CIW Q&A: Sir Sly’s Landon Jacobs

Released this month, Sir Sly’s debut album You Haunt Me puts the LA–based band’s signature sound—winkingly referred to by members Landon Jacobs, Jason Suwito and Hayden Coplen as “sly-fi”—on full display. A breakout year for the trio, the band toured earlier in 2014 with The 1975 (“the best thing that’s ever happened to us”, according to Jacobs), and are currently co-headlining a multi-city tour with Wolf Gang. The band’s biggest hit to date, “Gold”, was picked up for a Cadillac commercial, a move that has gained the band a lot of exposure but is, as Jacobs admits, “ironic” for a song whose theme is commercialization. You can catch Sir Sly yourself in Chicago September 19 at Subterranean.

LA-based Sir Sly (from left: Hayden Coplen, Landon Jacobs and Jason Suwito) will bring “sly-fi” to Chicago September 19 at the Subterranean.
We talked to frontman and vocalist Landon Jacobs about Sir Sly’s breakout success, their start at their local church and where they see themselves going next.
Let’s start at the beginning. What’s Sir Sly’s origin story?
I grew up playing music at church, and that’s how I met Hayden—he played drums at the church. I sang and played the guitar. We played music together outside of church as well. That’s how I met Jason was recording at his studio. Jason and I started Sir Sly together when Hayden was doing finals at USC one week.
What was that transition like—going from playing church gigs to forming a band?  Was it seamless?
It definitely took a long time. I’ve been writing songs since I was 14. I started out just me and an acoustic guitar playing coffee shops and stuff, writing stuff on piano, recording tons of stuff on tape recorders, filling up journals full of lyrics.
It took years to kind of figure out that I wanted to push the boundaries creatively a little bit more and record electronic stuff. That was one of the most important parts of meeting Jason and writing with him—the ability to do that so quickly. Going from playing a church to what we’re doing now, I think it was a period of really intense questioning in my life. So, this whole record is vaguely about that transition and the relationships surrounding it and all the experiences that have happened in the past two years.
What are the experiences you delve into in your album?
It deals a little bit with changing beliefs and dealing with death of family members and relationships, like growing up with family members with addiction. [It’s] sorting through the mess of life.
Given that you started songwriting at 14, is that what writing music always was for you—a way to “sort through the mess of life”?
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve never been a big journaler, writing about day-to-day events or memories. For me, it’s always been about songwriting and sorting through the emotional aspects of the situations that I’m in.
What do you envision for Sir Sly in the future?
There’s places I want to play, and there’s places I want to record. I’d love to play a show on every continent by the time I die.
Even Antarctica?
No, not Antarctica. Unless the scientists down there are really into Sir Sly, I don’t see that as really being a distinct possibility.
With your new album, you may end up with fans in Antarctica!
Who knows? Why not? Why not go and film a music video there or something?
Q&As are edited for clarity and length.

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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