Sylvan Esso Bring Beats, Brats, Beautiful Loops

The indie duo grill us up a party playlist, with a side of beer and onions.

Indie-electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso‘s delightful debut album sold out its initial vinyl pressing within ten days of its release this month, and we caught up them just before they jetted off on a world tour. That may seem like a big splash for a brand-new band, but both members are seasoned musicians: Amelia Meath is known for her work with Mountain Man, and Nick Sanborn comes from Megafaun.

Though they’re based in North Carolina, they decided to spin us party soundtrack inspired by “Wisconsin’s soul food” …just in time for Memorial Day cookouts.


Nicholas Sanbor: Hey, I’m Nick.

Amelia Randall Meath: I’m Amelia.

Nicholas Sanbor: And we’re Sylvan Esso. This is our dinner party soundtrack. We opted for the backyard brat cookout.

Amelia Randall Meath: A very important thing for Nick, because he is from Wisconsin.

Nicholas Sanbor: As a Wisconsinite, the grilling and boiling of brats in beer and onions is a part of my soul.


“Above My Ground,” Landlady

Nicholas Sanbor: So we decided to start out with a song by this band Landlady, called “Above My Ground.”  Which I think would totally set the right tone of being, like: “This is a weird, fun time!”

Nicholas Sanbor: They do an extremely good job of making very weird music that is completely themselves.

Amelia Randall Meath: Kind of like theatrical pop music.  But there’s also a lot of jazz elements…

Nicholas Sanbor: Yeah, almost in a… like a really fun, kind of almost Frank Zappa-esque —

Amelia Randall Meath: — It’s just a bunch of sweaty, wild, happy dudes. They just carry the light of humanity. They’re warriors for honesty.


“Another Reason,” Loamlands

Amelia Randall Meath:  In the next phase of our party, we would put the coals on. And at the same time, you put the brats in beer.

Nicholas Sanbor: Oh, well, that’s been happening for a while, but yes.

Amelia Randall Meath: That’s been happening for a while?

Nicholas Sanbor: Well, you need at least sixty minutes —

Amelia Randall Meath: Nick is the real chef in this situation.

Nicholas Sanbor: Personally, you know… methods differ. I don’t want to alienate the brat-eating audience out there.

So we thought for this, there’s this band called Loamlands, from Durham, that we totally love. This is a song by Loamlands called “Another Reason.”

Nicholas Sanbor: It’s kind of like a rollicking, folk-rock kind of jammer.

Amelia Randall Meath: Yeah,  you know, kind of a toe tapper. A subtle toe tapper so that you can be eating, talking and tapping. They’re just a really good band.

Nicholas Sanbor: It’s a perfect song to have on while you’re hanging out talking to a friend, eating brats.


“The Cosmos,” Porches

Amelia Randall Meath: Number three is “The Cosmos,” by the band Porches.

Nicholas Sanbor: This seems like kind of a later-in-the-night kind of song.

Amelia Randall Meath: Exactly: Fireflies coming out…

Nicholas Sanbor: Yeah — maybe like the campfire started now. Now you’ve moved into s’more phase…

Amelia Randall Meath: Some whiskey or something…

Nicholas Sanbor: Flasks around the campfire. That kinda seems like the vibe.

Amelia Randall Meath: Indeedy.

“Cosmos” is actually about zoning out at a party.

Nicholas Sanbor: At least that’s kinda what it seems like it’s about, right?

Amelia Randall Meath: That’s the main theme.

Nicholas Sanbor: [Singing] “I don’t live here/I live in the coooosmoooos!” But yeah, this is just a beautiful song. This guy writes such fantastic confessional music, and does it in such a totally unique and interesting way.

Amelia Randall Meath: Yeah. It’s not heavy-handed — the way that he communicates is just beautifully succinct.


“Coffee,” Sylvan Esso

Amelia Randall Meath: If we were going to pick one of our songs for a dinner party, I think it would be the song, “Coffee.” Because you can both cook to it, and you can dance to it.

Amelia Randall Meath: It’s a bummer.

Nicholas Sanbor: It’s a bummer of a song. But eventually redemptive.

Amelia Randall Meath: You fall in love for the first time… it’s like coming up for air.  And all of a sudden you’re like, “Oh my god! Life is like this!” Then you totally fuck that one up. And then you fall in love again… and it’s the same exact feeling again.  You’re like, “I feel euphoric, but I know this feeling of euphoria.”

Nicholas Sanbor: The idea that the specialness…

Amelia Randall Meath: … Isn’t special.

Nicholas Sanbor: It’s replicable. You know, when you first feel that, that’s a really upsetting thing to realize. But then, that actually is a beautiful loop to be in. That we can make this happen over and over again — that our lives are this emotional loop in progression.

Amelia Randall Meath: And then you understand that you can keep on working on making a perfect loop.