Speaking with Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn before what was an amazing performance at Arts Club was a privilege. You cannot help but be comfortable in conversation with them. We started off by talking about where the band name came from, to which they explained was all round the idea of a wandering mythical being.
Conversation moved on to the creative processes behind their music. They both emphasised the need to engage in heated confrontation when writing music, because if you don’t argue “you’re just appeasing each other”. We followed up by taking about the political influences of their recent album What Now. Recorded in 2016, they clearly showed a conscious role of the world politics of that year in the album. Nick said that “It would be dishonest if you weren’t making stuff that reflected it in some way.” They then said that the biggest influence in the new album was their own insight into their pasts. For example, Nick said that in the song The Glow they are “referencing sounds from that time that she’s talking about”. Following on from this idea of the past, they spoke of the big role nostalgia played, looking back to consider the new. When asked whether they felt differently about their music after periods of time, Amelia said that “you have to change personally in order for the sound to sound different to you”.
Interesting talk about the role of different locations and venues shaped the conversation further. Home sickness was a definite reality for the band after touring for such a lengthy time. However, they said that this was around there 15th visit to the UK and are much more relaxed on tour now. Interestingly, they said that the environment doesn’t really effect their performance all that much. To quote Amelia: “When you’re in tour cycle everything is pretty isolated”. Nick offered an interesting perspective, saying that the feel of the venue changes more during the first 30 seconds of the show as opposed to the general sense of being in a different city. In addition, they said that a show’s crowd can be very different when you play in different cities, particularly different European cities with varying languages. Whilst on the concept of environments, their Tiny Desk performance was brought up, to which they said was a great experience. To hear from an artist what it’s like to perform a popular and unique venue was amazing. They said that it is always unusual to play in such a small and unusual space because you’re just not used to that sort of performing space.
The interview ended with primarily British themed questions. We talked about why they chose to play in Liverpool. They responded by saying that they had never played in the city before. They expressed the idea that a big aspect of their tour is about playing in places that they haven’t been to previously, giving a feeling of adventure to their tour. To finalize, we talked about what their favourite pint was. Much to my sadness, Amelia said she didn’t like beer. However, Nick was eager to share his love for Guinness whilst on tour in the UK. Sylvan Esso offered themselves up as spectacularly energetic and interesting people, who have so much to offer to the music scene.
You can listen to the full interview below and check out their album ‘What Now‘ here.