Sylvan Esso brings together singer/songwriter Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn. Considered “electropop,” Pacific Northwest fans will recognize their sound as indie electronic. Their latest project, WITH, leans into their alternative side. In doing so, Sylvan Esso redefines what it means to put on a live electronic music performance.
Who are Sylvan Esso?
Though based in Duhram, North Carolina, Sylvan Esso has hit a series of off-beat venues in the PNW over the past few years. Their concert history includes Marymore Park in Redmond, Washington, McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon, The Neptune in Seattle, and Laneway Festival in Perth, Washington.
Amelia and Nick reached a wide fan base after performing mixed-genre festivals such as Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Attracting a niche following at the intersection of alternative and electronic music, it comes as no surprise that Seattle ranks as the band’s third-biggest fan base on Spotify.
The popular podcast project, Song Exploder, featured Sylvan Esso back in 2015. In the podcast, the duo explained the creative process behind the first song they ever wrote together: Coffee.
Amelia chose an old beat Nick had on his computer to inspire her lyrics. Then, Nick experiments with synths to add layers. Finally, Nick modulates the music, from a minor to a major key, giving the song an emotional arc.
Over time, Sylvan Esso’s songs grew more complex. Their 2017 album married Amelia’s strong lyrical voice with Nick’s synthy drum beats. Standout tracks Die Young and Radio quickly gained popularity.
What makes their newest project, WITH, so special?
Singing electronic music live presents a challenge in itself, as we’ve seen with acts like Marian Hill and Bishop Briggs. With just a singer and a DJ, the stage often feels hollow. Go big on effects and you lose the charisma of the singer. Rely heavily on the singer’s charisma, and the DJ sits awkwardly in the background.
Amelia and Nick decided to completely reinvent live electronic music performance, but reverse engineering the process. Starting with polished electronic tracks, Sylvan Esso recruited a full band to accompany their tour.
The process of building out the live performance required high levels of technical skill and creativity from everyone involved. What was originally written for a computer had to be translated back to human operated instruments, creating some obvious challenges.
The end result? A triumphant tour, with a climax performance in their home town, Durham, North Carolina, a live album, and a mini doc.
Get the whole story and stream WITH today.
You can watch Sylvan Esso’s concert film on YouTube. In the mini doc, Amelia and Nick explain how WITH came together. Intercut with footage from their unforgettable performance in Duhram, the behind the scenes footage brings their story to life.
In addition to recording breathtaking footage, the duo also recorded a live album in Duhram. The album is available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube.
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