When Sir Sly dropped its first single, "Ghost," back in August 2012, everyone in charge of the Internet started freaking out. Very little information was available then about the Los Angeles synth-pop act — no one was sure how many people were involved or who was behind the addictive, brooding tracks on the band's SoundCloud page. (Some conspiracy theorists briefly believed that it was a Foster the People offshoot.)
When the identities of Landon Jacobs, Jason Suwito and Hayden Coplen were revealed, along with the band's debut EP, you could hear the underground community heave a grateful sigh. Sir Sly really was something fresh.
Ahead of Sir Sly's Thursday show at the Riot Room, we dialed up lead singer Jacobs at his parents' California home.
The Pitch: You've gotten a lot of attention on the Internet based on just a few tracks. How does that make you feel?
Jacobs: I think as a kid — growing up, making music and wanting to always make music — that's kind of what you hope will happen, but you get used to it not happening that way. So when it does, it's definitely validating.
We really like writing songs, and we're really thankful for the people that are getting ahold of it. But all the Internet-sensation stuff, that's all thanks to people who are dedicated to finding new music, because I know that I wouldn't have found us. There are so many bands that come up that get overlooked. I think it's a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work.
No one knew who Sir Sly was for so long. Why so mysterious?
We think that most of the things about us are boring, besides the music. [Laughs.] The way I grew up, listening to music was just listening to music. I didn't really read a lot of interviews or go through a whole lot of pictures, you know? It was just kind of about the music, and that's what's important to us. I don't think we really tried to conceal who we were. ... It took us longer to get around to taking pictures and stuff because we wanted to make sure that it was done correctly at that point. At first, it was really just because we wanted to put out music.
The EP comes across as something of a breakup album. What were you writing about specifically?
"Ghost" was really just about death and an obsession with death, and what happens to the people that we lose and wondering what the communication is between someone who was around and now are not. "Ghost" sounds like a breakup song to a lot of people, but I don't think I ever thought that. It makes sense. A lot of the songs are about specific moments of communication or questions that I have about things that are going on in my life, so it makes sense that people would reinterpret it.
At the end of "Gold," you repeat the lyric I hope you find your dream. At first, I interpreted it as anguish over some lost relationship, but then I started wondering if it was some kind of internal monologue.
You kind of hit the nail on the head there. Really, that song ... it's funny because we wrote that song, and I was over at dinner at Hayden's apartment, and he was like, "Oh, you have to hear this new artist that's coming out. You have to hear this song. It's called 'Royals' by this girl named Lorde." And I heard it and went, "Hey, lyrically, that's the same thing that we're doing in 'Gold,'" and so it's kind of a funny coincidence.
Obviously, that song is the most massively famous song of 2013, but it has some of those same internal-monologue questions that we ask in our music. Like: "What is success? What do I want out of life? out of music?" All those kinds of things. "How do we define success?" And then, "What is my dream?" It's a little bit sarcastic, that line specifically. The rest of the song is kind of a sincere search into the things around that theme.
Are you closer to any answers?
No, you know, I don't know if I ever will be. We grew up with really easy access to media and seeing how money destroys people sometimes, and fame and selfishness and all those kinds of things. I think feeling like I have an answer to any of those questions would probably be a hindrance to personal growth in the long run. I just keep on asking the questions — how I think I'm doing with all the stuff that's happening. And hopefully, as we get bigger and as things snowball and we do get more popular, I can keep that perspective. I think that's the healthy thing to do.
What if things snowball too much for Sir Sly?
I think I'm more afraid that things won't snowball than that I'll lose my grasp on anything. [Laughs.]