As a high school and college music teacher, Sarah Fard — known by her stage name Savoir Faire — is keenly aware of how people’s race, gender, disabilities, and other factors can affect how they’re treated and what opportunities they have access to.
“There’s a lot of gatekeeping for people with disabilities because of how we are traditionally taught is the correct way to do things; there’s a ‘correct’ or more esteemed way to read music and hold an instrument,” says the Boston-based musician. “Often, it’s the old dead white guys; we’re supposed to be upholding this music as the end-all be-all of what should be in a music curriculum.” To challenge these conventions, she once tried to teach her students hip-hop, and a superior told her that was “something they should do after school.”
She became inspired to write about this topic early in the pandemic while watching the show Alias, which features a spy who thinks she’s doing good work for the CIA but is actually working for a criminal organization. Fard saw connections between this show and the current political climate, where discussions of critical race theory were becoming more prominent throughout the U.S. and also were scorned. In her hometown in New Hampshire, people had trouble acknowledging the lack of diversity in the schools. “There was a lot of ugly talk on social media, and people were saying, ‘This town doesn’t need this, there is no racism no sexism here,'” she recalls.
“I started thinking about this duality of who we like to think we are [and how] we all have this implicit bias,” she continues. “And if we think we don’t, that’s actually really dangerous because then we’re not reflecting on it; we’re not addressing it.”
These implicit biases are the subject of her latest single, “Alias,” which uses jazzy guitar, dark, pounding drums, and deep, rich vocals to explore the hidden sides of ourselves we don’t like to look at. “It’s not a face you think you’re wearing/The identity you think is you/You see, they fed you a backstory/That you think, you think tasted true,” she sings. The highlight of the track is the very end, where Fard’s voice echoes itself against heavy guitar, repeating the lyrics: “Your cover’s been blown my dear/And though you seemed sincere/I found you, I found you, I found you out.”
Fard’s goal was to have the song carry a nostalgic, vintage vibe, as well as a somewhat abrasive, moody sound that might force people to confront themselves. She recorded a demo with the vocals and guitar, then sent it to drummer and producer Dave Brophy to mix it. “The song is kind of an inquisition with the listener, sort of an old noir film where the detective is interrogating the suspects,” she says. “I hope with this song that anyone listens to it who understands its message might have a moment of reflection.”
Trained as a jazz guitarist, Fard released her first album Machine with a Memoir in 2018, followed by the 2020 single “1945” and then “Sweet,” a jazzy single released earlier this year that deals with sexist stereotypes and belittlement. “Don’t confuse helpful with helpless,” she bellows theatrically on the track, which claps back at people who pigeonhole her as spineless or easily manipulated because of her kind demeanor. “I just don’t know that men who are good at their jobs and helpful get called ‘sweet’ in the same way,” she says. She plans to compile “Sweet,” “Alias,” and another soon-to-be-released song called “Think Twice” into an EP within the next year or so.
Her desire to prompt listeners to question their assumptions and biases stems in part from the stereotypes she has faced as a female guitarist. “I didn’t feel like I had that representation growing up to feel it was possible to play,” she says. “That was because all the guitar players were men. You can say the same about flute-playing; boys don’t play flute often. Is it because they don’t enjoy it or because we’ve made it a feminine instrument?”
She makes a point to showcase her own guitar playing in her songs to combat the common assumption that as a woman, she must be primarily a vocalist. All three songs on her upcoming EP feature guitar solos. “A lot of my peers in college thought I was a vocal major or a flute major because people didn’t see me as a guitar major,” she says. “I think it never hurts to have more songs with killer guitar riffs and guitar solos by female-identifying people for the young female-identifying people who need that representation.”
All in all, she hopes her music questions — and causes listeners to question — the social constructs that limit people. For this reason, her songs can be confrontational, which serves an important purpose in today’s world. “Some day, I’m gonna write a feel good song,” she says. “But today’s not the day.”