CMA Awards 2018

Nashville Blues-Rock Duo SAENTS Shed Their Blood on Self-Titled Debut EP: Exclusive Premiere

Marcus Baney
SAENTS

Rett Smith just moved to Los Angeles, but his heart's still in Nashville. Or, at least his drummer is.

Smith, a Texas-bred singer and guitarist, moved to Music City two years ago to record his solo EP Oscuro, a gritty collection of southern-fried blues-rockers that seemed at odds with the glossy Nashville country fare. He quickly developed a rapport with session drummer Daniel Sousa, and the duo formed SAENTS, whose blistering eponymous debut EP is premiering Thursday (Nov. 9) on Billboard.

SAENTS is a logical extension of Smith's solo work, as the frontman indulges his love for high-octane guitar riffs and, in the spirit of the most iconic Texas songwriters, mines his own hardships for lyrical inspiration. The result is an EP that fluidly leaps from the apocalyptic, organ-driven crawl of “Lay Me Down” to the furious, proto-punk wallop of “Hallelujah and Do-Si-Do,” as Smith and Sousa never fail to fill the space with their sonic tumult.

Smith views SAENTS partially as a reaction to the hyper-polished, pop-friendly Nashville sound to which he was exposed over the past two years. "I got kind of tired of just seeing dudes who look like they’re in the Hells Angels go up and play in a baby voice, picking out a D chord," he says. "It’s like, fuck, man, I wanna play, especially in a duo. I wanna fill up as much space as possible and fucking get after it."

Under the watchful eye of producer and former Haste the Day singer Stephen Keech, Smith and Sousa banged out the five-song EP in 48 hours at the Smoakstack in Nashville. Smith takes no small pleasure in reminding me they cut almost all of the record live in the studio.

"It’s kind of like the anti-Pro Tools ideal of having 150 tracks," the guitarist says. "It’s like, ‘Here’s what we are. We have to fill the room up with what we want it to sound like with just the two of us. What does that look like?’”

SAENTS will play record release shows in New York and Nashville within the next month, and then, in Smith's words, they'll "fucking tour our asses off next year." They’re not married to the idea of a two-piece band, but for now, they’re just grateful to be on the same wavelength.

“We found each other at a time when we’d really been, our whole lives, wanting to play with someone that you connect with on that level,” Smith says. “I haven’t had that before, where I’ve played with people and it’s like, ‘Yes, this is it.’”

Listen to SAENTS' self-titled debut EP below.