Foto-© Jesse Morrow
Trauerarbeit kann unschön, schmerzhaft und düster sein. Ein brutaler Prozess, der für diejenigen, die den Verlust eines geliebten Menschen betrauern nur selten einfach ist. Doch Brian Fennell, der Musiker, Songschreiber, Produzent und Multiinstrumentalist hinter dem Projekt SYML, gab sich der Trauer komplett hin – und zog Trost daraus sich kreativ in ihr auszuleben! Das Ergebnis ist die EP Dim, die am 16. April erschienen ist. Da aktuell weiterhin nicht wirklich an Touren zu denken ist, spielt der Musiker mit Band-Besetzung ein Live-Stream-Konzert am kommenden Sonntag, aufgenommen in der ST. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle! Wir haben mit Fennell per Mail ein Interview geführt und verlosen 3 Streaming-Tickets für die Show am Sonntag! Ihr wollt dabei sein? Dann schickt uns bis morgen Mittag (23.04.21), 12 Uhr, eine Mail mit dem Betreff „SYML Stream“ an firstname.lastname@example.org und mit etwas Glück habt ihr morgen Nachmittag schon frohe Gewinnkunde von uns in eurem digitalen Postfach!
Brian, first of all: how are you and how did you experience this worldwide pandemic?
I’ve been ok. I feel like most of us have been in a stasis since the pandemic began. There has certainly been a bit of light and beauty throughout this time, but I am anxious to get back out into the world with other humans. I feel lucky to have spent a lot of time with my family over the past few months, especially after touring for a lot of the past three years. I also feel fortunate to be able to write and record music at home, which has kept me occupied. We live in Seattle, so the sun is just now starting to show itself, which is a breath of relief.
You were supporting Dermot Kennedy when the pandemic hit in – at which point did you realize that the pandemic will change everyone’s plans and which problems did the pandemic have for you at that time?
It was pretty crazy. We were getting pretty nervous towards the end because nothing was really changing at shows. People were still cramming in and singing along, but you could tell there was anxiety in the air. The last show ended up being Detroit, which was a beautiful show. But no one knew it would be the last time we would all experience live music for a long time. I feel thankful to not have been more impacted by the pandemic than that. My family and friends have been able to stay healthy during this time.
You’ve just released a new SYML ep – could you tell us a bit how it came into existence, which influences you had and what the songs are about?
My 2021 unfortunately began with the death of my father. He lived with cancer for about 2 years and I wrote and recorded this EP during this time. It was both cathartic and surreal to work on this EP while my dad was dying. Interestingly, I didn’t play these songs for him before he passed. He was one of my biggest fans, of course, but I didn’t feel the need to share because I didn’t want to project my perspective onto what was already an overwhelming season of life for him. Thankfully, everything I say in these songs, I had already said to him in some way or another. So I feel peace in that. I think many of us have felt isolated during this time, literally and metaphorically. I hope this music sits with people wherever they are and brings a bit of comfort. Loss is always happening, but it has felt highlighted recently. My loss is certainly not your loss, but we can grieve together, even if we are apart.
Production-wise it seems like a lot has happened and you are turning even more into pop music and trying a lot out in this format – how did the sound evolve and did you choose the EP format for this to experiment a bit more, does this format give you more options sound wise and if so why?
With every new project, I try to stretch my musical muscles in different ways. I am huge fan of most pop music, so it’s probably a natural occurrence to have it blend into my production style. I was also able to collaborate with some amazing musicians like James McAllister (The National, Taylor Swift) and Paul Meaney (Twenty-one Pilots, Mutemath) who each brought a special flavor to the project. I think “pop” is a very wide spectrum when it comes to sound. Actually, I think pop refers more to the song than the production. So in that case, I am always trying to write pop songs that feel accessible to a large group of people.
We read that the title Dim has a special meaning to you – could you describe what is the idea behind it?
The day my first SYML album released (about two years ago), my father was diagnosed with cancer. In those two years, he fought it, but he also knew it would eventually kill him. Thankfully, he spent much of the first year traveling with friends, and when the pandemic hit, he was able to send that time with us. The EP is named after one of the songs, also called Dim. For some reason, the word dim perfectly describes mourning, in my opinion. When your surroundings are dim, you can still fully see everything, but it’s obscured. The things we know absolutely and the things we rely on start to feel uncertain. We start to feel our sadness sink in as if it’s here to stay. There is also a warmth, or coziness even, when we experience dim. It can be both foreign and familiar, and I think that is a great description for what it is too mourn the loss of someone.
True is one of our favorite songs of the EP – could you tell us a bit about the story behind it, what it is about and how the song evolved?
True was inspired by a close friend who was going through a divorce. The song is from the perspective of an internal battle between thinking we are different or immune from experiencing hard things, like divorce, and the other side being frightened that it might happen to us any given day. It’s sort of a love song, but with a darkness under the surface. It’s foolishly confident. I love the production of it, especially the bridge. It feels like being drunk and falling into a warm pool of champagne. Like it’s a disgustingly glamorous feeling.
Throughout the pandemic did you feel more or less creative to work on songs, how did you keep up during that time and what made you stay positive?
Like many of us, this time has felt both incredibly slow AND fast. Mostly, it has been an inspirational time since I’ve been able to be around those who I love most, with plenty of time to write and record music. Of course, being around my family keeps me positive. We love being outside since we live in a such a beautiful place.
As you can’t really tour you are playing a streaming event, in band set-up, from Seattle’s St. Mark’s Cathedral – could you tell us a bit what we can expect, why you choose to play the streaming show and why you choose this location?
I am very excited for the St. Mark’s event. The space is absolutely beautiful and the church has about an 8 second natural reverb delay. It’s insane! I will be joined by a few good friends who will help bring the songs to life in such a special place. When I was younger I used to go to this cathedral on Sunday nights and listen to monks sing while lying on the floor. The church sits in a very hip part of Seattle, and before the pandemic they used to open their doors to everyone who wanted to come hear the music. It’s a very holy place without the usual heaviness that comes with churches.
What are your next plans?
I just started recording my second full length album, which is exciting. I love this group of songs. I am also looking forward to getting back out into the world, not just for playing shows. I miss the world! It feels like a safe time is coming, but until then, I will be here with my family working on music.