While the most I could claim success for during this year is how many attempts it takes to fling a tea-bag into the bin, or my completion of Netflix’s entire catalogue, indie rising star Sydney Sprague has been quietly adding the finishing touches to her debut album.
Quarantining in Phoenix, Arizona with her partner, Sprague has today released the third in a series of singles teasing the album’s release, which is set for February next year. Her latest offering is ‘staircase failure’, which she explains “feels like uncontrollably falling down the stairs. It’s about falling in love so bad that it hurts, and the adrenaline rush that comes along with that. It’s big chaos energy.”
The track begins menacingly as Sprague reveals she’s “descending into hell”. Moody guitar riffs strike through as she sarcastically teases “what’s the worst that could happen?” Sprague’s momentum builds as she grapples with the stinging honesty of the chorus, before her heartbreaking vocals fade into soothing indie instrumentation. She may have written these tracks before the events of 2020, but there’s a sense Sprague could feel the negative energy looming in the air and her music serves the times we now find ourselves in. Beautifully melodic and painfully melancholic, Sprague knows how to uplift, while still leaving that slight twist in the pit of your stomach.
We sat down with Sydney Sprague to discuss career goals, pandemic anxiety and cathartic songwriting.
Firstly, how has 2020 been for you?
Surreal… it’s been a rollercoaster. The first few months were scary but also weirdly really grounding. My partner and I both tour and stay really busy normally, so it was nice to have a chance to be home together and get into a routine for a while. I spent a few months in a writing workshop and we have a studio set-up here at home so I channelled all the early pandemic anxiety into songs that will probably be my next album. I started talking to Rude Records around June, so ever since then it’s just been a whirlwind getting ready for this release. It’s weird that it’s been one of the busiest/most exciting years of my life but I’ve spent most of it inside the walls of my apartment.
Congratulations on the new singles ‘i refuse to die’ and ‘steve’. I’ve read that ‘steve’ is one of your favourites from your upcoming work, can you explain why?
Thank you so much! I’m so excited to finally have them out in the world! ‘steve’ is such a cathartic song for me. I wrote it about two years ago and I feel like I was going through a major growth spurt at that time. I realized the direction my life was taking and how complacent and unhappy I was and knew I had to change literally everything. I followed my gut and it worked out, so listening to it now feels like a little victory. It makes me really happy.
I realised the direction my life was taking and how complacent and unhappy I was, and knew I had to change literally everything.
Your songs have been produced by Sam Rosson, and I’ve read you were keen to work with him. What made you want to work with Sam on your debut release, and what was the process like?
I got introduced to Sam through my best friend, Danielle Durack. He produced her record ‘Bashful’ which is incredible, and when we did a tour together in 2019 I booked a day with him at Hall of Justice on one of our days off. We made the last song on the record, ‘end of the world’ that day, and I knew I had to work with him again. So many of my favourite albums were made in that studio (especially by Death Cab for Cutie), and just to be in that building with the instruments that made those sounds and a producer that understood my influences was just my absolute dream.
I made demos for some of the songs and a general outline for the album with my partner Chuck Morriss III, and we went back and spent basically the whole month of January making the record. We had a few friends come up and join through the process and we stayed in an Air BnB right up the street from the studio, so we’d walk to and from in the just the perfect amount of snow. It was so beautiful. The news about Covid starting coming out right around the time we were wrapping up, so looking back I’m even more thankful I got to have that experience right before going into lockdown. We really made it right under the wire.
It’s a difficult time to have any sense of the future, but what are some career goals for you?
It’s definitely difficult! The whole music industry is having to reinvent itself right now so it’s hard to even idealize what’s possible. One huge goal for me has always been to do an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. I submitted a video of myself playing ‘steve’ back in 2018 but didn’t quite make the cut. Maybe someday! I’m truly obsessed with that series.
Who inspired you to make music?
There are so many people and artists that inspired me to make music but it was my parents who aggressively pushed me to pursue it once they realized I was writing, so I definitely have to give credit to Mom and Dad on that one.
2020 has also allowed for the music industry to reassess how it produces and performs in a world without live audiences. How has this year made you feel about the current landscape for emerging artists?
It’s definitely daunting. I’ve been performing since I was 14, so it feels really weird not to. Nothing can really replace that in-the-room connection, but watching so many artists transition gracefully to the internet has been inspiring. The whole world has been pretty much been sitting at home staring at their phones all year, so apps like Tik-Tok and Instagram have become maybe the largest ever platform for artists. The music industry has always been in a constant state of change to keep up with technology so in a way, it’s just another curveball we have to figure out how to adapt to.
What’s next for you?
My album will be out on February 26th, and then I honestly have no idea! There are so many variables! I have another album worth of songs ready to go, so hopefully, I can either get right to work on that or get back on the road.
i will see you at the end of the world is out on 26th February via Rude Records. Listen to “staircase failure” below
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