Jehnny Beth of Savages: ‘Sex is a wonderful way to test yourself’

The confrontational singer explores her fears and self-doubt on a solo album and in a collection of erotic fiction. She talks about learning to show her caring side – and finding cannibalism ‘horny’

Jehnny Beth is in her childhood bedroom, leaning on a copy of Goethe’s Faust the size of a phone book. We weren’t meant to meet here, through a rectangular FaceTime window: a family emergency concerning her father’s health has brought the French-born musician home to Poitiers, though she has kept her interview appointment as a distraction.

Now 35, Beth – black clothes, slicked-back hair – scans the room for traces of her past, though the collaged CK1 ads and “the magic trio” of Brad, Leo and Cruise are long gone. This is where 20 years ago the teenage Camille Berthomier became obsessed with music and escaping to London, far from Catholicism and sexual repression. “In my head, it was always about leaving,” she says. “And then I moved properly at 20, 21, and didn’t really look back.”

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Jehnny Beth of Savages: ‘Sex is a wonderful way to test yourself’