Interview: Sir Sly Return with Hope, Relief, & Positivity in New Single “Material Boy”

Sir Sly 2020 © Kevin Clark
Sir Sly dive headfirst into their freeing and feelgood new single “Material Boy,” a catchy and hopeful reckoning of spirituality and materialism that radiates effervescent energy and seductive dance grooves.
Stream: “Material Boy” – Sir Sly




I would love if people feel something akin to hope or psychological freedom when they hear it.

This year, 2020, has been one of deep sorrow, loss, pain, fear, and separation. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked a kind of global havoc we never thought possible; its effects have been destabilizing the world over, and the fact that we must isolate ourselves in order to stay safe takes a daily toll on the emotional, mental, and physical health of many. We all need more reasons to smile and more excuses to feel hopeful, and that’s where music comes into play.

An indulgence rather than an escape, Sir Sly’s new song is an uplifting outpouring of effervescent energy. It’s one more reason to smile – a buoyant exploration and embrace of our inner light where once we may have felt consumed in darkness. Freeing and feelgood, “Material Boy” is Sir Sly’s catchy and hopeful reckoning between spirituality and materialism – a song we can submit ourselves to, and come out the other side feeling refreshed, renewed, and a little more self-assured.

Material Boy - Sir Sly single art

Material Boy – Sir Sly

I love material
But everything I love so quickly falls apart
Keep it to myself and in my heart
I’m only as sick as my secrets
So baby tell me what is my weakness
I called a therapist – she sent me to a circle to sort it out
I got my foot in my mouth
My medicine stopped working for my sick soul
Under the pressure I fold
I opened up my heart and found a spiritual void
This is a spiritual world, I’m a material boy

Released September 18 via Interscope Records, “Material Boy” arrives at the tail-end of summer as the lead single off Sir Sly’s forthcoming third studio album. The song arrives just a few months after the band delivered another kind of solace in their tender and deeply emotional standalone single “All Your Love,” whose May release was described by Atwood Magazine as “a healing spark of light and love in the darkness.”

A vibrant vessel of self-discovery and acceptance, “Material Boy” is unlike anything Sir Sly have previously brought to the fore. Active now for over eight years, the Los Angeles trio of Landon Jacobs, Jason Suwito, and Hayden Coplen have made a name for themselves largely through haunting, dark pop-inflected music full of introspection and aching with depth. Their 2014 debut album You Haunt Me and 2017’s follow-up Don’t You Worry, Honey marry compelling dynamics with stirring reflections on death and loss, addiction, self-doubt, and so on: It feels almost out of necessity that much of this work was steeped in the kind of sadness that permeates even the brightest of rooms.

Sir Sly 2020

Sir Sly (from L to R): Jason Suwito, Landon Jacobs, and Hayden Coplen

While it’s no euphoric singalong, “Material Boy” is without a doubt Sir Sly’s most uplifting release yet – riding a wave of undeniable warmth that lead singer and guitarist Landon Jacobs gingerly describes as “moderately positive”: “‘Material Boy’ makes me feel good when I hear it,” he tells Atwood Magazine. “It’s not the happiest song ever – it is laced with sadness, but it is also truly open and honest in a way that is representative of the way I feel now.”

One gets the sense this is not the end of the darker-leaning Sir Sly audiences the world over have come to know and love, but rather the next generation of an open-minded band dedicated to their own self-growth and betterment. A feverish synth melody gives way to Jacobs’ intimate verse, where we spills his soul out in a confessional upheaval of sorts: “I love material, but everything I love so quickly falls apart,” he laments from the offset. “Keep it to myself and in my heart. I’m only as sick as my secrets, so baby tell me what is my weakness…” So begins this philosophical plunge into topics of faith and spirituality that has so often been top of mind for this band:

“When I lost my faith at 22, I figured it was the end of any kind of spiritual life for me,” Jacobs shares. “I now believe spirituality to simply be a process of becoming comfortable with unknowing. I wrote the lyrics to “Material Boy” about feeling free to explore spirituality outside of the bounds of my childhood faith. I stopped drinking 2 years ago, and this song is about how I’ve learned to cope with life without the familiar escape of getting drunk. It’s a song to dance to, and I hope it can give others a sense of relief the way it has for me.”

Sir Sly dive even deeper on the second verse, their words blurring the lines between poetry and diary in what feels as much like a confrontation, as it does a heartfelt embrace of one’s truth.

Deeply American
Which is to say I’m deeply ashamed
I wonder what the world would say
I’m probably sick from my secrets
Politically daft but we’re in deep shit
Can’t tell the circle that the red has got me paranoid.
Superiority keeps me annoyed
It bears repeating that I’m sick and had to quit
No longer Christian but I’m still afraid of judgement
I opened up my heart and found a spiritual void
This is a spiritual world, I’m a material boy

“After writing and recording a full album, you become hyper-focused on which three-minute section to showcase,” Sir Sly’s Hayden Coplen – who recently began his own Atwood Magazine column, DIY Radio, explains. “Occasionally though, you get lucky and land on a tidy song that still feels representative of your whole self. To me, that’s “Material Boy”. It’s natural and simple, nearly copied and pasted from Landon’s journal without judgment or second-guesses. If I only had one chance to tell someone about our band, I’d give them this song.”

Sir Sly © Eliot Lee Hazel

Sir Sly © 2017, Eliot Lee Hazel

“Material Boy” is signature Sir Sly – an overhaul of inner thought and feeling spelled out through intoxicatingly catchy and spiritually freeing music.

It’s yet another shining light in the dark from a band who knows all too well what it’s like to dwell in one’s depths. Their forthcoming third album, described by Suwito as their “most diverse body of work” yet, comes from a time of profound personal development and immense sonic exploration for the trio. “Some of the songs were written before I got sober and are steeped in despair, but “Material Boy” and many others were written after I got sober, and it’s refreshing to see the disparity between those two places,” Jacobs says. The subject matter alone holds tremendous promise, but how exactly the band choose to channel their demons, dreams, confessions, and more has yet to be seen.

I filled up my pockets
Checked all the boxes
I couldn’t escape- still find myself obnoxious
Prideful and godless
Selfish and thoughtless
Capital dream for material boy then I went and I lost it
I went and I lost it all

For now, Sir Sly are focused on the present, with “Material Boy” heralding an exciting and welcome return.

“I would love if people feel something akin to hope or psychological freedom when they hear it,” Jacobs says of their new song. “It takes a lot to get sober, and I wanted to distill some of the experiences I’ve had in a way that was helpful to me… I don’t need to escape from anything by drinking or getting high anymore.”

At a time so full of hardship and despair, Sir Sly have given us a fresh, feelgood breath of rejuvenating musical light.

“Material Boy” is four minutes of cathartic release we will surely come to cherish in the ensuing months, if only for the unburdening it provides to a weary soul. Directed by Kevin Clark, the cinematic “Material Boy” music video brings the song’s turmoil to the surface with stunning, enticing visual imagery – elevating an already arresting listen to new heights.

Catch up with the trio in our interview below, and listen to “Material Boy” out now on Interscope Records!

Checked all the boxes
I couldn’t escape- still find myself obnoxious
Prideful and godless
Selfish and thoughtless
Capital dream for material boy then I went and I lost it
I went and I lost it all

— —

:: stream/purchase Sir Sly here ::
Stream: “Material Boy” – Sir Sly



A CONVERSATION WITH SIR SLY

Material Boy - Sir Sly single art

Atwood Magazine: Hey guys! I have to say, this might be Sir Sly’s most upbeat song yet - and it couldn’t come at a better time, I might add. Was writing uptempo music any bit challenging for you? How did this song come about?

Landon Jacobs: I wouldn’t say that writing an uptempo song is any more challenging than writing something slower, but writing from a positive perspective (even if only moderately positive) is certainly a shift for me and presents its own unique challenges. I got sober nearly 2 years ago so there have been a lot of positive changes in my life. It felt appropriate to write specifically about those changes even when it felt challenging or unnatural at times. “Material Boy” is ultimately a song about hope set to an uplifting dance track that Jason presented to us.  

Jason Suwito: Instrumentally, no. It happened very quickly. Once I had the synth line, it triggered a quick chain reaction where every instrument and part informed the next pretty effortlessly. I remember almost not showing the guys the track because at the time it felt like too big of a departure from Don’t You Worry, Honey. I assumed that the track would be used for something else. To my surprise, as I was shuffling through some instrumentals, Landon perked up and wanted to work on the track. That was a very exciting moment as it felt like we were venturing into a bit of uncharted territory for Sir Sly.

Can you describe this song in 3 words?

Landon Jacobs: Control is illusory.

This song feels like a long time in the making. Landon, you’ve said “Material Boy” is about “feeling free to explore spirituality outside of the bounds“ of your childhood faith. Can you talk more about your journey and what it took to get to where you are today?

Landon Jacobs: My faith felt like it got taken from me when my lived experience was at odds with my internal beliefs. There was a lot of cognitive dissonance and mental gymnastics there at the end. I threw the baby out with the bathwater, which seemed logical at the time, but looking back I was dealing with a lot of fear and uncertainty. When I stopped drinking and smoking every day, a lot of those big feelings began to surface and I had a lot of helpful people in my life pointing me to spiritual principles. I began meditating, reciting simple prayers without judgement of where they came from, actively practicing letting go of control, and looking for ways to be of service to others. Those four things are really the basis of my “spiritual life.”

In many ways, I feel like this song is very much embedded in self-discovery and a sort of self-reckoning. A lot of Sir Sly’s lyrics have been deeply reflective in this way, but I have to ask... Does it get any easier to spill your guts on the page? How does this song’s creative experience compare to, say, that of your first album and moments like “You Haunt Me” or the “Bloodlines” songs?

Landon Jacobs: For a long time, I mistook cynicism for self-awareness. I mistook crass “realism” for observation. I was aiming in the right place, but I was off in ways that kept me feeling safe. The first album was about coming of age, and reckoning with past trauma, but it was one sided in the sense that I didn’t really reflect on how negatively I was holding on to things. There is a lot of self pity in the first album. The second album carries less self pity, more open grief, but there is still the mask of reveling in escape. I love this third album lyrically, because it feels the most open, honest, and self-aware lyrically, but I also managed to write from an optimistic standpoint for the first time. Some of the songs were written before I got sober and are steeped in despair, but “Material Boy” and many others were written after I got sober, and it’s refreshing to see the disparity between those two places.

Sir Sly 2020 © Kevin Clark

Sir Sly 2020 © Kevin Clark

Jason, this synth opener is infectious. How does this song’s music distinguish itself from Sir Sly’s repertoire, for you?
 

Jason Suwito: Thank You. I would have to agree with you that “Material Boy” is Sir Sly’s most upbeat song yet. I’ve always been a huge fan of dance music and I think this is the first time that Sir Sly has committed fully committed to that vibe.  I would compare the sonic shift from Don’t You Worry, Honey to “Material Boy” to the shift from “You Haunt Me” to the release of “High”. I think “Material Boy” was an ah-ha! moment that gave us the creative freedom to widen our sonic spectrum. As a result of that, I think that LP3 is our most diverse body of work.

I’m reminded, a little bit, of bands like U2, The 1975, and even Lorde from the guitar work and beats here. Did any specific artists or influences bleed into this new music, in your opinion?

Jason Suwito: Definitely U2. Also Prince. The beat and overall vibe is inspired by 80s electronica like Yaz and New Order. And of course.. Robyn.

Landon Jacobs: I listened to a lot of ’80s hits growing up, because those were the songs from my mom’s teenage years. Upstairs at Eric’s was one of my mom’s favorite albums. So similar to Jason’s answer, ’80s dance music plays a big part in a song like “Material Boy.” The rest of the album is a bit of an amalgamation of all our musical influences, from Modest Mouse to Uzi and everything in between.

Hayden, your rhythms and beats are intense here. How did you approach this song, and how do you feel it fits into the band’s catalog?

Hayden Coplen: Some songs end with us toiling for days over drums. Switching out programming, trying live drums, trying a layer or both, etc. This beat actually came close to fully formed from Jason — I just added layers of live drums, and we fiddled with the tom fills for a while, running them through an effects rack.

Jason kept emphasizing the value of crisp, bright drums on the track. He knows I naturally gravitate towards kinda crunchy, dry, dusty sounds, but those deltas are usually where we find the best parts of our band. I came to really appreciate Jason’s push for keeping the drums slappy, and together we added the live layer and effected fills to give it just the right texture.

This song is a wonderful progression for us. I’m happy that 8 years into our career, we are making some of our most natural and simple music (at times… you haven’t heard the rest of the album yet, haha). It feels like a version of maturity, in that way.

No longer Christian, but I’m still afraid of judgment.” What a line; can we dive into it?

Landon Jacobs: I listened to a podcast with David Bazan once where he talked about still having fear about hell after leaving Christianity. That has always stuck with me. I grew up with scrupulosity ruling my thought life, so it didn’t simply slip away when I ceased believing in Christian doctrine. So concretely there is still that fear that says, “What if I’m really wrong and I end up in hell for this.” More abstractly, the fear of judgement exists in interpersonal relationships and as an artist in relation to those listening to our music. The list could really go on, but those two stand out in my mind.

Deeply American
Which is to say I’m deeply ashamed
I wonder what the world would say
I’m probably sick from my secrets
Politically daft but we’re in deep shit
Can’t tell the circle that the red has got me paranoid.
Superiority keeps me annoyed
It bears repeating that I’m sick and had to quit
No longer Christian but I’m still afraid of judgement
I opened up my heart and found a spiritual void
This is a spiritual world, I’m a material boy

Ultimately, this is to me a feelgood indulgence - an excuse to dance, to sink in or slip out, whatever our preference. What do you hope listeners feel when they hear this song?

Landon Jacobs: I would love if people feel something akin to hope or psychological freedom when they hear it. It takes a lot to get sober, and I wanted to distill some of the experiences I’ve had in a way that was helpful to me. I don’t really think about anyone else when I’m writing music. It’s a very selfish pursuit for me in that way. Ultimately, I hope that makes our music more relatable.

Okay, last question for now: What most excites you about your new music? What about it do you personally find inspiring?

Landon Jacobs: The opening line of one song on the album goes, “I wanna go to sleep and not wake up.” I wrote that song when I was drinking myself to sleep every night. Then midway through the album I realized I was slowly killing myself, and wishing to die is no way to live. The shift in the lyrics from that point on is something I’ll always be able to proudly look back at. “Material Boy” makes me feel good when I hear it. It’s not the happiest song ever – it is laced with sadness, but it is also truly open and honest in a way that is representative of the way I feel now. That’s inspiring to me. I live a life beyond my wildest dreams, and I don’t need to escape from anything by drinking or getting high anymore.

I live a life beyond my wildest dreams, and I don’t need to escape from anything by drinking or getting high anymore.

— —

:: stream/purchase Sir Sly here ::
Stream: “Material Boy” – Sir Sly



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Material Boy - Sir Sly single art

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Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com