WHY I RATE: Santino Le Saint

Selected by: James Keith

Name: Santino Le Saint

Where He’s From: Brixton

Genre: Alternative/Alt-R&B

File Next To: pre kai ro, Simz The Kid, tendai

When He Started: “I started writing properly around 12/13 and put my first song on SoundCloud when I was 16, though my earliest memory of playing and writing was actually from when I was, like, 9! My dad’s actually got it on video.”

Sounds Like: “Dark, romantic R&B sounds infused with rock guitars and honest lyrics. I like to write about the sadder, darker sides of things as that’s what interests me. Singing about fairytales and happy endings has never been something that makes me feel much and it’s not the story I want to tell. I grew up listening to so much different music and I think that defines who I am, a blend of genres, so I want to communicate that through my music. Right now, that’s in the form of romance, heartbreak, unrequited love accompanied by rock guitars and heavy 808s.”

First Music That Inspired Him: “I heard PartyNextDoor and The Weeknd when I was 15/16 and found something that related to me. Finding that dark, alternative style of R&B in my late teens was a match made in heaven. I’d say that those artists kick-started me into exploring the sound alongside the earlier and older musical influences in my life.”

South Londoner Santino Le Saint, if you didn’t know, is untouchable when it comes to finding unexpected allies in distorted guitars and silky-smooth R&B—a rough’n’smooth combo echoed in the title of his debut album, Beautiful Disaster. At home, his parents raised him on a well-rounded diet of a few different sounds. “My mum listened to a lot of R&B, soul and reggae,” he tells TRENCH, “and my dad listened to a lot of jazz, soul, and old-school hip-hop.” Between it all, Jimi Hendrix’s virtuoso playing was a constant and a leading reason why he first picked up a guitar.

Recently, that fusion has gotten more and more refined—the guitar licks are smoother, slipping in between his soaring vocals and lightly-applied electronics. Despite that, even at his darkest or most energetic on tracks like “Dopamine” with Lancey Foux, there’s a mellow side tempering it all. That side of things comes from later in life when Santino discovered bands like Nirvana, Three Days Grace and Linkin Park, which nurtured a more emotional side of his pen. Then when he discovered the trap-influenced R&B of The Weeknd and PartyNextDoor, all those influences came together and pushed him down the path.

On Santino’s Beautiful Disaster, we saw the ideas he’s been thrashing out for the past few years represented in their finest form yet. He’d been toying with a lot of these elements—the distorted guitar riffs, trappy 808s, R&B vocals—for years now, but on the album it felt like they fitted together more naturally than they ever have. We’ve had a steady stream of videos ever since the project’s release in November, and now that he’s back from the West Coast of America, he’s ready to kick off a UK and European tour starting in Bristol on April 17 and taking him right through to the end of the month. Life is moving at a dizzying rate for the young Brixton-raised artist, but having put the work in and done all the necessary prep, it’s now time for him to reap the rewards.

TRENCH Highlight...

Posted on March 28, 2022