Interview: Sylvia Din

“For every glass high-rise building there’s always some guy vomiting on his shoes. That’s what I pick up on.”

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting at home listening to the latest batch of songs submitted to The Indiependent. There was the usual clutch of indie bands, folk artists, the odd R&B singer, and some (frankly irritating) synthwave. However, when I heard an EP called A Vivid Study Of Human Violence by someone called Sylvia Din I was immediately struck by how vibrant and interesting it sounded. It made an impression instantly. I loved the harsh, monochrome arrangements and unsettling ambience.

A Vivid Study Of Human Violence reminds me of artists like Burial and Pinch, perhaps even Björk, who use space and silence as integral instruments. Sylivia Din’s Bandcamp page discussed the difference between ‘structural’ and ‘classic’ violence. Each song was accompanied by an abstract exegesis like “Bury everything under whatever you can get your hands on” or “Internally nationalism is pride, externally nationalism is a clenched fist”. All of this intrigued me so I tracked Sylvia Din down and asked just what it’s all about…

THE INDIEPENDENT: Who are ya, where are you based, and tell me one interesting fact about Sylvia Din that you’ve never told a soul about before. 

My name’s Tom, I live in London, and I write music under the pseudonym Sylvia Din. The project originally started because I wanted to create a character that was the opposite of me and bring it to life through social media. 

THE INDIEPENDENT: In what way is the character ‘opposite’? 

In real life I think I’m quite an upbeat guy, always looking for something new to do or an idea to explore. I want to make those around me feel better. I guess Sylvia doesn’t have that want or desire, someone whose static and in a bad place with no desire to move away from it. Now that I’m thinking about it maybe the character is just an embodiment of things I don’t like about myself… Or what I’m afraid of being… This has given me something to think about…

THE INDIEPENDENT: Do you have any non-musical influences?

I am really influenced by areas/locations. ‘Claustrophobia’ was written about Liverpool Street on a Thursday night at midnight. I was walking home and saw this guy, full suit, belly hanging out of his shirt and vomiting on his shoes while his friends stood there and carried on whatever conversations they were having, seemingly oblivious. All of this was framed by the towering glass skyscrapers of the banks. 

I’m also really into artists like Jenny Holzer who do impactful things with words and visuals. You could look at a condom with the words ‘men don’t protect you anymore’ and think it’s trite, but I love it.

THE INDIEPENDENT: That’s a depressing image… How much optimism is there in your music?

I don’t think there is a lot of optimism, but it doesn’t come from a negative or an overly cynical place, more an over-examination of… whatever. If you look at things long enough you start to see the dirt. For every glass high rise building there’s always some guy vomiting on his shoes. That’s what I pick up on.

THE INDIEPENDENT: Your music has a nice range of influences from dubstep, to breakbeat, to techno and beyond. Is your music influenced by anything other than dark, heavy electronic music?

Definitely! I will always appreciate how post-punk bands are able to cultivate a certain atmosphere with their music. That last Daughters album changed the way I see the world when I listen to it. I also really like pop artists like Lorde and Charli XCX who use really interesting textures in a pop context. Clipping and JPEGMafia are both doing incredible things right now that I think more people should be taking note of.

Read more: Lorde – the voice of a generation?

THE INDIEPENDENT: I loved the skeletal groove of ‘Headlights’, will you be including vocals in any further music? Furthermore, will you be including any acoustic instruments in the future? I saw a picture of a guitar on your Facebook page…

I really enjoyed writing the lyrics to ‘Headlights’ and getting my friend Abi in on the track to bring it all to life. I’m definitely up for doing more tracks with vocals (if you’re a singer and interested in collaborating hit me up!). I’d like to do something with an acoustic guitar but if I did I’d want to mess around with it a bit. I don’t think I’d want to play it straight, I’d probably cut it up and resample it, crudely stick an overdrive on it – who knows? 

THE INDIEPENDENT: What’s your live/recording set-up?

Originally I had loads of virtual synths but I found that having so many tools at my disposal actually led to me not really getting to know the intricacies of anything I was using. Now I just have my fender jaguar, a Korg Minilogue, a handful of pedals, some contact mics and stock max/Ableton virtual synths. I’m also a real fan of recording/finding recordings of environmental stuff like people breathing or something clicking a lighter and manipulating them to get different sounds/textures. 

I’m honestly not quite sure how I’d go about performing live, that’s a future me problem. I’d like to take all my songs apart and use all the individual bits to create a live collage or something.

THE INDIEPENDENT: What new artists should we be taking notice of?

They aren’t new but I don’t think clipping. get the attention they deserve, they’re easily one of the most cutting edge hip-hop groups around. Their albums are full of clever references and they set themselves really interesting rules that legitimately add to the music (for instance: they don’t rap in the first person). Honestly just read up on them, they’re fascinating!

In terms of newer artists, I’m really enjoying the new Sega Bodega album, it’s this really twisted internet-imbued electronic/pop/r&b album, best way I can describe it: otherworldly. HMLTD fuse post-punk with cowboy and western influences on their debut and the results are fucking insane, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard before, really refreshing. One more… okay so I stumbled upon this Shanghai based artist called GUAN, his EP 功不蔽體 is seriously one of best electronic EPs I’ve heard in ages, if you like deconstructed club or any sort of very inventive electronic music please check it out!

THE INDIEPENDENT: What was the last great gig you went to?

I know they’re the latest buzz band but Black Midi are beyond phenomenal live. They’re so high-energy and the tracks are woven together by weird prog rock style interludes that make the big moments even bigger. The entire set simultaneously feels like it’s falling apart around you and it’s the most well rehearsed thing on the planet. I take everyone I can to see them live because it really does have to be seen/heard to be believed.

THE INDIEPENDENT: What are your musical plans for the future?

At the moment it’s all about writing EP2. I can say with absolute honesty that I was really proud how EP1 turned out, I just want whatever happens next to be something that I am really happy with. I have also got some friends working on some remixes/ finishing off some old tracks for a remix/b-sides EP so keep an eye out for that. 

THE INDIEPENDENT: How is EP2 different to EP1?

Truthfully I think it will be just taking the same ideas and seeing where I can push them, there are more styles and genres that I want to give the Sylvia Din treatment. 

Words by Will Ainsley

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