Read the interview here.
Read the interview here.
Text: Ilana Kaplan
Indie-pop duo Sylvan Esso is no stranger to making vibrant synth-heavy songs. Since the band’s 2014 self-titled debut, fans have been anxiously awaiting a follow-up. On April 28, their dreams will become a reality. With their sophomore album, What Now, Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn blur the lines of the personal and the political, critique culture, and explore the anxiety the world was experiencing as it was, well, burning to the ground in 2016.
What Now still shows off the band’s talent for auto-tune electro-folk gems, but sees them finding their maturity, being unafraid to expose themselves and not take the easy way out. Instead of simple songs about love, Meath opts for questioning experiences and exploring the complexities of life.
Before What Now debuts, we caught up with Meath about how daunting it was to make a sophomore record, the skewed American dream, and coping with the current state of the world.
How is this record a departure from your self-titled debut?
In general, I grew up a lot more. The debut was a message in a bottle. The sophomore record is what the band could be. It was a wild change from road dogging it for five years and then starting a pop band and touring that for two and a half years. Then I realized we needed to write a new record. Sophomore records are terrifying.
What were you listening to when you made What Now?
Right now, I’m listening to Jenny Hval’s Conceptual Romance. I’m also listening to Joni Mitchell -- always and forever.
How was the process of creating your second record different than making your first one?
The first record was made in one room with all of the time in the world. This record was made all over the country in different studios and in different pockets of time. Writing on the road and trying to figure out how to do that was a whole new challenge. I recorded it in L.A., Wisconsin, in my hometown of Durham and in New York.
Can you tell me a little about your latest single “Die Young?”
“Die Young” itself is just a simple pop song -- it’s one of the most straight ahead ones that we did. Of course, the only love song I would write is the cruxes. “I had a plan and I was gonna die and now I have to stick around for you.” By being around, you’re robbing me of my beautiful end. It’s about love. I don’t really write love songs that often because I think it’s really easy to write about them. It’s harder to write about questions you have rather than the awesome sex you’re having.
What do you want your fans to get out of What Now?
I want them to listen to it and have them feel actual feelings. I want them to have an emotional connection to what I make...doesn’t everybody?
Why did you title the LP What Now?
I think it’s what Nick and I woke up thinking about most often…’what now’ the phrase. At first, when we started, it was a pretty selfish ‘what now,’ but as soon as the tides turned in our country, it became more about figuring out how to cope in the shitstorm we’re in.
How have you been coping with everything going on in our political climate?
I’ve been protesting every weekend, figuring out where to donate money and what to put my time towards. I’ve been trying not to read Twitter too much. I’ve limited my Twitter consumption for the day. I also get The New York Times at my house every day. Reading everything is enough. Seeing everyone be upset about it on Twitter stirs up my empathy in a way that makes me cry all the time, so I try not to do it.
How do you hope that music and art will help people in the next four years?
In the same way that music and art have always helped people—as a release, a distraction or as a moment where you don’t feel alone in the world.
How have you guys as a duo matured as you work together?
During the first record we did a lot of solo work, and in doing this record, we discovered we needed to work together in the same room and get each other’s expertise.
What do you think the next Sylvan Esso record will look like?
I don’t know man—I’m still proud and excited to show the world this one. I need two more years and three more dump trucks full of experiences before I feel like writing again.
What up-and-coming artists are you looking towards for the future of music?
I’m really excited about Big Thief right now—I think any record that they make is going to be fucking gold. They told me that they already have a whole new record even though they just finished one.
Would you ever make a solo record?
I could, but everything that I want to say is being reached through collaboration right now. I don’t want to make a solo record for the sake of making a solo record. So many people’s talents are working in a group. For some reason, I think there’s some kind of fucked up snit in the American dream where creative people think in order to do it, they need to do it alone, which is really sad.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I see myself on tour forever, living my life happily and writing more songs. That’s my goal. I’ve already gotten everything I wished for, so everything else is just a bonus adventure.