There's a humorous angle to the origin story of SoCal synth-rock trio Sir Sly. When singer/lyricist Landon Jacobs first formed the group with Jason Suwito and Hayden Coplen, they only had one tentative song to speak of, a dark, undulating processional called "Ghost." They were proud of it, but how good was it, exactly? They hit on an unusual method for finding out.
"We had some friends around who ran music blogs," says Jacobs. "So we sent 'Ghost' to them without telling them it was us, because we didn't want them to post it just out of friendship. Jason runs a studio, so he said, 'Hey — this is a song that I produced for some people.'" In an act of haste, the mystery single was credited to the numerically ambiguous Sir Sly.
As "Ghost" went up online, Jacobs began to obsessively follow every last comment. "I think that's the most negative part of my personality. I really love to keep up with what people are saying about us," he admits. But he was elated to see that almost every tweet, post or comment was positive — apart from one that passed Sir Sly off as a possible top-secret offshoot of Foster the People. (That one hurt.)
So Jacobs and his compatriots have been obsessively making new music, which is now being released on Sir Sly's You Haunt Me debut. "The nice thing about having your own studio to write and record in is that you can hole yourself up in there, just shut out the outside world, and keep working on tunes."
Lyrically, thematically, and quite often musically, this is one dark debut. Even its most uplifting track, "Leave You," sounds like Maroon 5 on heroin, and details the crisis of faith recently experienced by Jacobs, a Southern Baptist who — along with Coplen — once played in his mega-church band and believed he would one day become either a pastor or a missionary.
"My life has changed pretty drastically in the last two years," he says, "once I realized that what I really wanted to do, from a Christian perspective, was be kind of selfish. I just wanted to make music for me, and go play shows with my band."
The motivating factor for Jacobs' shifting perspective was the deaths that shroud "Ghost" and other similarly somber sonnets like "Floods" and "Inferno," Jacobs' duet with MS MR's Lizzy Plapinger. When Jacobs first got together with his wife four years ago, her mother had just been diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer; nine months later, she passed away, around the time that a good friend's father fell victim to pancreatic cancer.
"Two years after my wife's mom died, my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer," he recalls. "And that was the last nail in the coffin for me, and a lot of beliefs I held dear. How do I believe in a God who cares, if everybody is being affected by this, no matter how good of a person they are? And no matter how many people they have around them, praying for them, they still die?"
While he favors spirituality over organized religion these days, there was one benefit to performing in a mega-church that he can't deny. "There was tons of money there," he fondly recalls, "so they had a great sound system."