Much like their music, Sylvan Esso are hard to pin down. But on Aug. 25, in the middle of their whirlwind summer tour, nearly a fortnight after their sold out show at Gasa Gasa in New Orleans, the electro-pop duo found the time to answer a few questions via email.
It wasn’t just Gasa Gasa that was a full house this summer, either. The draw of the ethereal, breathtaking music of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn speaks to so many fans that they sold out plenty of venues large and small across the country this summer, from Denver to New York. That overwhelming response makes them happy. In fact, the pair feel like “a delicious strawberry rhubarb pie,” they said. “With good fresh cream on it and your initials carved into it for ventilation because it's your birthday.”
The duo’s self-titled debut album was released in May 2014. The 10-track album garnered wide critical acclaim, was described using adjectives like “breezy” and “artsy,” and reached No. 7 on the U.S. Independent charts. It was released on CD as well as vinyl, but the pair are a bit critical of the resurgence of the classic medium. “I can't wait until plants get actually good at making records again and not making record looking things,” they said.
The breakout single of Sylvan Esso was “Coffee,” a highly danceable number that effortlessly harnesses the delicate, ephemeral power of Meath’s voice. They chose to play the tune during their national television debut on The Tonight Show July 9, backed up by DJ Questlove on drums, who gave appreciative nods to Sandborn’s production skills during the live performance.
Despite the collaboration, Sylvan Esso do not tour with a backing drummer, but they called their television experience “wonderful. It was also like having an eye that represents a million people looking at you.”
Sylvan Esso call Durham, N.C., home, and when you’re listening to their songs, it’s easy to visualize the influence that vibrant, hip city had on the performers. They describe the Durham scene as “pretty much the same” as New Orleans, “but much smaller and with less feathers. We have delicious food too!”
Durham, of course, is high on the duo’s list of favorite cities to play; they also name dropped Holland, Idaho, St. Louis and Milwaukee. But that’s not to say that their time on the Gasa Gasa stage was anything short of prodigious. The crowd was “so lovely and present and into dancing with us,” said the duo. “They were great. And so loud. Amazing.”
Small venues like Gasa Gasa appeal to Meath, who is also part of the mostly a cappella trio Mountain Man. “I love playing in small spaces. It's much easier to see everyone that way.”
Sanborn is no stranger to the stage. The former bass player for Headlights, Decibully and the Durham-based psychedelic folk group Megafaun says that his role in Sylvan Esso is less laissez-faire than his previous musical incarnations. “With bass, you get to just chill,” he said.
The winds of autumn will blow Sylvan Esso across the Atlantic, where they’ll tour Europe through the beginning of October, hitting up the U.K., Germany, Belgium and Paris. After returning to the U.S. and playing a few east coast dates, they’ll open for Foster the People on several November dates in California. For specific tour dates, visit http://www.sylvanesso.com/index.html.