Interview: Sumo Cyco Talks “Opus Mar”, Crowdfunding, and Cyco City

The band independently crowdfunded the album and reached a whopping 255% of your PledgeMusic goal. Can you tell me a bit about what that was like for you guys?

PledgeMusic worked out great for us, we had a huge outpouring of support from our fans to make this record and it was really cool to see that there were so many people that really wanted to help. It wasn’t just the fact that “we think this package is cool,” because we’d come up with all of these different things you could buy by pledging different amounts, it was people that were like “I want to help you guys.” It’s beyond just wanting to get the record, or a cool t-shirt, I want to do my part and make sure that you guys can do what you do because I want to be a part of it kind of thing. That was really awesome.

We had one special pledger named Lars, who’s from Germany, who actually flew into Canada to take part in one of our pledge offers to be in a music video and write a song with us. He stayed a week here with us and we took him through the exact motions that we would take any band member through to do a video. He was helping us all build the set, he was shopping for costumes with us, and go the real experience of what it’s like to do our videos. Then he was the starring character in one of our videos that’s going to be coming out soon. He was a drummer, so he got to drum and we recorded a track with him that he has a copy of. I don’t know if he wants us to release it or not, but we told him he could decide what we do with it. He did the drumming and sat with us, we had a good old Canadian bonfire and introduced him to s’mores, did the whole thing. It was not only a cool experience for him, but so much so for us to have someone who really just wanted an adventure. He was at a crossroads in his life where he was like “I just want to put myself out there and try something interesting.” We had a blast. He still comes to all of our shows whenever we’re in Germany. He actually travelled to Dublin last time we were in Dublin to see us and he’s a school teacher, so he pledged to have us do a Skype call with his students, so we’re going to be doing that in May. Calling into his classroom and doing a Q&A with his english class.

There’s so many cool things that have come out of that Pledge campaign. It was such a cool experience, because I’d never done a campaign quite on that scale before. Just the way the timing worked out, we were a week away from leaving for our tour and our album was coming out while we were on tour. I definitely didn’t want to send out all of these pre orders once the album had come out, because I thought it was a bit anti climactic for all of these people that’d waited so long for the record. I needed to get it to them before the album dropped, so right before tour, which is usually the busiest time for me. I had my entire living room and jam room space covered in the CD’s that needed to be signed, posters and t-shirts, and packing up. I think we had like 500 packages, which was thousands of items, to put together. It was quite an undertaking. I’ve got to give a big shoutout to our graphic designer, Francesca Ludikar, who basically did a custom deck of cards with all of the characters from Cyco City and a calendar, which took us 12 different photo shoot days to get all of the months for the calendar. A lot of time and effort went into it and it was quite rewarding to get that all sent off. It was great.

Did you guys keep any of those things? I think I would’ve kept one of the decks of cards.

Yeah, I think we have a couple left. We have a little bit of an overflow because we had to round off all of our numbers.

It’s a nice kind of memorabilia. I’m sure you kept some stuff from your younger career as well.

Yeah! That idea actually spawned from Capitol Records, for an end of the year gift, did a deck of cards with a different artist on their roster on each card and that gave me the idea to do a deck of cards with each of the characters from Cyco City on it. Everything comes around I guess.

It’s been about six years since the formation of Sumo Cyco, and there have been a lot of digital singles, as well as some movie videos, but this will be your second full-length album to Lost in Cyco City. Was there a specific reason as to why the band chose this approach to releasing?

We never really thought to do a record because we wanted to do a record, most of the reason why we changed from just releasing single, video, single, video, was because of the demand from the industry and the fact that we wanted things like Factor funding. [Those things], you needed to have an album and then you needed to calculate the sales of an album to be able to get some of the tiers of funding, which we couldn’t quite do with just a single. Or to get an album reviewed, we were told by our PR that we can’t just get a single reviewed, we have to produce some sort of album. There was still a bit of the industry that kept asking us and fans as well, “when is the album coming?” We were like, “well does there need to be an album? Because we keep releasing music and music videos.”

We decided once we submitted for our funding, that was the factor that made us go “okay, we’ll do this.” When we had the help of Factor to do the first record. The fans were really happy to hear that that was going to happen. From my perspective, I really find that albums, because they take so long to create – it took us a year and a half if not longer to come up with all of the songs – I feel like I lose a bit of the excitement for the music, myself because I’ve lived with it for that amount of time. Where as I really like having that feeling when I’m so hot on a song that I’ve just written, I love just being able to put it out. Like “this is what we just put out, it’s new, it’s hot off the presses, it’s current to us.” Some of that I feel gets lost when you take the time to do the full record. There’s a lot of overthinking. Because then you’re like “what songs do I want and which songs are the best that we need to do videos for?”, rather than just going “hey, I just wrote this, let’s do a video, let’s get it out.”

So we’re going to see in the future how we release things. I’ve seen a lot of cooler release strategies in a lot of bands, where they release an album eventually, but they release it in chunks, so that they have the first part of their album come out, then a second part. I really like that idea, it paces things out a bit so that everyone is getting some music, rather than having to wait a year or two years for a full length. They get some music in between, which I think is cool. I’m not sure how we’re going to do things in the future, but it is a lot of work to do a full record. It’s a lot of thinking and planning, everything has to come together. You’ve got the art and the mixing and… especially as an independent band, we’re working with ourselves. We found that there are so many things that you have to think about five or six months ahead, in order to have everything line up. (laughs) We’re last minute people that come up with stuff last minute and are like “oh yeah, let’s just get it done.” Where as they’re like “n-n-no, if you want your album released, you need six weeks of time with everything done and videos finished and everything.” It’s a lot of work.

It feels like so long for fans, because they don’t see what goes into it. How many people it has to go through, how many sessions, writing, recording, it’s just this huge thing that does take two years. But two years to a fan is like “come on man, what, are you not doing anything with your life?”

(laughs) Yeah, exactly. So we’ll see, maybe we’ll switch it up moving forward.

Finally, for all of those Skye Sweetnam fans out there, I just have to ask. Can we expect any more solo work, do you think Sever will ever let her out of that attic?

(laughs) I never close off the door, because I feel like there are going to be so many chapters to my career moving forward. I know that things could evolve drastically, in any direction. I guess as far as just doing the simple – I’ll call it simple, but I really enjoyed it while I was doing it – music about relationships, I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person that it’s hard for me to completely go back to it. I’ve done a couple shows where I’ve had to do old Skye Sweetnam songs and I mean I love them for the moments that they existed, but I’m not that person anymore.

If I did do any more solo work, it would definitely feel a lot different than what I had done when I was in my early teens. I’m not closing off the door to doing more solo work, or doing pop music, but I think it would have a very different feel from what it once was. It’s been over 10 years. Music has changed, our climate of music has changed, technology is constantly changing with how we make music, and my ideas and what I’ve gone through. My brain, how I write music, what I think about and what motivates me to write is different. So I’m never closing the door off, but right now because things are going so well, we’re really gaining momentum, I’m definitely on that Sumo Cyco train right now.

This interview can also be found on Aesthetic Magazine’s website.

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