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Syd has been a common denominator in two of the most progressive-sounding groups to emerge over the past decade, in Odd Future and The Internet. On the back of her debut solo record, we caught up with her to discuss touring and social media's place in live music.
One day Sydney ‘Syd’ Bennett walked out her door and found a congregation of people in front of her.
The group was 12-strong and were total strangers to Syd. It didn’t take long for a tall and thin guy to come over and ask if they could use her home studio.
The person who stepped forward was a young man called Tyler Gregory Okonma. From that day Syd was ingratiated into a crew called Odd Future.
“I built a studio there when I was 14 and began engineering for local artists.”
On that faithful meeting Syd says OFWGKTA recorded ‘Seven’.
“Back then I just wanted to be a producer and make beats. But I didn’t think my beats were very good so I stuck to the technical side of engineering, which I was much more confident with. Never thought I’d put out an album that I’m singing on.”
But that’s what happened this year. Her debut solo album ‘Fin’ came off the back of another musical project, The Internet. Fin was released by Columbia Records in February, and was met with widespread acclaim, solidifying her as one of the most adaptable and diverse artists around right now.
In a recent interview with her and fellow member of The Internet (and Odd Future collaborator) Matt Martians, Martians said that most of their writing work is now done on the road, something Syd is still getting used to.
“I’m not normally at my most creative when touring. Writing on the road is new to us, but our tour schedule is so random, especially now that we’ve dropped solo albums, if we tried to wait ’til we had real time off it would take forever to make the next record. We’ve all been very inspired during this trip for whatever reason. We’re all feeding off one another.
“Being on the road is mostly tiring, but you do get random spurts of inspiration here and there. I just bought a new interface that I can travel with, so I’ve recorded a couple things during this trip, when I’ve found myself in the mood. For the most part, I get inspired watching Steve make beats on the plane or in the van, and it makes me want to get in my zone and do the same.”
Inspiration must be in abundance on the road with The Internet, as fellow member Steve Lacey, while heavily involved in production of ‘Fin’, has also been dropping some of the smoothest music of 2017.
From the day she linked up with the Odd Future crew, touring has become a big part of Syd’s life. She seems to be perpetually racking up bus and plane miles.
In terms of sound, she explains that this has made her a much stronger singer.
“When I record my songs, sometimes I’ll barely nail it how I want to. Touring forces me to practice singing my songs, try different runs and riffs here and there, which ultimately just makes me better.”
"...sometimes it makes me more nervous, because I know that whatever mistakes I make for those moments will be recorded forever. "
With musical progression and fluctuation, the type of crowd and atmosphere Syd finds herself amongst can vary vastly.
Syd says that there was a conscious effort to infuse The Internet’s 2015 album with a little more energy. However, while it’s next to impossible to replicate the vivacity of the Odd Future crowds, Syd doesn’t want to.
“I think we’ve found a nice balance. I see the benefit in having both sides when we perform for a really calm crowd. It’s nice being able to adjust to their energy. With ‘Fin’, we have a few more energetic songs to choose from for when it feels appropriate, and still a few moody and musical songs to jam to.”
When it comes to the crowd, I was curious to see how Syd saw the modern tropes of live music culture.
Anyone who attends shows and goes to nightclubs in 2017 is aware of social media’s roll in the experience. However, the internet has been an integral part of Syd’s collaborative process in her short, but fruitful career.
A regularly frustrating element, is the view of the artist being obstructed by a sea of phones, recording the performance to be enjoyed later.
“Honestly, I don’t always mind. Usually I take being recorded as a sign that we’re doing a good job. But sometimes it makes me more nervous, because I know that whatever mistakes I make for those moments will be recorded forever. And sometimes it does kill the mood, for instance when we bring out a guest or something and everyone stops singing and bouncing to record that moment.”
Syd is wary of a ‘those were the days’ attitude however.
“Things are changing. Every crowd is different. I try not to get hung up on what things used to be like. That’s dangerous.”