When we connected with lead singer, Landon Jacobs, of Sir Sly, he said he felt a little out of practice with phone interviews. Reasonably so, since the band has been doing more writing and recording over the last few months in preparation for their sophomore album, rather than talking to reporters. Their successful brooding indie electronic debut full-length album, You Haunt Me, was released in September of 2014, which was then followed by countless tour dates, and millions of track plays online. The ensemble, consisting of lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Landon Jacobs; songwriter, drummer, and instrumentalist Hayden Coplen; and keyboardist and producer Jason Suwito, got the call to play their hometown local venue The Wayfarer in Costa Mesa, and jumped at the opportunity to test out some of their upcoming compositions. Before heading into the studio for the afternoon, Jacobs took a moment to update the Weekly about their writing progress thus far, their decision to book a one-off show, and why this performance may actually be one-of-a-kind.
OC Weekly (Kim Conlan): You’re in the middle of finishing your second album. What made you want to take a brief break and book a show at The Wayfarer in Costa Mesa?
Landon Jacobs: I think it felt like it was time for us to practice some of the songs that we’ve been putting together for recording. I think when you play a song live, you get a better grasp of the core of it—the things that feel right and don’t feel right. There are things you can’t really learn about a song unless you have actually played it live, so it seemed like a good time as any to book something.
Do you prefer playing live, or being in the studio recording?
I maybe have a slight preference for recording music—writing and recording—but if I could never play live shows again, I’d be bummed. I’d still probably record music.
What has your mentality been when composing this second full-length album?
I feel like we’re proud of the first record we made, but we want to be able to make something that would feel like it was evolving. We wrote the bulk of that record when I was about 22, and I’m 25 now. A lot of stuff has happened between then and now in my life. Early on I kind of latched onto this idea of writing about things that I’m afraid of, but recently it’s evolved a bit more into an open exploration of fear, but also of finding contentedness. It’s still a little bit darker, but it’s also a little bit more hopeful. I think people may be surprised by the energy of the record.
Do you feel like it almost developed on its own, or have you tried to thoughtfully instill that essence yourselves?
Over the past couple of years, I got really into Beck and was listening to a lot of LCD Soundsystem. These bands have this strong connection to dance music, but it never feels like they’re doing some kind of EDM thing, more natural and danceable. I feel like that came out in the writing for us. We didn’t need to force anything, it’s just the more that you write songs, or the more you’re listening to music, the more that’s going to influence the direction that things go in.
What kinds of themes are arising for this album?
The last record, my mom had just been diagnosed with cancer—like right when we got signed. So most of that record is actually about dealing with that kind of familial stuff and breaking down. My mom has still been battling, so there’s still a bunch of that I’m sifting through and trying to be honest about, but also there’s some exploration of other things like experiences from touring, about different cities and moments that really stuck out in my mind. It’s a little bit less focused on one event or situation like that last record and reflects the past three years.
Let’s talk about recording, you guys do everything in your studio, or are you branching out and working elsewhere at all?
We started out with the idea of making the record ourselves, and at some point we hit a wall. I don’t think any of us really understood where it was coming from, and so we took a break during the holidays and when we came back, we thought maybe we would find somebody to help us finish a few. We spent some time in another studio and decided that it didn’t work as well as we thought it might, which is ok. We didn’t have any monumental expectations for what was supposed to happen, so it wasn’t disappointing to realize that we wanted to come back and continue making the record on our own.
Are you bringing in any other producers or engineers, or is Jason Suwito going to be overseeing that again?
Jason is doing the bulk of the production. Hayden, our drummer, has been learning how to program some of his own drum stuff to work into that kind of world. This album, I wrote one song with a friend and then brought it to the guys, and then we’ve had some help from the two guys who play live with us who have been working on stuff here and there. So there’s a little bit of help, mostly from some friends, and not as much from like other professionals—I mean they are professionals, but they’re friends first and foremost.
Keeping it natural and organic in the process?
Yeah, we’re lucky. I mean, I don’t know too many other bands’ experiences working on major labels, but you hear nightmare stories, and it’s really been nothing but positive for us. We’ve always had a really supportive label whose let us do whatever we want to, which has been great.
Well it sounds like you’re in the thick of writing and getting everything together, but are you looking to put a tour together?
There’s been talk of doing stuff on the horizon, but it’s going to take us at least another few more months to construct this record and to make it the way we want it to be. Then hopefully everybody will be hearing more from us in the summer.
For the Wayfarer show, I assume we’ll hear some of the back catalog, but will we hear some of the new tracks?
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I think we’re going to try to play at least five new songs. It’s confusing because I’ve never had a situation with “Album One” and “Album Two.” There was always, we'll we have this many songs to play, so we’ll play almost every song we have. Now we have a situation where we can be like, what songs do we want to play? And the odd thing for us is it’s hard for us to play songs live that aren’t entirely finished because of the technical parts of putting together our show.
So the new songs you’re going to play at Wayfarer might not ever really be heard in the same way?
This show will be maybe one-of-a-kind in that sense. I don’t know how much you know about the technical aspects of music, but a lot of times we run everything through MIDI, so we’re doing samples. This show we might actually use a bit more of the synths and actual instruments that we use in the studio, because the venue is so close and it’s a one-off show. So in that sense, it will be a little bit more of a unique show experience than normal.
Sir Sly perform with Sun Drug and Roah Summit at The Wayfarer on Sunday Mar. 6. 8 p.m., $10. For full details click here.