Amelia Meath of the two-time Grammy nominated Electronic-Dance music duo Sylvan Esso, speaks to BUST about Free Love, the concept and their latest album, the necessity of live performance in today’s times, and why Durham North Carolina is the perfect place to come home to after a round of touring.
BUST: Congrats on your second grammy nomination. Your latest album is entitled Free Love. How did you two settle on that title?
Amelia Meath: We called it Free Love for so many different reasons, mostly because we knew that it was going to perk up people’s ears and also sound a little distressing because free love is potentially a beautiful idea that was immediately co-opted and torn apart by terrifying hippies in the 70s’. But the idea of being able to actually spread joy and find the ability to dedicate your life to service and actually spread love among people.
Most of the songs themselves are about figuring out ways of being able to love in a time when it becomes easier and easier to give yourself the out of saying ‘why?’ There is so much evil and hate in the world, why would I even begin?
B: What’s your favorite track off the new album?
AM: “Make it Easy,” which is the final track. Mostly because I think it’s the most hopeful song I’ve ever written.
B: What has the pandemic shown you about creating music and your place in the industry in general?
AM: Before, it was a lot easier to-how do I put this…the silliness of my job is more exposed than it ever has been before. I love my role but there’s a lot more levity to it. Which in some ways, I’m more grateful for.
B: Does [live performance] feel essential or non-essential in today’s times?
AM: I think it is actually essential but, I think it’s not essential, in that everyone needs a way to both feel connected to other people and also to forget their body and just be a cool, soft, soul in a room full of other people. I think that is a really important thing to be able to do.
There’s also a lot of fanciness and ego- that comes with my job that at this point, I can’t really entertain.
B: You previously lived in New York City but are now based in North Carolina. Why Durham?
AM: It was a really great place to move ten years ago where it was really easy to make $250 a show, and then go back and be able to pay rent and be in that community. I was twenty minutes away from the airport, and its also full of really wonderful people. And then we just decided to stay. It’s a wonderful place and it’s really nice to be able to take a break from tour existence to be able to go there.
B: How do you contribute to the local music community there?
AM: We have a studio that we just started last year called Bed Beats, and we are using it to really directly contribute to the musical scene. It’s an accessible and nice studio that a lot of folks can go be in. Also, one of the magical things about Durham is that if you are doing anything, people are super excited about it in a way that is super refreshing. So being able to contribute and support folks here is really wonderful.
B: Tell us about the podcast you created.
AM: The podcast is called Shaking Out the Numb. We made it with my favorite podcaster Erica Heilman who produces the podcast Rumble Strip Vermont. She is my favorite interviewer and I realized we could work together to create something that was about the process of actually writing music, which is so rarely talked about and hard to ask questions about. It’s like trying to describe music with words. So, we used the medium of audio storytelling to talk about what it’s like to actually seek out and find songs in space. And because of that, it becomes kind of surreal and abstract.
B: Your style is so fashion-forward but relaxed. Can you say more about your outfits?
AM: For my stage outfits I work in conjunction with a woman named Elizabeth G. Warn and we design the outfits together. I love clothes and I love thinking about messing with gender dynamics within fashion. Something I really love right now is having multiple silhouettes at the same time. Being able to fuck with that, is fun to me.
photos: Shervin Lainez