For Landon Jacobs, frontman of the indie rock band Sir Sly, songwriting is the most gratifying part of creating music. Jacobs, along with Hayden Coplen, Sir Sly’s drummer, and Jason Suwito, the band’s keyboardist, formed Sir Sly about two and a half years ago in Los Angeles, their home city. Opening for Kongos, the trio is currently on tour to promote their album “You Haunt Me,” released in Sept. 2014. Philippe Gutierrez and Chase Kensrue are also on tour with Sir Sly.
On the Washington, D.C. stop of the tour on Feb. 10 at the 9:30 Club, Sir Sly put on an outstanding show. At the show, Sir Sly played a short set that showcased their unique musical style, which Jacobs said the band jokingly calls “Sly-Fi,” while explaining to me in a telephone interview that the band’s sound has rock, electronic indie and hip-hop influences.
At the 9:30 Club, Jacobs put on a very high energy and charismatic performance as lead singer and guitarist, engaging the crowd. All five members of the band rocked out with great synergy. After the show, many fans lined up to have their photo taken with the band.
Fans seemed most wowed by Sir Sly’s performance of “Gold,” a song familiar to many in the crowd as it has received a lot of radio airplay on DC101, the region’s alternative rock station. Released initially in 2013, “Gold” has reached number 27 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs Chart and number 36 on Billboard’s Rock Airplay Chart.
At the show, Sir Sly also performed “You Haunt Me,” a song that peaked at number three on Sirius XM’s Alt 18 countdown on AltNation.
During the telephone interview, Jacobs explained that the band was formed in late August 2012. Soft spoken and clearly a deep thinker, Jacobs talked candidly about the band’s formation, writing and creating music, and performing with the band.
Explaining the band’s initial founding, Jacobs said that he has known Hayden Coplen since he was about 14 years old. “We grew up making music together,” he said. Jacobs said that Jason Suwito has a studio in Los Angeles, and so they met him, started making music together, and recording in the studio. “And then Jason and I talked about writing some songs together, so we got together and wrote ‘Gold’… and we had Hayden come in and start writing… and that’s kind of the start of Sir Sly,” Jacobs explained.
Teaching himself to play piano at age 13, Jacobs later also self learned guitar. Next he started writing songs and playing at coffee shops, and joined bands: “nothing serious, just like ‘garage bands,’ ” he said. “This is the first time ever I’ve been in a band that’s been touring and going outside California. So the past two years have been pretty wild.”
In the interview, Jacobs focused most of his comments on songwriting. “I think the most gratifying thing is liking the music that you are writing, regardless of what other people think… It’s nice that people love your music once you are touring, but I think I am most proud of the music we are writing.”
“It has always been important to me to write about important stuff that people will listen to–and listen to again and again,” he said. “I think, lyrically, I’m really proud of this record (“You Haunt Me”). And just looking back at all the events that have happened in my life in the past couple years, like a death in the family or struggling with questions related to belief systems… all those types of experiences are all on the record.”
“It’s quite amazing to me… how much people have appreciated all that honesty and hard work. It’s been incredible… It’s one thing to make it sound good, but then when you think it registers with them on a different level, I think that’s kind of the basis of what we are all about as a band. It’s about making good music that people also connect to on a deeper level.”
When asked about if the songwriting process in the band is a collaborate process, Jacobs said that he writes the bulk of the band’s song lyrics.
“This band, this project, became a space for me to really explore what I wanted to say, especially with the reality in my life changing rapidly as I was coming into my 20’s and getting married, and situations like sickness in the family,” said Jacobs. “It gave me a space to explore those things that were happening by writing songs about them. I’ve been slightly proprietary over the lyrics, more so than I have been as a writer in the past.”
“For the music, it is definitely collaborative. But with the lyrics I’ve been a little more guarded with this project…” Jacobs added.
Jacobs writes like a short distance runner, letting his creativity rush in short sprints. “I’ve been writing really quickly, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, and I don’t go back and edit much. I kind of like to let the lyrics come out. So the pace of it, and also the weight of it, has left me being a little more guarded,” he explained.
When asked if Sir Sly has another album planned, Jacobs replied: “We’re always thinking about new albums. I think that for the three of us, and the other two guys that play live with us, the most important thing musically is what we want to be writing and creating, so we wrote a little bit on the road when we were home those three months between this tour and the last one. We’ve started writing and sorting through what our vision for the second album is going to be.”
Jacobs said that over the summer the band will be touring a bit more, playing more shows and at festivals. When they have some spare time, according to Jacobs, he will be back at work–writing more songs.