“At the heart of Sylvan Esso is this really fun argument —Nick wants things to sound unsettling, but I want you to take your shirt off and dance,” says Amelia Meath of the band she cofounded in 2012 that now boasts two million monthly listeners on Spotify. “We’re trying to make pop songs that aren’t on the radio, because they’re too weird. It’s a pop band, but we’re talking about complicated emotions.”
Not only does this pithy description perfectly capture Sylvan Esso’s wonderfully distinctive music, it subverts the false distinction between “high” and “low” art —adjectives that themselves reveal an underlying bias.
Many literary novelists eschew genre-fiction labels or the idea that their book might be read to ease the discomfort of a long flight, rather than to delve into life’s grand questions. Conversely, many mystery, romance, and science-fiction writers view literary fiction as unreadably pretentious and boring. As an author, my goal has always been to bridge that gap. I seek to write thrillers that make you think and leave you changed.
That’s why I love Sylvan Esso’s mission so much: They make music that you actually want to listen to and that challenges you at the same time. You don’t have to choose between fun and depth.
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Eliot Peper is the author of nine novels, including Cumulus, Bandwidth, and, most recently, Veil. He sends a monthly newsletter documenting his journey as a reader and writer, tweets more than he probably should, and lives in Oakland, CA.