Q&A: California-based electronic-rock trio Sir Sly

Sir Sly From left: Jason Suwito, Landon Jacobs and Hayden Coplen
Sir Sly band members (from left) Jason Suwito, Landon Jacobs and Hayden Coplen. Photo courtesy of The Windish Agency.

Before their sold-out show at the 9:30 Club this week with The 1975, the band members of Sir Sly – a Los Angeles trio comprised of Landon Jacobs, Jason Suwito and Hayden Coplen – sat down to discuss their upcoming album, why they wouldn’t copy Led Zeppelin’s writing style and the time their trailer broke near the Canada-U.S. border. The interview has been edited for length.

Hatchet: Your sound aesthetic is very distinct. Had you always intended to put a darker, moodier twist on indie rock or did that happen naturally after the three of you began making music together?

Landon Jacobs: Jason and I got together and wrote the first song, “Ghost,” and it started I think. Originally it was just on the guitar, and then the first thing that happened was that synth bass sound and then the darkness came from there (laughs). And lyrically, the content is all pretty dark as well. So musically, it follows. There’ll be a few songs on the full-length that won’t be as dark, but the stuff we’ve released so far has that cross between electronic and real instrumentation.

Hatchet: How does that affect your live performances? Do you find it difficult to strike a balance between the acoustic and electronic in your live shows?

Jacobs: I’m really excited for you to see it tonight, actually. I feel pretty proud of the way that it’s been able to translate into a live experience. It’s hard to say this from the inside, I guess, but to me it comes across as a little harder, and people are expecting it to be a little cleaner. But it’s [still] dirty, you know, more of a traditional rock show on stage, just with some electronic elements. Videos like this stripped recording of “Ghost” come from the idea that we’re a band that started on the internet, and that’s where the majority of people were seeing us before we got a chance to play live.

Hatchet: You’ve said before that you’ve mixed 30 to 40 songs in preparation for your album release this year. How do you decide which content you want to use?

Jacobs: Gut instinct, really. There was some disagreement at the end – there were some outliers. There’s 12 or 13 tracks – well, really 11 – that we all really agree on and a couple that we have some disagreements, and those are where we start to nit-pick a little bit more. As far as gut reaction, we all feel really strongly about those and we’re still trying to write some more so that it can feel perfect. Like I would personally put more slow songs on the record, probably, and I don’t think either of these guys would. Those are the types of the discussions we have. It’s all really friendly. There’s no harshness there.

Hatchet: What’s your favorite song that you’re either considering or that will definitely be on the album?

Jacobs: There’s a song called “Helpless.” That’ll be on the record.

Jason Suwito: And there’s a song called “Nowhere” that we actually play live a lot. Yeah, that’s probably my No. 1 favorite. I love that song.

Hayden Coplen: In my opinion, it’s one of the most emotionally charged moments on the album. There’s an instrumental section that feels like a palate cleanser. It’ll be in the middle of the album, so it’s good timing, too.

Hatchet: Tell me about the tour. You’ve played a string of sold-out shows with the Bad Suns and The 1975.

Jacobs: It’s been insane. We’re definitely guests on this tour, but it feels good to know that we’re carving out a little space in fans’ hearts night by night. They come and they show up and they’re really excited to see – in most cases – the one band that they know. And they all show up early, which is amazing. It’s fun to play in front of people who are open and excited to hear new music.

Coplen: The audiences of these shows have been fantastic. I mean, it skews toward a younger age but they’re intelligent and discerning. They hear music all the time. Some people have the impression that because they’re younger they’re into anything – but that’s not the case. There’s a lot of competition, there’s a lot of bands vying for their attention. And in some ways that’s a refreshing challenge to know that you’re going to go on stage first. You can be fighting an uphill battle and you have to go play your ass off and work hard and [show] that these are songs you care about.

Hatchet: When you’re not on tour, how often are you playing?

Jacobs: Never (laughs). We practice a lot in rehearsals and write a lot, but we almost never do one-off shows. We had a new song we had that we were going to throw into the set, before South by Southwest, actually, and we practiced for like a week or two before that, and then we practiced for another week or two before this tour. We want it to be perfect.

Writing is how we spend most of our down time. We don’t jam. We jam more during sound checks, and that’s because the other two bands we’ve been playing with jam a lot during sound check, too. But to me, it’s useless. I don’t know, songs are really important to me. I don’t think I could ever write something important while I’m jamming. I don’t know. That might be really rude to someone who writes while jamming. ‘You can’t record while you’re jamming, Led Zeppelin.’

Hatchet: What’s your craziest, weirdest or most memorable moment on tour?

Suwito: A trailer fell off. Right by the border. We were in Canada coming into the U.S. and just hit a speed bump and heard this crash behind us. Was that the most memorable moment of this tour, really? (laughs). We’re pretty meticulous so crazy things don’t usually happen to us. I guess going to the fan trailer and having kids lined up for pictures and stuff is crazy.

Coplen: It’s been wild. Like playing at Terminal 5 was amazing. I don’t get rattled playing shows. I’m more comfortable there than at most places, and T5 made me nervous. That never happens. Hopefully someday we’ll come back and headline.

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