Interview with Sarah and The Safe Word
April 18th, 2022
by Basil Pursley
SARAH AND THE SAFE WORD REDEFINES WHAT PUNK MUSIC SOUNDS LIKE WITH "GOOD GRACIOUS! BAD TIMING."
Queer Cabaret Rock Band, Sarah and The Safe Word are shaking up the south-east music scene by redefining what it really means to be “punk”. The band, fronted by lead singer Sarah Rose, creates genre bending music that takes inspiration from Mid-Twentieth century jazz, swing, and rock as well as more modern pop-punk sounds - truly creating a new musical experience. The band is based out of Atlanta and, besides the titular lead singer, consists of “Kienan Dietrich (guitar, vocals), Susy Reyes (violin, vocals), Beth Ballinger (keys, vocals), Maddox Reksten (bass, vocals), and Carlos Gonzalez (percussion, vocals)” (From The STSW Site).
Every band member displays wicked talent, adding a unique aspect to every layer of the songs. Especially violinist Susy Reyes, who provides a sound not often heard in modern punk and rock. The violin really helps elevate STSW’s music to another level, giving them the distinct vibe that draws in listeners. Cabaret Rock certainly isn’t a genre which is commonly in the spotlight, but STSW makes it clear that it should be. Watching and listening to the band perform, feels like stepping into another realm - one where a fantastical band has hijacked a speak-easy and turned it into a riot of dancing and raging against the system.
In an interview during the bands “Good Gracious! Bad Timing.” tour, Sarah was able to provide some insight into the band's inspirations and thoughts on their own music. Sarah was incredibly engaged and more than willing to share their thoughts and visions for the bands' music.
When asked about inspirations, it came as no surprise when Sarah revealed that a lot of lyrical inspiration comes from their experiences in table-top role play and LARPing.
“I like good storytellers” Sarah said, “stories about magic, I love tabletop. So a lot of things I do in tabletop usually end up in my lyrics. And I'm actually a really big LARPer too. So a lot of my things with LARPing and end up in what I do”
Sarah also explained that they get inspiration from the band Cursive, “lots of old vaudevillian acts, 20s music, jazz” and the local music scene in Atlanta also provides Sarah with a lot of inspiration.
A long with inspirations from roleplay and music, Sarah said they also enjoy exploring darker topics like sex, intoxication and death in their music. As part of the bands name is “The Safe Word” it should come as no surprise that Sarah is publicly part of the kink community.
Sarah explained that they are “a very sex positive person. I think that I talk about my own sexuality because it's something that's important to me.”
They elaborated that “I think sometimes it's just difficult to talk about sexuality and there's something liberating I think about embodying a character that embodies playing on sexuality on stage and having that liberation come out when you're on stage.”
On BDSM, Sarah wanted to emphasize that consent and safe kink practices are incredibly important. Additionally, they said that the BDSM community has informed a lot of how they view relationships and dynamics with others.
Sarah also discussed their own, and the band's favorite songs. They said that “The Last Great Sweetheart of The Grand Electric Rodeo” was the most fun song to write. “It took like 40 takes to get that down, because we just were like, This is so stupid. But it was great. Every time I listen to that song, I think of how fun the recording session for that song was.” Later, they mentioned that the song is the most fun to perform on stage.
“Sick on Seventh Street” was the song Sarah cited as the most collaborative effort between the band members. “It started as three different song ideas from three different people.” They explained, “And we all like smashed it together. So Beth had a song. That's her part. And that kind of started as the foundation of the thing. I was working on a thing that had a chorus. And then our producer was kind of working on ideas in well, and we realized that we were kind of all telling the same story, and that's when the song came together.”
Throughout the conversation, Sarah made it clear that they intend to tell stories with their music above anything else. Sarah was also able to provide insight on where they want the band to go. They are incredibly inspired by the fan content posted to TikTok stating “when I'm feeling down, or I can't sleep at night, I like to go on TikTok and just like watch people doing videos of our songs, because I think it's so cool.” They additionally added that they are “all about getting viral on TikTok.”
Fans of Sarah and The Safe Word can also look forward to the band releasing vinyl records, and potentially cassettes, of their music. Sarah says they want to get vinyls out sometime around October of this year, but they are unsure how things will shake out.
Sarah and The Safe Word is able to both accept and defy any labels thrown at them, through lyrical and melodic mastery, the band has an incredibly promising future – especially when it comes to redefining and revitalizing the south-eastern music scene.