There’s a common notion that suffering for one’s art imbues it with a greater worth, that personal tragedies provide the creative grist for a more authentic artistic endeavor. Landon Jacobs, frontman of the indie pop three-piece Sir Sly has little choice but to subscribe to this theory: After losing his mother to brain cancer, suffering through a spiritual crisis and getting divorced, what does one do but seek catharsis through art?
“I think from the jump with songwriting, for me it was always about necessity,” Jacobs said in a recent phone interview ahead of the band’s upcoming tour, which includes a June 29 show at the El Rey Theatre in their hometown of Los Angeles. “So it felt like an obvious need in these past couple years to go and write directly about something in a way that kind of helped me boil it down. Music was always a safe place for me as a kid growing up. Listening to somebody else and hearing their feelings, it made me feel less alone in the world. So I feel like I want to be able to give that back to people in some way. And I think this album is our best effort in doing that so far.”
Indeed, Sir Sly’s new record Don’t You Worry, Honey (set for release June 30) deals with difficult subjects with great candor and clarity. Yet it’s also a very fun album, one that dances its way through grief and trauma. And despite the challenging circumstances in Jacobs’ personal life, the group truly enjoyed the process of recording the album.
“I can speak confidently for the three of us in saying that we’re all really proud of what we did on this record,” Jacobs says. “And I know that Hayden [Coplen] and Jason [Suwito] both have been really in my corner and have championed me being as expressive as possible through the lyrics and they’ve been so supportive. And I think it comes across: That safety that we have in the studio. I think that’s what I’m most proud of in the record. We worked really hard and I think it comes across really well that we enjoyed the process of making a record and that it was a really safe place to be able to come and make music for the past couple years.”
That joy might be most evident in the album’s single “High,” which was featured on the soundtrack to the hit Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” and recently hit No. 6 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. The video for the song features some light choreography from the group — catered to their dance abilities, “which are low” Jacobs deadpans — and before rehearsal, Coplen ran into another famous figure working on his dance moves.
“On the last day of rehearsal, we walk into this rented studio…and Mr. T is training for ‘Dancing With the Stars’ with his partner,” Coplen recalls. “All of the rooms, you pay by the hour and I was like…’uh, It’s already our hour’ and he’s like ‘OK, give us a couple more rehearsals.’ And he gave me a signed keychain. It was incredible.”
Although “High” is the most radio-ready song, the album’s centerpiece is “Altar,” which sifts through the emotional wreckage of Jacobs’ breakup. The song’s arrangement is sumptuous but slippery and Coplen says that Jacobs’ fearlessness in his lyrics inspired the group to take their music in similarly bold directions.
“We pushed and pushed,” Coplen says of the band’s songwriting process. “And it’s a testament to Landon’s ability to want to collaborate that there were times where, us three together, Landon is bearing these things from his soul and still being open to the idea of hearing feedback like, ‘that’s good but what if we tried this? What if we took this here?’ I’ve never worked in a creative environment like that where someone gave 100 percent of themselves yet was still receptive to feedback.”
It’s clear speaking to the band that their long personal histories have forged a powerful creative camaraderie, one that allows them to embrace and share their vulnerabilities, rather than hide them away.
“We played ‘Oh Mama’ for the first time at Firefly, which was a really crazy moment,” Jacobs says, referring to the closing song on Don’t You Worry, Honey. “Everyone was so receptive and amazing and once the song was done…I sobbed. I cried on stage, I think for the first time ever. It felt right. It’s the irony of I wish my mom was there to see me play the song I wrote about her not being there.
“I would never feel bothered if we started playing that song and for some reason I couldn’t sing it,” he continues. “If for whatever reason that night it was too difficult to sing, I would have no problem. That’s a part of art, I think. And that’s what we’re in pursuit of as a band and I’m in pursuit of as an artist: Opening up a space to embody the songs as closely I can from a night-to-night basis.”
Watch Sir Sly’s video for “High” above and get tickets to select dates on their upcoming tour by clicking here.
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