By: Ty Velasquez
Serendipitous. One of my favorite words explains the way up-and-comers Sylvan Esso became a duo. Nick Sanborn and Amelia Meath met when he opened for her acapella band, Mountain Man, with his solo project, Made of Oak. The two became instant friends bonding over their dorky dance moves and their love for similar music. Since Amelia admired Nick’s production work, she asked him to remix a song she had recorded. The rest is kismet. The unlikely billing of an instrumental hip hop producer/psych rock bassist and acapella folk singer has turned into one of the most exciting electro acts of the year.
The first time I saw Sylvan Esso was during their whirlwind North American tour with the ever dancey and amazing tUnE-yArDs. They opened up for the band at a venue (actually a church) called the Irenic. Always the rebel I was stoked to drink copious amounts of wine in the house of the holy. I was curious about the opening band because tUnE-yArDs has such an amazing live show, it would be hard to find a compatible band. Needless to say, I was blown away.
The next time I saw the bright young artists was at the Casbah. My friend Amanda and I were all abuzz over the sold out show. We arrived to a packed house and the sounds of the opener, Dana Buoy. When the headliners arrived on the stage, the crowd dissolved into passionate roars. It was amazing to see the transformation of the band having to win over the crowd and now well-known just a few months later with their own crowd to fill up a venue. Literally, overnight success.
The band opened with my favorite song “Coffee”. I was hoping that they would close with it, but it really got the crowd going. Amelia surprised me with her so called “dorky” dance moves. She was quite nimble for someone who was on 5 inch platform sneakers. Her energy streamed out of every pore and the crowd bounced it right back. Her moves had a lovely fluidity that poured out of her body. She was like an urban ballerina. My favorite tracks to dance to were the breakout track “Play it Right” and “H.S.K.T”. The singer’s voice took on an ethereal yet haunting quality in “Wolf”. The songs I had attempted to memorize started to take on multiple dimensions as Nick looped and mixed Amelia’s voice along with xylophones, percussion, and any other instrument he desired. Nick had his own dance moves but his fingers remained glued to the keys and buttons before him.
I noticed that most of the crowd already knew all the words to all the tracks. It spoke highly of the band that they had the throng in the sweaty venue singing along to every song and especially the wails of recognition 3 seconds deep. Post show, Amelia, fresh to this newfound success, mingled with the lingering fans. She took pictures with everyone and answered all of our questions. The tiny dancer was quick to laugh and easy to talk to. It was refreshing to see her work the crowd as if she was at a regular house party. With the first album a smashing success, I can’t wait to see this project evolve. Time will tell if the duo will take their songs past the surface of bubbly, fun dance songs. But in the meantime go buy their self-titled debut and throw a wicked dance party. When she was asked, “How does it feel to be on the verge?” Amelia retorted with, “Everyday is like a whirlwind! It’s unreal…” Sounds like she’s enjoying the ride.