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Virtual Session: Sylvan Esso

Sylvan Esso - Live Virtual Session
Sylvan Esso - Live Virtual SessionPhoto by Elizabeth Weinberg

by Jade

August 18, 2020

Songs Performed

5:42 "Ferris Wheel"
18:23 "Coffee"
22:55 "Radio"


JADE: Hey! It's Jade here in the downtown St. Paul headquarters of The Current, and I am welcoming you to another one of our virtual sessions. And I'm super, super pleased today because we are chatting it up with Sylvan Esso. They have a new album. It's called Free Love, it's going to be out on September 25, and we are gonna have a video of them performing one of the songs off that new album plus a couple of old songs on the way as well. But...Amelia and Nick, thank you so much for joining us.

AMELIA: Thank you for having us.

JADE: This is wonderful. I was reading a bit about the new album, and you're sort of...the interplay between you two sort of behind the scenes creating this album reminded me of a night with some friends where we were having just a general conversation, and then we got into this heated debate, but it was really lovely and it kind of sharpened all of our conversational skills and we felt like we all knew what we stood for and kind of clarified our own positions. And I was wondering, for you two, if that's what it's like, this dynamic between you two. I think what I read is that it's like a fun argument, putting together the album. Is that kind of what was going on behind the scenes?

AMELIA: Absolutely. Fighting is at the spirit of what we do.

NICK: It's absolutely crucial. If we didn't fight, we'd be a much worse band.

AMELIA: Actually, there was a period of time when we weren't fighting while making this record, and we realized that we, like, had to start fighting in order for it to get good.

NICK: Yeah. We were being way too nice about everything, and it wasn't going anywhere.


NICK: Yeah. It''s...I think there's a lot of parts of our partnership that are just based on...I think there's something about, the dinner party you just described where I think, uh, having something that you think be challenged forces you to, like, really examine it and either hone it and make it better or...or abandon it after realizing it wasn't the thing that you actually wanted in the first place. I think, for us, that set of aesthetic arguments, it is's just how we make our songs better than they were to begin with. You know?

AMELIA: Making choices forever.

JADE: That's really what it's about. What was the choice? What was the kickoff point for you guys for this album? Was there something you were listening to, or do you have like a set process for each album?

AMELIA: Usually it's like either we write one song and we realize, like, that is going to be one of the tentpoles of the record or we get...I think for this one we got five together and then sort of felt like we knew where it was going.

NICK: Yeah. Our records tend to be a little more kind of diary entry style. We don't make a lot of decisions beforehand about what they're going to be about. So it kind of takes a little bit of self-reflection after we have some material to figure out kind of like what zone we feel like our work is in at any given point. And, like, the older we've gotten, the more our creative partnership has grown. Kind of the more intertwined all of that stuff has become. And it kind of all feels like one long unpacking process now.

JADE: I was watching the performance that you guys will all get to watch in just a moment and one of my favorite things about you guys live is the interplay. And when you talk about that kind of growing process, has that changed? Do you feel like...'cause you guys make eye contact and it's like, oh! I guess this is happening now. And I wonder if that happened, like, right off the bat or if that was something that you did have to work your way into.

AMELIA: That happened right off the bat.

NICK: Yeah.

AMELIA: Like when we first played "Play It Right," I think we both were like, wow! It works!

NICK: Yeah.

AMELIA: It's working!

NICK: What that conversation is changes over time...


NICK: ...a lot. Um...but yeah, no, from the first time we were on stage together.


NICK: It was like that kind of, like, conversational connection was the thing that made us want to do this as much as we've now done it in the last eight years.

JADE: Yeah. If it wasn't working, I feel like you probably would have called it quits by now. But it is really lovely to watch you two interplay. So I want to kick off with the new song. But can you tell us a little bit about "Ferris Wheel"? I feel like this is a perfect time for it. It's kind of hot, it's August, so what kind of inspired the song for you guys?

AMELIA: It's a summertime, flirty, sassy song about being a little creep!

NICK: Sometimes you just gotta have a fun summertime jam. You know?

AMELIA: About being a little creep!

NICK: Yeah. About being a true creep.

AMELIA: Yeah. But in a fun and deeply consensual way.

JADE: Well, let's take a listen to this deeply consensual creepy in a lovely way song and performance. It is Sylvan Esso, off of Free Love. It is "Ferris Wheel," and again that album coming out on September 25.

AMELIA: Okay! Hey The Current! It's us, Sylvan Esso! From our studio!

NICK: It's so hot!

AMELIA: It's really hot in North Carolina. We miss you! We love you!


JADE: And that was very fun. We're going to be listening to a couple more songs from that previously recorded performance from Amelia and Nick, Sylvan Esso, the new album Free Love, it's going to be out on September 25. And this is kind of a strange time. I don't know if you know that. But things are a little bit different, how we're doing these conversations. And is there something about opening your house and your studio to fans? Is this a fun experience for you guys...or how does this experience feel for you?

AMELIA: I still feel pretty in control of our own spaces and who we know, everything...there's a certain amount of illusion that you can maintain, even through the camera. So I don't feel exposed by any means.

NICK: No, I think there's kind of a trade-off. You know, I think for us, we really value, like, the relationship that we have with people who like our band. That's why I feel like, we go on tour a lot.

AMELIA: Nine months out of the year, usually.

NICK: Yeah, we love playing shows and meeting people and doing all that. So I think for us, this, there's obviously a lot of negative aspects of that, that we can't do that right now, but it's kind of led to this whole new thing where we get to figure out new ways to kind of, like, let people in and try to find that connection elsewhere. You know? So it's kind of exciting.

JADE: Yeah. It stretches that creativity to try and capture a new way of performing. There's some songs I've seen...I haven't been able to listen to much of the new songs 'cause the new album isn't out yet, but I read that there's a lot about self-image. There's a lot about artificiality, about trying to find out who you are, figure out who you are going on in this album. And I'm wondering: from the time you recorded it to now and having more time not on the road, not nine months out of the year out on the road but now spending so much time to contemplate these lyrics, contemplate these songs, is there any theme from the album that feels like it is a particularly relevant part of an ongoing conversation?

AMELIA: Yeah. Well, our band has always been kind of about the's been a conversation about humans' impact on the environment in general. Um, which I think a pandemic most certainly has to do with. Um...right?

NICK: Yeah, definitely. I think...

AMELIA: I feel like it's totally applicable.

NICK: Yeah. I's weird. Some of the stuff almost feels like too on-the-nose now, in a way. I mean, we wrote this record that, to me, is really about kind of being increasingly anxious about the world around you and looking inward to remember when it was really easy to love other people. That's kind of the macro to me, and to me that feels...I feel all of that so much more deeply now than I did when we were writing the songs. Everything feels exponentially more intense in that regard.

AMELIA: Yeah. Even the first song, the first song we released, "What If," which is only on YouTube right now, is so much about the idea of apocalypse being the start, being a rebirth. Or the idea of, like, totally reinventing society. So it felt pretty wild to put that out...

NICK: Yeah.

AMELIA: ...into the world four weeks ago.

NICK: Yeah, with the video of you floating alone in the ocean.


NICK: Yeah. It all feels pretty present tense to us.

JADE: Yeah. There's this Nick Cave documentary where he does kind of mention that same thing, where he always gets superstitious about his music 'cause he feels like so many of his lyrics have come true, and you know, that almost makes him nervous to actually lay down the lyrics. But I think what you're saying there, those conversations, you know, getting to the root and honing the idea and having that difficult talk with a friend or with yourself to figure out who you really are and clarifying that, uh, there's no better time to be having those kind of conversations. Does that make you reflect on some of your older songs? I know you guys are going to be sharing a couple of older songs with us. Does it change or alter who you perform those songs or think about some of your older songs, given, you know, time and contemplation?

NICK: I definitely think so. We did that...we put out that "With" record, with a live band, just recently, and that whole tour kind of gave us this opportunity to, like, reexamine, like, what our old songs mean to us now as much older people, and I think if you're being honest and performing honestly, there's no way for your work to kind of...your own interpretation of your work and your own application of your work to yourself, to change as you grow and get older. I feel like that's different for me with every song that we play. But...yeah, that experience in particular kind of rejuvenated a lot of our old material for me, that in some cases we wrote, you know, eight, nine years ago?


NICK: Like, we were much different people then. You know?

AMELIA: And the world was so different.

NICK: Yeah. When I listen to "Coffee" now, I feel it...just my feelings about that are, like, much more grown-up. Like, that's a feeling that my...the way that that has applied to my life has continued to change as we've gotten older. Like, the acceptance of something that seems like a negative reality and understanding that it's just part of being a human being and growing up. I mean, that's like a lesson I'm constantly learning in different ways.

JADE: Yeah. No better time to go back and reflect on some of these songs...and we will be listening to that song, "Coffee," in just a minute. Uh, but since you guys are such a live band and...I don't know about you, but I'm missing live music know, here in Minnesota, First Avenue has been a huge part of rallying all of these independent music venues with the S.O.S. or Save Our Stages bill, there a venue that holds a special place in you guys' heart that, like, as soon as you can get back out there and have that live show experience, is there one place in particular that you can't wait to get back on the stage of?

AMELIA: Ho boy.

NICK: I mean...

AMELIA: First Ave.

NICK: First Ave is right up there. Like, we were supposed to be there a few nights in a row for their anniversary this year, and that's one of the shows I'm most sad about not being able to do. I mean, that's one of the last truly legendary stages in the country.

AMELIA: Yeah. I agree. Like that and, like, Cain's Ballroom. I would love to play Cain's again. I'd love to do Red Rocks. Red Rocks is magic. And the Greek's. Yeah. I'd like to play all those places again.

NICK: We just love being on tour! We just want to go back on tour.

AMELIA: I feel like also, like, f--k it, like, put me in the 7th St Entry. Like, please.

NICK: Yeah. The 7th St Entry is...

JADE: Let's all just sweat on each other and breathe on each other at the Entry.

AMELIA: Yeah. That's all I want.

NICK: I want to, like...nothing would make me happier right now than waiting in a four-deep line at the bar at the 7th St Entry right now. You know? When it's like, you're like, I am never going to get a beer. Like that thought would be, like, blissful to me right now.

AMELIA: Indeed.

JADE: Having a conversation with a stranger as you're waiting in line. It'll happen.

NICK: Like, ugh. Can you believe this? Like that thing?

AMELIA: Oh, my God, yeah! You'd be like, oh, everybody else around sucks. But you...

NICK: She budged, right? But we both agree on that. Like...

AMELIA: Yeah. I'd love that.

JADE: Those are the best moments! Well, uh, we'll be thinking about that in our minds. Picture that you're somewhere where you're shoulder to shoulder with somebody as we watch a couple more performances of a couple of older songs from Sylvan Esso. Starting it off with "Coffee," from the debut album that came out back in 2014, and enjoy some Sylvan Esso as we wait for the new album, Free Love, to come out September 25.


AMELIA: Thanks for having us! Here's our last song. It's called "Radio."


AMELIA: Thanks!

JADE: And that was absolutely beautiful! A song from Sylvan Esso, off of their What Now album, called "Radio." And we also listened to "Coffee," an older song from Sylvan Esso. Thank you to Amelia and Nick so much for joining us, for taking some time out of your day to bring us some joy, some conversation, and some live music. And thank you to Peter and Jesse behind the scenes for making this whole thing rock. And thank you for listening and keep an eye out for our next Current virtual session.


Hosted by Jade
Engineered by Peter Ecklund
Produced by Jesse Wiza
Web feature by Jay Gabler

Sylvan Esso - Official Site