She's part of the amazing experience I had with the food, maybe that's why I like her so much. “It became this guiding idea [that she was] acknowledging the anxiety of the present while also reflecting on all different forms that love has taken in her life,” Sanborn tells me over the phone later. Then we don't talk about my songs.”, She rolls her eyes and smiles. Both Sylvan Esso albums have cracked the Top 40 of the Billboard 200 sales chart, with last year’s “What Now” reaching No. Credit: 32. Each song is equal parts surprising and delightful. Though she has hinted at her queerness by switching around pronouns in live performances and using merch to raise funds for LGBTQ+ organizations, she gradually came to the conclusion that coming out to the world could help her and her LGBTQ+ listeners. It's something that you can't have with somebody that you haven't worked with for this long.”, Seven years into their creative partnership, Meath and Sanborn still find new joys in making music together. It wasn't just the pop heads. Then, I moved to Durham [around age 24]. “We each work endlessly at being better as individual artists and improving our creative relationship. Realizing that is one of the many stories behind their beautiful new album, Free Love, the third Sylvan Esso record. Every time we've improved that, our audience has gotten bigger. My really sweet friend Kelsey, when I came out to her was like, "Yeah, you surround yourself with queer people. Their 2017 sophomore record, What Now, leaned into a harder dance sound and increasingly dystopian lyrics, and earned them a Grammy nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album. ... She had posted a video to a song by Sylvan Esso and, when the band shared the video, it immediately caught the Inception actor's eye. The rest of the record is blistering, honest, and deeply funny; songs touch on success (“Slack Jaw”), the versions of ourselves we choose to put on display every day (“Just Dancing”), and an album by the short-lived Washington rock band The Microphones (“The Glow”). After Coachella, Meath returned to Durham, N.C., where she’d moved after decamping from Brooklyn. As a semi-public figure, the more I give myself the power to say how I feel and think, the more I can hopefully open the door of others thinking, "I like that girl, she likes girls, too. “Ferris Wheel” and “Rooftop Dancing” — the first two singles off Free Love — both mention dancing as a medium for connection. Unlike so many other art forms, everybody feels the right to have an opinion about music, which is what drew me to it in the first place. “It's happened a couple of times where we'll be getting interviewed and I am only asked about what it's like to be in a relationship with my creative partner. For Nick Sanborn and Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso, the friction is essential to what makes their creative collaboration tick. All rights reserved. With this, I just f---ing love it. “I feel like the record makes more sense now than it would have had this not happened,” Sanborn says. Meath and Sanborn wed in 2016, and you can clearly hear the echoes of married life bounce off the walls of the album. Elliot Page and Emma Portner started dating after meeting on Instagram in 2017 and got married about six months later.. One of the things I adore so much about her is that she's endlessly, and in a positive way, curious about the world and every living thing in it.”. “Because, really, so often what we're doing is just describing the thing that the other has made.”, Though Sylvan Esso have danced around their opinions on traditional success in their music for nearly a decade now, both say Free Love comes closest to what they’ve been told success should feel like. “There is an amazing game called Sword and Sworcery. I continued living my little gay life being a straight person, or saying that I was. “She's like, ‘Yeah, I think I'm in love. “Ferris Wheel” is about being a 14-year-old creep, figuring out how to have sex, being female-bodied, and realizing that people are responding to you for the first time. “Free Love shows us embracing the complexity of being human, with pop music that doesn't undercut how complicated being a person is,” he adds. But it's also about me and Nick stepping out into the world, trying to be honest and authentic in new ways, all the time.”. Durham's a super wonderful queer space to be in. It inspires how much effort I want to put into improving my own craft so that I can hopefully be at the level that she's at someday.”, “Nick pushes me towards being as articulate as I can be in order to justify all of the beautiful spaces that he creates,” Meath says. When the Canadian singer-songwriter Feist was booked to perform at Coachella in 2012, she knew two things: first, she needed a full orchestra, and second, she needed to bring Sylvan Esso singer Amelia Meath with her. Then 24, Meath was a member of Mountain Man, an all-female North Carolina trio who’d been enlisted by Feist as backup singers on her Metals tour. It traffics in intimacy and self-preservation in the face of opening oneself up to love. “In everything you write, there are so many different layers to the truth,” she tells them. “Free,” the song itself, [is about] the fact that so much of love is about trying to figure out how you want to be perceived. Because you're married to your bandmate, can you talk to me about your conversations with him about queerness? Stefanie Keenan / Getty Images. Jokes Meath, “So many of our songs have been about the collapse and/or ruination of society through excess, but talked about in a really fun way. Prune had this matchbook that had a pin-up [model] on the front of it, and I kept it like a little creep and put it in my wallet to be like, “I love food, and also I really like this lady. 10 funny mockumentaries to remind us about the absurdity of life, Family-friendly Halloween films for boos big and small, How Sufjan Stevens made an upbeat album about the 'crisis of humanity', Yusuf/Cat Stevens breaks down every song on his seminal breakthrough, Wayne Coyne on near-death experiences, Ken Burns, and the Flaming Lips' new album American Head. (Sanborn is usually the “math-brained production wizard,” she says.) They're one and the same to me. The duo also willingly offer multiple points of entry. I publicly came out at first when I was 14. I realized [around this Pride month] that it could be quite useful [to come out], for me, and also for other people who are in a similar situation — particularly because bi-ness is so easily made invisible. That's when it spans everybody and it's just undeniable. Now, I've totally stepped more into the role of producer, and we're actively co-producing in this totally new, really exciting way. Every now and then, there's an amazing record that does it, like Taylor Swift's 1989, where everybody decided it was good. The duo’s self-titled 2014 debut paired Meath’s “secretive, intimate” songwriting with Sanborn’s propulsive and sticky production, and they were soon selling out clubs around the country and booking major festivals like Bonnaroo, Firefly, and Austin City Limits. She first came out as bisexual to her family at age 14, and again to her close friends in her mid-20s. We named our band after them. “It feels like MySpace again,” Meath says. Offers may be subject to change without notice. I think that pop music is so sacred. Realizing that is one of the many stories behind their beautiful new album, Free Love, the third Sylvan Esso record. I think [the shame] was around not wanting to claim something that I wasn't 100% sure of. “It feels like what it used to be like when I would book Mountain Man shows by cold-calling venues.”, Free Love is somehow prescient and nostalgic in the same breath. Were there moments from when you were younger that helped you realize you were queer? With Sylvan Esso and Mountain Man, do you feel like those two different bands are different extensions of yourself? I'm over-the-moon thrilled at the size of our audience at this moment. The reflipping of that is so fun to me. The duo, who blends folk melodies and electronic production, first broke out with their 2014 eponymous debut album, whose delicate songs tend to zoom in on one simple thing — a cup of coffee, … Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn make up the electronic-folk duo known as Sylvan Esso, which pays a visit to The Mill and Mine in Knoxville on Friday. As I was singing around the house as I was growing up [in Cambridge, Massachusetts], whenever I would try to put on a different style of singing, my mom would yell from the kitchen, "Use your own voice!" But those looking to dig deeper will find Meath’s tongue-twisting choruses (“Sainted halo, underworld goth vibes/You'll do fine/For tonight,” Meath sings on “Ferris Wheel”), which walk hand-in-hand with Sanborn’s vibrant, supportive production. [We wanted] it to feel like it was one expression. I think some sort of shame spiral happened. Entertainment Weekly may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. “She was looking inward and trying to remember all the times when loving other people was incredibly easy. So [there’s] just a bunch of little cute baby queers coming up and being like, "We named our pet bunny Sylvan.”. Also, we just like hanging out a lot. “Every day, we would look out the window and see less and less traffic,” Meath says. Their third album, Free Love (out September 25), takes a somewhat different approach. Elliot married Emma Porter two years ago Credit: GETTY IMAGES. They look a lot like the tree spirits in Princess Mononoke.” There you have it…Sylvan Esso is derived from an iOS indie game released in 2011 (+ extra nerd points for the Princess Mononoke reference). Sometimes it ends partnerships, sometimes it fuels them. Was it finished before the current pandemic hit? Every queer person that I know was always very delicately talking about my queerness. Meath, 32, and Sanborn, 37, first began working together in 2013, when the former asked the latter, under his Made of Oak project, to remix a Mountain Man song called “Play It Right.” The two realized their styles meshed better than one lone track could express, so they teamed up as Sylvan Esso. them. Every part of my being. When I came out to him, he was like, "Yeah, of course, totally." Sylvan Esso is about songs that are for rooms of people to be moving in and feeling those feelings together. (Sanborn is usually the “math-brained production wizard,” she says.) “Let me talk to America about how I don't shave my armpits. A few years ago, solo artist Meath thought it would be fun to see what Sanborn would do with one of her songs, and now, as the duo Sylvan Esso, they have two successful albums, a near-constant tour schedule and a Grammy nomination. Free Love is the first album since Sylvan Esso founders Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn got married. I've tried to delve back into high school shit, and just have completely been unable [to]. That was the most exciting part of this record — all of the sudden recognizing that so much of the work that I've been doing for this whole time was being a producer. It’s their way of saying that real people made this music, and the technology they use doesn’t make it any less “authentic.” October 4, 2020. And we're going to make a wicked record,’” Feist says with a laugh. It’s almost creepy how prevalent those themes are in the world now.”. “It was this sort of instantaneous respect, and it felt reciprocal.”, But the partnership didn’t last long. But because so much of my role in producing is invisible labor, it's really hard to identify until you give yourself that permission. A few short years later, I was side stage at [Bon Iver’s festival] Eaux Claires watching her and Nick headline, watching thousands of people singing every word.”, In a pandemic-free world, Meath and Sanborn — the musical duo now beloved as Sylvan Esso — would soon be trotting out their third album, Free Love, to massive festival crowds around the world. It's fucking not. Sylvan Esso: Amelia Meath on life on the road Amelia Meath ditched hipster Brooklyn to move to Durham, which is just one of the things that have helped her musical project with Nick Sanborn to thrive Oh my god, that’s so cute. Get the best of what's queer. It's for everybody. “What Amelia was doing was reacting to this increasingly tense world around us,” Sanborn says. September 27, 2017: The couple went to their first movie premiere together ... Now married, the couple write more solidly as a unit. For a band that’s leveled up with every release, it’d be too low-hanging a fruit to say the sky's the limit for Sylvan Esso. ... Sylvan Esso – From the Satellite | Oct 20, Nov 17, & Dec 1 at 8PM; When did you do most of the work on the new record. What would you say makes you and Nick a good team? © Copyright 2020 Meredith Corporation. Elliot Page and Emma Portner got married in 2018. They were in Los Angeles mixing the album this spring when the pandemic hit, forcing them to fly home to North Carolina (“mostly because we went to the Silver Lake Whole Foods and were like, ‘Oh, f--k, we’ve got to get out of here’”) before things took a turn. 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