SANTÙ is a Birmingham-based four-piece, formed in 2021, made up of bassist Tom, lead guitarist Sam, rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist Zé, and drummer Jonathan.
The SANTÙ sound is heavy, blending indie and alternative rock with blues and other elements that, collectively, reveal the guys’ diverse musical influences and backgrounds.
Frontman Zé’s powerful vocals are raw and emotional, drawing you in and adding richness to the mix. Overall, the band’s music has an energetic, anthemic quality that’s hard to resist.
On the back of singles ‘Scream’ and ‘My Own Desire’, the SANTÙ boys have built a loyal fanbase and have garnered very positive reviews. Their debut single was featured on BBC Music Introducing.
New single ‘What If I Told You?’ is something of a departure, more introspective and heartfelt, showcasing this young band’s growth and versatility. It’s probably also their most infectiously catchy track so far, remaining accessible and upbeat even as it explores themes of self-doubt, anxiety, and unrequited love.
Busy promoting and gigging - playing venues throughout the UK and beyond, including Zé’s hometown of Guimarães, Portugal - the guys nonetheless found time to chat with us and answer our characteristically incisive, probing questions. Read on for what they had to tell us.
Please describe SANTÙ for anyone who hasn’t heard you.
JONATHAN - We’re best described as alternative rock, but we characterise our sound as putting a unique spin on classic rock by pulling inspiration from many other genres.
ZÉ - Our influences are the likes of Rival Sons, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Budgie, Cream.
All great influences. How did the band start?
SAM - We all met at uni and got together as a band for one of our first-year course modules. We worked well together and had great chemistry, so we decided to stick with it.
TOM - We were called White Room when we played our first gig, but we knew we wanted to change it. It took us a while to come up with something we liked.
JONATHAN - We nearly went with Velvet Mirror, which would have definitely been a bad choice! At some point, Zé came up with SANTÙ.
ZÉ – In Portuguese it means saint or holy. The accent over the U just adds some flare; it doesn't have a direct meaning.
The umlauts in Motörhead and Mötley Crüe famously didn't mean anything either, so you're in good company. Tell us more about your first gig.
TOM - It was at The Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham. We definitely didn't expect the response we got. We only had about 2 original songs at that point, so the set was mainly covers. Still, everyone loved it.
SAM - And it's been getting bigger and better ever since!
ZÉ - Our best gigs would have to be our last three single-release gigs. We sold out the last two. They were incredible! The fact that so many people wanted to buy tickets to come and see us has just blown us away.
JONATHAN - It’s very humbling for us to see people in the crowd singing along to our songs. We thought we wouldn’t see anything like that in these early stages of the band.
What’s the dynamic in the band?
ZÉ - Jono is the dad of the band. He’s the sensible one who doesn’t drink or do anything like that.
JONATHAN - Someone has to keep the others in check, right?
TOM - Zé is the late one. When he says he’s around the corner, it means he's at least 10 minutes away.
SAM - Tom is the one who, most of the time, has no clue what's going on.
TOM – And Sam just exists!
You all seem to get on well, despite the teasing.
SAM - To be fair, we’d been jamming together for a bit before we formed as a band, so we were mates before we were a band. And now we’re like brothers.
TOM - We have a lot of in-jokes and just have a lot of fun together. As much as we take the band seriously, we still want to have as much fun as we can with it.
How and when did you each get started in music?
JONATHAN - I started playing drums at age 6. I played in various orchestras for many years. I started focussing on developing my drum skills around age 15.
TOM - I’ve always had music around my whole life. I started on guitar at a very young age, going onto keys later. Then I started playing bass and felt a connection with the instrument, wanting to push the boundaries of what I could do with the bass.
SAM - There was always music around the house when I was growing up, so I think I naturally have an ear for all styles of music. I first picked up the guitar aged 11 after hearing Black Sabbath for the first time. It was unlike anything I had heard before.
ZÉ - I grew up listening to the queens of soul: Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Nina Simone, and Beyonce. I've always had the urge to sing. The first time I performed to a crowd was when I was 15, back home in Portugal. It was a talent show, Liceu Got Talent, which I ended up winning. Then, when I was 19, I moved to the UK to pursue my dream of becoming a professional vocalist and performer.
Tell us about your new single.
ZÉ - ‘What If I Told You?’ is about unreciprocated love. It’s about being unable to let go of the person who doesn’t satisfy you or give you what you need.
TOM - This new track is a slight sonic departure after our singles 'Scream' and 'My Own Desire'. It's quite different from our other songs, which are heavier and more aggressive. This is more of a soft rock track, with very bluesy elements.
SAM - The track was recorded live at the legendary Rockfield Studios in South Wales. It features the piano used by Freddie Mercury to record ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.
JONATHAN - We'd like to say a huge thank you to Jack Trubshaw for producing and mixing the track.
This track does have a different feel to your previous singles. Was that intentional, or did it just happen?
JONATHAN - The song sort of wrote itself. Zé had the idea of writing something with the first two chords you hear in the track. Sam then went and wrote the chords to the chorus and the bridge section, with Zé writing the lyrics and the chorus melody.
SAM - It was really a product of rehearsing and jamming constantly to get an arrangement we were happy with.
The single dropped in March . What response have you had?
JONATHAN - The reaction has been great. This single is definitely one of our catchiest songs, so people always remember us playing it. And it’s been in our live set for quite a while, long before we actually recorded and released it.
You’re from here, there, and everywhere, but all now based in Birmingham. What’s the music scene like in Brum?
SAM - The music scene in Birmingham is very much alive. There are always gigs going on, especially in Digbeth. A lot of R&B, metal, and indie rock. You don't hear so much classic rock, so this is great fo us because we stand out as doing something different.
You’ve told us the band’s influences, but who are your individual musical heroes?
TOM - My favourite genres are death metal, prog metal and rock, with the likes of Revocation, Loathe, and Pink Floyd. Feisal El-Khazragi of Loathe is my most significant influence on bass. Hugo Doyon-Karout of Beyond Creation is another important influence on my playing.
JONATHAN - My taste in music is broad: from jazz to funk, fusion, and worship. My drumming hero is Larnell Lewis, one of the drummers for Snarky Puppy. And Nate Smith from Fearless Flyers is also one of my favourites.
SAM - I have a passion for blues and I've been hooked since I first heard a Robert Johnson record when I was 15. Blues offers a great foundation to understand music in depth, as it’s where it all started. I also love soul, funk, and Motown, as well as bands like Led Zeppelin, Free, Black Sabbath, and Mountain.
ZÉ - My main influence is Jeff Buckley. I have always appreciated his music, incredible vocal range, beautiful melodies, and ability to write such fantastic lyrics. I also like soul, blues, and R&B, and love Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, James Brown, Donny Hathway and many, many others.
You have eclectic musical tastes. What do you each like doing when not making music?
JONATHAN - I love creative things. One of my hobbies is woodworking; I find it therapeutic. I also enjoy video editing. I’ve recently been getting into graphic design.
TOM - I enjoy going down to the gym for a session to clear my mind.
SAM - To relax, I love listening to my favourite music. I’m starting to amass a small collection of vinyl records. I also like reading about my favourite bands and artists.
ZÉ – One thing I’ve been exploring lately is electronic music production: techno, trance, and house music. I'm also very connected to my family. It helps me relax to just debrief and fill them in on what's happening in my life, so I speak often with my family in Portugal and Germany.
As a band, you've already achieved a lot, and in a relatively short time. Do you have any advice for any bands just starting out?
JONATHAN - One of the many keys to success is to be persistent. A lot of bands struggle under the intense workload that comes with performing, releasing, etc, so they eventually drop off into obscurity.
It’s also important to keep releasing new content on social media, engaging with the fans, playing live and releasing new music. The people who work the hardest will go the furthest in life.
Very wise words. We can see why you’re the dad of the band! What’s next for SANTÙ?
TOM - We’re aiming to have an EP out later this year. We want to showcase more of what we can achieve sonically as a band.
ZÉ - We’ll also be playing at the 2000 Trees festival this summer.
Thanks again for agreeing to be interviewed. We appreciate you making the time, especially Zé for not being late!
JONATHAN - It’s been a pleasure. We’re very grateful. It’s cool you’re giving grassroots artists a platform for exposure; it is very much needed in today’s music industry.
And where should folk go to support and follow you?
Cheers boys. Any final words?
JONATHAN - We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us along the way; we would not have been able to do it without them.
ZÉ - Yeah, we appreciate you all and we can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on. Stay tuned.
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