Sir Sly Talks Next Album, Their Weirdest Gig & the Real Meaning Behind 'Astronaut'
These days, Sir Sly can seemingly crank out summery bops with their eyes closed, but it wasn't always that way. “We needed] to go away and start finding ourselves a little bit as a band,” singer/guitarist Landon Jacobs tells Billboard. The indie rock band — which also features keyboardist Jason Suwito and drummer Hayden Coplen — did just that, and released their excellent second album, Don't You Worry, Honey, in June 2017. Now, their hypnotic single “&Run” is currently No. 5 on the Alternative Songs chart.
Billboard caught up with them just moments after they played an energetic afternoon set at The Governors Ball Music Festival on Friday (June 1) to talk about their forthcoming third record, the surprising story behind their single “Astronaut” and more.
Congratulations on making your Governors Ball debut!
Landon Jacobs: Doing these festivals is kind a dream come true. These are all the festivals you grew up dreaming to play or grew up thinking about for years. Looking at all these posters bands I know — it’s very gratifying.
On stage, you mentioned you were supposed to play Gov Ball five years ago. What did you mean by that?
Landon: Somebody on our management team was like, “Hey, you guys are coming out the gate really strong, it looks like you guys could be playing festivals this year.” And then it took like five years later for us to play festivals. That’s how it goes. I’m glad we didn’t, we weren’t ready.
I think that was a lesson that we needed to learn over the past three years before releasing this last record Don't You Worry, Honey]. We really did need to go away and start finding ourselves a little bit as a band and as a team three people who play music and record records together. The first album You Haunt Me] had lessons in songwriting and crafting an entire album together, then the next album was more a lesson how to spend time making your album. Where to spend time, and how much time actually needs to go into it in order to make something that you’re really proud down the road.
Both albums are fantastic, but I think you really hit your stride on the sophomore.
Landon: Thank you. We’re hoping the case with the upcoming] third album is that it feels like another bit growth. The energy the record's maybe a little bit more loose, and so it'll be harder to pin down exactly what songs will make it, whereas Don't You Worry, Honey had one song for each kind story or mood in the album that told about a particular facet my life, lyrically.
This record is a little bit different. There's less a continuing narrative and more a loose kind energy to it. We've been writing on the road, writing in between shows on every day possible because everyone's feeling this really good energy. There's an energy from being on the road and touring and I think that's helping the recording process.
Some bands like to write when they're not on the road, and some write at the same time, so I'm always curious to know.
Hayden Coplen: Right now we're kind in a mood to… go. I'm sure there will be times on our, like, sixth album where it's like, no one bother me for a year, I'm gonna make a record. But right now it feels good to just go. Jason, Landon — everyone's been writing. The back the bus is like a studio. It's been awesome. We did a song in the Hilton in Savannah, Georgia, the other day.
What’s the vibe shaping up to be so far?
Landon: All us are listening to a lot more hip-hop and getting into more funk and soul music, and we want music to be danceable as well, not just technical or sounding good. We want people to be able to listen to it and get the energy that we're trying to put into the songs.
How do you put together a setlist now?
Landon: We learned how to play a lot the songs f Don't You Worry, Honey and sort out how to play them the best way. We play the most memorable ones f the first record. We've talked a little bit about maybe trying to shape shift them a little bit and bring them into a new kind realm. I didn't grow up going to a ton shows, but I remember feeling a little bit weirded out when bands would take songs f old records and really change them — it felt like a misrepresentation. Once you release an album, there's a little bit it that you're giving it over to other people to have as theirs, and you don't want to ruin that artistic space for other people as listeners and as people who have really bought in to what you're doing and really love it, so it can be precious in those kind ways.
I’m guessing you switch it up for festivals, as opposed to a headlining show.
Landon: We like to have a lot energy on stage either way, but at a festival, we play the more up-tempo stuff or stuff that really hits a lot harder. At our headlining shows, we'll do like, three, four slow songs in a row.
Hayden: Yeah, we did that the other night. The set list was totally different from today at Gov Ball], but we had three slow songs in a row and it was fun — everybody had a good time. That's a muscle you have to flex, that ability to bring it down. Landon grew up playing acoustic guitars, he's great at that. We'll occasionally do like a song with just Landon, and as a bandmate, I love watching it. I'll just sit sidestage and be like, “Aw man, this is great.”
Landon: It's like bringing it back to the cfee shop show. Hayden and I were introduced to a lot more electronic music because working with Jason, and that's kind where the band started going. But from a lyrical perspective, I like bringing even more that stuff into it, like the way that I grew up playing music, sitting behind a piano or with an acoustic guitar and writing songs by myself.
Now that Don't You Worry, Honey has had like some time to breathe, have there been any fan favorites that have come from it?
Hayden: I love “Altar” and that’s probably my favorite song to play f the record. It hits live and it's one where when you launch into that bridge, you see people bolt up, and you can kind feel that. That's always very fun.
“Astronaut” is my personal favorite.
Landon: Thank you. That's another fun one at festivals. As the album has existed for a little bit longer, “Astronaut” tends to have a better and better reaction. When we were first touring, we used to open the set with “Astronaut” and I feel like it didn't go very well. But now it’s got a little bit that sleeper hit quality.
Originally we thought that song would be like a good follow up single to “High”] and we were told, “Yeah, probably not, ‘cause you can't really say ‘acid’ on the radio.” It’s interesting, because even “High” would not have worked culturally four years ago, and now it works really well. Still, I have trouble thinking that acid is going to be culturally normal…
But you sing about it so beautifully.
The truth about that song “Astronaut”] is that I've never done acid before! It's based on a dream I had about doing acid. Dreams, a lot times, feel very short, but this felt like I had been in my dream for like four hours. I was lost in a department store and I was having out body experience in my dream, looking down at myself.
It is amazing that people will come up and be like, “I listened to this song like on my first trip… it was amazing.” And I'm happy for them as well, that's awesome, but I can't totally relate. “I’m like, full disclosure, I don't trip.”
You’ve also been playing an unreleased song, “Welcome The Pressure.”
We were like, what great timing that we've written this song, because we can go out and play it at all these festivals and put it in early in the set, get a really good level energy going. It doesn't really matter if anybody doesn't know it, because most people coming out to our festival set probably wouldn't the song we're gonna play first in the set anyway! They probably know “High” and “&Run,” but chances are you're not gonna know the song we play first in the set anyway, so might as bring some good energy. We haven’t fully recorded it quite yet. It's pretty close, though.
What's the weirdest or most unique venue you've ever played a show at?
Together]: Double Happiness.
Landon: Double Happiness was a bar in Columbus, Ohio, that I think also sold Chinese food. It was very Chinese themed, with lots paper lanterns, and the stage was surrounded by giant lamps. They were also running a band hostel out the venue, too. They were like, “If you ever come back through you guys can totally stay here,” and it's this gross, musty area. And you're like, “Yeah, we won't be staying here. Thank you so much for the hospitality.”
Hayden: We played for about five, ten people maybe. That show was a moment where it was like, our first tour, we had like just gotten signed. We thought we were pretty hot, and you like get there, and you're like, “Oh, how many presale? Is there a zero at the end that — oh, there's five?” But then you're like, do I love this, is this what I want to do, am I having fun, am I still excited to play? And the answer is kind “no” for a second…
Landon: It sticks with you. I remember that specifically being like a question I was wrestling with for like a couple weeks on the rest the tour, and eventually being like, “There are going to be a lot ups and downs and there will be some five-people situations, but now you get to do this. It will get better.”
I think everybody needs to have those kinds situations if you're going to get into music, because it weeds out the people who are doing it for stupid or selfish reasons, or the wrong kinds selfish reasons. I think like everybody does it for selfish reasons, like I do it because I love making music, and I've always needed to write music. But I think those experiences are good.
Hayden: Five tickets in Columbus in 2013, to me, was an essential ingredient making the second album, being like, “Let's show like our personality and show who we are. Just do it, because there's no guarantee.”