Sylvan Esso is a super-group of sorts, or perhaps a super-duo. Amelia Meath came to the indie-pop creation from Mountain Man and her partner, Nick Sanborn, came from Megafaun. The pair released their eponymous debut last year, a creation that sounds much different from Meath’s folk-ier counterpart. It’s electronic. It’s ambient. It’s pop.
Meath spoke to Weld before the duo’s trip to Birmingham about what led her to this project and how it arose from the Triangle region of North Carolina.
Weld: Which comes first, Nick’s beats or your melodies?
Amelia Meath: You know, it’s a little mix of all of those things. Sometimes it’s beat, sometimes it’s melody, sometimes it’s little clips of both. There’s no set formula really. It’s a collaboration, so it takes different shapes all of the time.
Weld: I’m not sure that you ever intended for this project to stick, and now it has. Do you see it continuing and growing into something bigger and better?
AM: Definitely! We had intended on making it stick. For some reason, I think a lot of people decided that it was a side project. I think that’s what people assume when you have other bands. But no, this is our main gig.
Weld: With that said, is Mountain Man something that you’d like to return to at some point?
AM: Imagine Mountain Man as a sleeping bear. It might wake up. [Laughs]
Weld: So you’ve not officially called it quits, then?
AM: No way! Just a hibernation. An extended hibernation. I like to imagine us putting out a new record in, like, 10 years, when Molly [Erin Sarle]’s been living in the canyons of L.A. for a while and is covered in glass beads and Alexandra [Sauser-Monnig]’s a master weaver of blankets and I’m still doing my same old road dog dance. I’ll look like Iggy Pop by then, it’ll be great. [Laughs]
Weld: What have they been up to? Have they also been working on other projects?
AM: Oh yeah! Molly is working on a record right now in Big Sur. Alexandra is living on a big bus in North Carolina with her sweetie. They’re all making music. It’s [expletive] great music. We just need to figure out a way for them to put it out. Which really means just getting them in the studio. They like making jam a lot. And making blankets and talking about feelings. Hanging in the studio is not really where they want to go. Which is totally understandable. Why would you want to go into a weird, dark room and make tunes when you could be in the sunshine taking care of plants?
Weld: That project and this project are incredibly different. How did you find both of those styles within yourself?
AM: It’s an interesting thing that people — I totally understand why you want to ask me this question. I get it. But it seems like such a—humans in general are not one-sided. Everyone has different dimensions and different creative output. Just as people do printmaking and basket weaving. It’s like saying, “Ooh! You’re a printmaker and you decided to make baskets! Why? What happened?” You know?
Yes, I can write folk songs. And I can also write pop songs. I’ve always wanted to write pop songs. I was raised on pop music, just as I was raised on folk music.
Weld: Do you have a preference?
AM: No. They’re both different sides of the same coin. They’re both things that I made. They’re both expressions of who I am. One is Amelia and Molly and Alexandra in the room together, and the other is Amelia and Nick in the room together. They come from the same place.
Weld: You’re based in the Triangle, which is kind of known for the Americana, folk-rock thing. Do you ever feel isolated, and is it beneficial?
AM: I don’t feel isolated because everyone that I know in the Triangle is making music and being creative. How can you feel isolated when there’s so much creative energy going around?
Weld: What’s going on there that I’m unaware of?
AM: Do you know about Hiss Golden Messenger?
Weld: I do.
AM: Yeah! He’s the [expletive]. Do you know about Phil Cook?
Weld: I don’t.
AM: Phil Cook was also in Megafaun, and he has made an incredible record that’ll be coming out soon. There’s also the Mountain Goats.
Weld: Who are your top five American rock bands of all time?
AM: Are you kidding me? American rock bands? Would you say as a qualifier that it would probably be different any day that you ask me this?
AM: In that case: Foreigner, B-52’s, Creedence Clearwater — of course — Booker T., James Brown.
Sylvan Esso comes to the Workplay Soundstage on Tuesday, March 31. Flock of Dimes will open. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show will begin at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are $15, and tickets are $18 on the day of the show. For more information, visit workplay.com.