s 2022, what’s wrong with putting out a demo as long as I feel confident, and this is the most authentic thing I feel I have ever made.”
She explains the lengthy process of trial and error that led to the demo’s release: “Every time I tried to write something else, or make something new, or go in a different direction, I felt this style and this song in particular pulling me back every time. When I shared it, everyone who knows me or who I really value musically reaffirmed to me that the song was strong.”
The track hears the singer’s haunting, breathy vocals fleshed out with electric guitar and swelling strings, twinkling keys and deep humming synths. “It feels like the most authentic thing I’ve ever written because there’s no extra shit in there, it’s just me saying how I feel. And I know that’s standard in music, but it felt so…” she pauses, choosing her words with the same meticulousness that has helped her hone her new identity and sound as Sais, “eloquent, and honest, and raw.”
Below, she shares with BRICKS the inspirations behind her debut single ‘The Novelty of You’ and the creation of future-pop princess Sais.
“Sais is my grandmother’s name,” the 26-year-old musician explains. “And if you ask her, she says it means Egyptian princess, but all I know is that it’s an ancient town in Egypt. When I was born my mother gave me both my grandmother’s first names as my middle name, so it’s always been a part of my name and I’ve always loved it, snd she’s a really special person to me.”
Sci-Fi and Sean Connery
“I am a weirdo with movies,” Sais laughs, “so I either love movies that other people hate or vice versa, and I get really fixated on specific moments in different movies.”
She frequently cites films throughout our conversation, ranging from her love of Disney villains and Lord of the Rings to Ex Machina and Westworld. “One of the biggest influences in my life creatively was early Bond films, specifically all the Sean Connery ones,” she says, telling me her childhood dream was to write and perform one of the franchise’s iconic opening numbers. “I had them all on VHS as a kid and I was so obsessed and immersed in the set design on the evil lairs. I fully see Sais there as a sleek and sexy Bond girl, be it good or evil.”
I fully see Sais there as a sleek and sexy Bond girl, be it good or evil.
Her interest in sinister sci-fi has no doubt influenced her personal style – “I’m just loving that fresh-out-the-cryo-pod in your government-issued long sleeve shirt and pants look right now” – and has left its mark on every part of Sais’ DNA. “I have done some research in the past on [Bond movies’] set design and Ken Adam who designed a lot of these lairs – he also did some Kubrik sets which were phenomenal – and he was quoted as saying his designs were ‘gleaming and sinister’. That is Sais, gleaming and sinister.”
Disney movies, Lord of the Rings and anything magical and fantastical. “My boyfriend told me the other day that he’d never seen Mary Poppins so we watched it, the original. There’s one scene where they jump inside a painting and everything is magic and lovely, and I started crying because I remembered my own childhood naive belief that this could be real. It’s made me really value that childhood innocence and the power of believing that yes Santa is real, and he did leave me that bell, and the tooth fairy is my best friend.”
Hidden amongst these fantasies, Sais has found her true identity: “I don’t think of Sais as a persona because she is me, but the version of me I’ve always wanted to show in a way that feels safe,” she explains. “Since I was a child, I’ve always felt safe in fantasy. I’ve realised that as an adult, just watching Disney movies and indulging in old nostalgia, how much I leaned into those fantasies as a child as that was my safe place having a troubled childhood. Leaning into that fantasy now is so self-fulfilling, I’ve almost self-actualised being a character in a sense because Sais is a character but I’m also being myself. I’ve been able to put all the best parts of me that I love together and that feels really good.”
Leaning into that fantasy now is so self-fulfilling, I’ve almost self-actualised being a character in a sense because Sais is a character but I’m also being myself. I’ve been able to put all the best parts of me that I love together and that feels really good.
“I’m really obsessed with mixing together fantasies,” she continues, “like fairies and mythology and everything magical mixed with the hard, rigidness of sci-fi, robots, AI. For instance, if you think of a fairy woodland you’re going to instantly think of mushrooms, but what people might not know is that mushrooms are circuitry like the internet, right? So it makes sense to me to mix these things together. In my visuals and in my music, I want the electronic aspects of like 808 and synths but I want the strings to feel big and orchestral too. I always want it to sound as cinematic as possible.”
Her eclectic music taste
When I ask Sais what she’s been listening to recently and while writing her music, she wastes no time in expressing her love for a wide variety of styles. “I am listening to a lot of classical music playlists just so I can get as much of it into my head as I can,” she starts, “And for the last few years I’ve really been loving EARTHEATER and ARCA. And do you know the song ‘Acid Rain’ by LORN? It has one of my favourite music videos of all time,” she gushes.
When it came to writing the track, Sais found her starting inspiration once again rooted in fantasy: “I had a dream about someone and the next day it was stuck in my brain. Back then I used to write my best lyrics when I was doing stupid little tasks, like going to the store and buying toothpaste, and this melody just kept going round my head. I hit up my friend Jack and said he needed to come round to record the song, and it just flowed out of me. It was one of the easiest songs I’ve ever written, and it felt so real. At the time when I wrote it, I was in a really deep depression, I’d had a lot of really horrible things happen and I was spending a lot of time alone in bed. I was listening to the track over and over and thinking that it sounded quite dark, and then I realised the song wasn’t about the person I’d dreamt of – it was subconsciously about the fact I didn’t want to live anymore.
I feel very focused on trying to get out how I feel just being a woman and not knowing what that means and how to navigate this world. If I ever figure it out, that is.
She explains it took her a couple of weeks to come to terms with her discovery. “It was wild to have this realisation, to think that I wrote something about someone and that it was actually about me and how I felt about myself,” she says.
In unlocking the song’s true meaning, Sais found a new focus for her songwriting. “In the past, I’ve been very tempted to write more about relationships. You know, when you’re younger, your mind can be very set on ‘does this boy like me or not?’ and ‘why is he awful to me?’ and all of that. I don’t know whether I’m less inspired to write about that theme now because I’m in a happy, stable relationship, or if I’m just older and see things differently, but I am much more interested in writing about my human experience and specifically as a woman. I feel very focused on trying to get out how I feel just being a woman and not knowing what that means and how to navigate this world. If I ever figure it out, that is.”
While her script might not be finished, one thing’s clear – in this movie, Sais is undeniably the main character.
Enjoyed this story? Help keep independent queer-led publishing alive and unlock the BRICKS WORLD Learner Platform, full of resources for emerging and aspiring creatives sent to you every week via newsletter. Start your 30-day free trial now.