Sumo Cyco Goes Hollywood!
Sumo Cyco recently concluded a cross country tour supporting Butcher Babies and Nonpoint, with one of the final shows taking place the world famous Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood. In addition to their current album Opus Mar, Sumo Cyco has unleashed a brand new single entitled Undefeated – a song that clearly encompasses the band’s sense of strength and perseverance. Highwire Daze Online caught up with lead vocalist Skye Sweetnam for an interview right in front of The Whisky on the Sunset Strip. Topics of intrigue discussed included the recent trek with the Butcher Babies, past participation on the Vans Warped Tour, hitting the big arenas with Britney Spears, and a whole lot more! Read on…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in the band and how long you’ve all been together?
Well, my name is Skye aka Sever, kinda my band’s nickname and I’m in a band called Sumo Cyco. We’ve been together for about six years. We started off, just like, putting some songs online and now we’re a full-blown, full-time touring band. Yeah, it’s been a great run so far.
How has this tour with Butcher Babies been going, what have been some of the highlights?
This tour package is amazing. We’ve not only toured with Butcher Babies, but we’ve also toured with Nonpoint before and so, what’s nice about having some people you know is that you walk in and you’re not kinda like, you know. I always feel like tours start off kind of like high school, where you’re wondering if you’re going to be accepted by the bigger bands and if they’re going to be cool with you, or how mean is our road manager going to be. But it was nice, because we already kind of introduced ourselves to them and then Islander is also on the bill, who are great as well. Super nice guys. So, everybody’s been getting along amazingly. The shows have been awesome. The fans have been really receptive to us, which is great. We’ve just been having a ball and I’m so sad that it’s going be over soon.
You’re at the tail end of it…
Yeah. This is our third to last show. We’ve been on the road for like, over six weeks. It has been a while.
So you’re probably ready to go home, actually.
Well, I always say if it wasn’t for the fact that I have two really cute dogs at home, I’d probably stay on the road forever, but I miss my dogs like crazy right now.
Take them with you.
I know. They’re just so big and we’re in a little tiny bus and there’s five of us squeezed in there. They’d probably die in this heat too ’cause their Canadian. They’re big, furry dogs…they just like…”Can’t breathe out here”.
What’s the name of your dogs and what kind are they?
I’ve got two dogs. One’s named Lyric. She’s an Australian Shepard and one’s named Coma who’s a mix of German Shepherd Lab and Border Collie.
Undefeated, is there any story or overall concept behind the lyrics for that song?
That song kind of just incorporates our mentality. I think over the past year, there’s just been a lot of ups and downs and I think that in an independent band where you’re pretty much your own boss, you’re pretty much driving the ship, you have to be the one motivated to get everything done. You know, no one’s there doing it for you. If you don’t work hard, who else is going to do it for you? It’s kind of like, just being a warrior song, singing through the bad times and trying to enjoy all the good times and standing Undefeated at the end of it all.
Going back to your album Opus Mar is there any story or overall concept behind the title?
Every record that I’ve done with Sumo Cycle, Opus Mar being the second, kind of had some type of thread and something that inspired me either artistically or artist-wise or musically. For Opus Mar, there was this old Lionel train set that my dad had in a box in our basement for a really long time. And I asked him if it still worked and he’s like “yeah,” so I pulled it out just for fun. It was so cool and really heavy and one of these real vintage train sets. It’s probably worth a lot of money, but I asked him if I could just mess it up and start painting it.
I made my own train basically. I took the cars that I liked and repainted them and made a clown car kind of circusy car. I had a 3D printer that I had just got for Christmas and I made this crazy missile that went on one. I got really creative, really turning this into this piece of art. At the time, I was still writing the music and it felt like those things two things should be interwoven and so Opus Mar is the name of the train. Opus meaning a group of songs and Mar meaning like a scar. I always kind of thought of trains. Everyone blasts through all landscape to make them so that they could go through and they just barrel forward and there’s pretty much nothing you could do to stop one once it’s gotten going.
I kind of felt like that was not only the vibe that the record was talking about – was our band being this unstoppable force with all of this stuff happening around it outside the windows. There’s a lot of political and other issues that were happening around us in the band but we’ve still got to barrel forward like the train. Each car on the Opus Mar stood for a song and there’s thirteen cars on the train, thirteen songs. In each of our videos, we tried to make sure they take place in a different train car, so it has a different vibe, a different look. One’s a dining car from the 20’s. One’s a workers car with stark white walls. I was really inspired by this movie called Snow Piercer called Chris Evans, who’s, of course, Captain America. If anyone’s seen that movie, they’ll get what I mean by every train car was done in a totally different way, serving a different purpose and I kind of liked that idea of having these different visual elements, but it’s still part of the same train.
Is this in the artwork in the CD?
Not only does the artwork in the CD fold out to be an 8-panel train that you can see right across. Each of the song lyrics is depicted in each of the panels so there’s a lot of hidden meaning in the art. We only did, unfortunately, due to costs, a limited run that has the big fold out. The rest of the records that we have unfortunately with us today don’t have the entire fold out. We’re gonna to try to offer that separately on our website so people can just buy the fold-out if they want, ‘cause it’s such an amazing piece of art. We have all the prints of available on our website, which were done by our amazing graphic designer Francesca Ludikar, who’s actually here tonight and gonna be taking photos for us.
How close are you to doing a new album or EP?
We’re going to work on that as soon as we finish this tour. We’re really inspired, especially every time we come off the road and we’ve seen so many cool places, and met all these different people. It always feels like if I’m out of the studio for too long and there’s an overflow of stuff, that I’m like this is gonna bubble over, and there’s gonna be a burst of inspiration. I’m excited to get back and start working on more material.
Have any members of Oingo Boingo heard or commented on your cover of Who Do You Want To Be?
That’s an interesting question. A lot of people don’t even realize that that’s a cover song, and who the band is that actually did it. They’re such a great band, I’ve not heard any comments back from them but I’ve never really tried to send it to them or anything, but I should because that would be pretty sick. Danny Elfman, huge inspiration beyond Oingo Boingo and everything else he’s done. Obviously even artistic wise with some of the videos that we direct, and the artwork we do, it inspires me. From all the movies he’s done, and The Simpsons, and all the music he makes is very inspirational. I listen to the soundtracks that he does, the soundtrack to my life. I love it.
What are your impressions of the Vans Warped Tour coming to an end and what was your experience like playing Warped?
It’s a sad end of an era. It’s kinda cool because Matt, my guitar player, he was going to Warped Tour for a certain era and when he stopped going, I started going. So we picked up where each other left off. We played Warped Tour Toronto for 4-5 years straight and did a stint on Warped Tour in 2015. So I’ve always had this soft spot for that festival, as being a place for the freaks and the geeks to all get-together.
And feel like they belong and that they can discover cool bands, that they’re accepted. I always really liked that kind of feeling, they always say it’s like summer camp for bands, where you just go and you start getting to know all these people. So it’s sad that it’s an end of an era, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I don’t think it’ll be completely over. There’s still probably going to be Warped Tour, certain cities pop up here and there. It is kind of also a symptom of the industry now, being that our genre, the genre that I hold dear in my heart, isn’t as popular these days as some of the big EDM festivals and pop festivals, and country festivals that are out there.
I feel like I’ve always wanted to be about my integrity, about doing something where I was going to be the next thing to catch on. So I think I wanna be part of building this genre back up again. When rock music is popular, I think it’s because people are needing to get something out, that power out, feeling out. That’s what I found, especially being a woman in this industry. It’s like it gives me so much power to get up on that stage and scream and yell and be free to express myself in the way that I want to, and not act like a perfect little lady.
I like being able to defy those boundaries, I think that’s why rock is so important to me, and why I hold it so close. Yeah, I’m sad about that. Warped Tour for us was a great learning experience. It was the first US tour that we did in our van, and it’s a tough one to be in the van with no air conditioning. Only four of us, no crew, no help, no driver. Four of us taking shifts on the drive, always arriving there for 9 in the morning, finishing loading up at 10 at night, doing your 8-hour drive. It was an intense tour, but it was something that I wanted to do so bad. I wanted to be part of Warped Tour so bad. I could be literally in the ditch broken down and I’d be still in a good mood because I just wanted to make it happen for us. I was gonna do anything and everything that it took to be part of that festival. And it’s interesting to put myself back there because this being more like a 4th time out in the states touring, it’ll get a little hot and we still don’t have AC in our vehicle. But, [laughs] I’ll start feeling the complaint side of me wants to creep in and be like, oh man, I slept in the van – my back is kinda sore, it’s too hot in here. Remember, those days where you just wanted to perform so bad that it didn’t matter and none of that mattered. So, there’s definitely challenges and I think you can get spoiled pretty easily once you start getting used to the more fancy things in life. Anyone can. But you just gotta remember why you’ve done things in the first place, and why you’re there.
What was the experience like opening up for Britney Spears? That was a whole lifetime ago.
It was and it’s kind of crazy because it was so young going into it. It almost didn’t have the impact it probably even would have now for me. I grew up almost in a fairy tale from the age of 12 to 16, these magical wonderful things just kept happening to me. I just kept getting all these people in my life that just kept lifting me up, telling me how great I was and putting me in these positions where I had all these opportunities. I got to be flown out by Capitol Records to Hollywood to be treated out to fancy dinners and it just seemed like I was living a dream world.
So at that point, with Britney Spears, people go to high school. Kids go to high school just like an everyday thing. It just seems like an everyday routine for me – I was a performer on the road and that’s just what I did. I toured and played shows like that. And then years later when my record label, everyone got fired and put me on the shelf. I had to do my own tour in Canada, driving a minivan, paying all the musicians myself and didn’t have money coming in. Had to convince people from the very beginning again that I was talented enough for them to work with and I had to build things up – all the way from the bottom up and it was one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences I went through, because I had this almost dreamlike experience so early of what “success” tastes like, or what it’s like to be on a huge stage in an arena like Britney Spears.
And then have it all stripped away and saying, OK – now you gotta figure out what your priorities are and if you really want to be there and how you’re going to get there again. It’s been a life lesson, every day anything can happen. You have to enjoy life every day as it comes and you have to work every day for what you want. You have to work as hard as if someone is working equally as hard trying to take it away from you. There’s a ton of people in this world that want to be in a position where they can be in a band that’s big enough to tour across the country.
I hear bands all the time from Canada, they’re like – I can’t get out of Canada. How can we even get out and start touring? There’s so many obstacles so, I’m really lucky that I’ve been able to bounce back, have my heart/soul/mind intact and I’m not on some street corner.
Long story short, I just felt that there was something to be said about a lot of people go: oh my gosh! You opened up for Britney Spears, that must have been the best thing to ever happen to you. Well, it’s all perspective because in that moment I didn’t realize how great it was that I could do that. And now, being able to play a show where 100 kids can sing my songs, that’s even in some ways more rewarding because I’ve worked really hard to get there and build it up from the bottom.
What’s up next for Sumo Cyco?
We just announced today that we’re going to be going to the UK and Ireland at the end of the year, in November and December. Before that, we’re going to be back in the studio writing more music. We’re going to do more music videos, yeah, we just released a bunch of tour videos from this tour – some behind the scenes stuff. We also have a Tour Book that we’re releasing as soon as the tour is over, we’re going to compile all the cool stuff that happened on this tour. All exclusive photos, journal entries, all that fun stuff. Some fun facts, what movies we watched while we’re on the bus, what our favorite foods are, our pre-show rituals, all that stuff will be in the book. People can pre-order that now on our website.
(Interview and Candid Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)
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