There’s a consistent undercurrent of optimism to Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, the duo better known as Sylvan Esso. Speaking over the phone with Consequence from their backyard in Durham, North Carolina while sipping morning coffee, the word they specifically use when asked how they’re doing is “glorious.”
The duo, known for their idiosyncratic song construction and energetic live performances, are nominated once again at this year’s Grammy Awards (Sunday, April 3rd). They’re competing in the same category for which they were nominated for the first time in 2017 — Best Dance/Electronic Album — and, once again, they’re the only female-fronted act in the bunch.
Sanborn explains that the first time they were nominated, it felt like a culmination of events on a very, very long road; a bit of the recognition they’d been working towards since deciding to pursue their idea of a pop band. This time, though, the nomination really did come as a genuine surprise. “It was like ten times what the first one was,” he says.
The kaleidoscope of an album that is Free Love was released in September 2020, still in the thick of the first waves of the pandemic. Meath and Sanborn’s partnership feels like it’s reached a zenith on the record, and it’s lovely to reflect on their origins as two people who founded a group on a very simple premise: you make the beats, I’ll write and sing the songs.
Free Love shows the two artists in a steady, symbiotic space. “I think it’s the best thing we’ve ever made,” Meath notes. “It’s a pop record about death and joy and dying and rebirth, all at the same time.”
With the genuine surprise of a second Grammy nomination — Sanborn recalls that they didn’t even know it was nominations day upon waking — comes the question of how it feels upon a second go-around. “So much about being nominated this time is that we put out Free Love in the middle of the pandemic, when there were a lot of other things to pay attention to,” Meath explains. “So to be nominated by our peers, two years after the record came out, made me feel honored and recognized in a way I wasn’t expecting.”
No matter what happens on Sunday, the act has plenty to look forward to in the coming months. They’ll be fulfilling a years-long dream of playing a string of hometown shows in Durham, practically in their own backyard, most of which have already sold out. They’ll be hitting the road for a full tour, too, making a stop at the Life Is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas.
They also recently launched a record label of their own, Psychic Hotline, which offers them a new creative outlet to pour into. “It’s like we made this framework, and the whole point of the framework is reminding people of how wonderful and inspiring everything can be,” Sanborn says of the new endeavor.
Anyone who’s ever had the joy of seeing Sylvan Esso onstage knows how entrancing of a show they put on, and that the joy bubbling under the surface in conversation isn’t a front. Watching Meath shimmy and slide across the stage is the embodiment of everything Free Love and Sylvan Esso are all about.
Catch Sylvan Esso on tour.