Sylvan Esso's Amelia Meath: In order to convince yourself to do this job, you have to create a lifted reality in which you truly believe in the potential for success.

Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn from Sylvan Esso. Image: Lindsey Kennedy and Meow Wolf

Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn from Sylvan Esso. Image: Lindsey Kennedy and Meow Wolf

Amelia Meath is touring Down Under, playing shows and doing what she's done since she left college. The singer is part of GRAMMY nominated dance duo Sylvan Esso who have recently performed in Singapore, New Zealand and are in the middle of playing festivals and side-shows in Australia. The team from North Carolina - made up of Amelia and producer Nick Sanborn - are in the thick of their musical ascent. And while life constantly on the road and in the sky can be tiring, Amelia takes it all in her stride. 

"It's what we do, you know. I haven't done anything else since I graduated college."

But being on tour in another hemisphere and having to miss out on attending the GRAMMY awards when you're up for one?  That's a whole other thing. Sylvan Esso received news that their second album What Now was up for Best Dance/Electronic album. A quick check of the diary in November last year, and it became apparent to Amelia and Nick that the dates clashed with a show in New Zealand.

"Thanks for knowing that we were here," says Amelia from across the table in Sydney. "We've had so many people interviewing us like, 'How was the GRAMMYs?' and we were like, 'Dog, we've been in your country. Like chill. It's okay because we weren't in a televised category. If we had been, we would have gone. But dance/electronic is you know - only dorks are really that excited about it." (Sylvan Esso were all too happy to lose the award to electronic pioneers/dorks Kraftwerk).

Dorks or not, the nomination is a boost made all the more significant because the pair have only just made the transition as an act to the dance/electronica space in the past few years.

Amelia was originally a part of folk trio Mountain Man along with Molly Erin Sarle and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, while Nick has played with rock group Megafaun (he also branched out to a folk/synth solo project Made of Oak in 2015). 

"The transition was actually really easy in that Nick and I didn't actively decide to make any specific sounding music. We just used what we had. Nick has an extensive knowledge of electronics and I was really excited by writing pop songs."

Their first self-titled album was released in 2014 and peaked at 39 on the Billboard charts as Sylvan Esso made their mark in the electronic scene. The pressure was on to create a second album with all the momentum coming off the first - a task that Amelia and Nick undertook with focus and optimism.

"Here's the thing. In order to convince yourself to do this job, you have to create kind of a lifted reality in which you truly believe in the potential for success. You have to live in a slightly altered version of reality because otherwise you'll get really sad and exhausted, because it's a really weird job."

And here we are. Today, What Now - aptly named for when the pair asked themselves the same question before recording - has been widely acclaimed by the critics, hit number 32 on the Billboard charts, has been, of course, nominated for a GRAMMY, plus Sylvan Esso have had national television appearances on Jimmy Fallon and just last month, Jimmy Kimmel. 

It’s very different [going from] being surrounded by women to being surrounded by dudes all the time. But that’s par for the course in this industry at the moment. So we just actively try to employ as many women in our team as possible.
— Amelia Meath - Vocalist, Sylvan Esso

"We've done Jimmy Fallon twice. Jimmy Kimmel was really fun. Much chiller 'cause it's in LA. Everyone's so laid back there. It's very different than New York. I was really excited because we wanted to release a new single, to re-up everybody. So, it's always exciting to do TV, and it's also really strange. 'Cause it takes weeks of preparation and then it's over in three minutes."

The new single on Kimmel was a very cool yet pointed smash called PARAD(w/m)E and is the third release after Die Young - a darker and very popular earworm -  and Radio - a cheeky ode to manufactured pop music. Radio was listed as one of the best 54 songs of 2017 by New York Times' critic Jon Parales much to the delight of Amelia and Nick.

Another surprise big name listing happened again just days ago. While in Sydney on Tuesday, Amelia received the news that Taylor Swift had added their holiday single There Are Many Ways to Say I Love You to her Songs Taylor Loves Spotify playlist.

"It's a Mr Rogers' cover that we did for the holidays. It was so sweet. I mean geez, T-Swift. I haven't screamed about it yet, but mostly because I have a cold."

It's all a part of tour life. Exciting industry news received in a random hotel room while you try and look after yourself from all the travel. 

"I would like to say I can get creative on the road, but most of the time I'm just trying to take care of my body and my brain, which sometimes leads to creativity, but honestly, most of the songs that I write appear in downtime, when like, usually when I'm distracted."

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While there are still many more shows to play, new music is on the horizon - both with Sylvan Esso, and a return to her beloved trio Mountain Man. The genres may be different, but for Amelia Meath, the role is the same.

"I'm virtually doing the same thing in Sylvan Esso that I was doing in Mountain Man. Sometimes I miss harmonising [in real life], but also I do that with my Mountain Man girls - we're working on a record right now. That's on the horizon too. And I sing on all my friends' records."

Amelia has always been firmly rooted in the sisterhood. In fact, part of Sylva Esso's rise was due to being an opening for Tune-Yards, the project of Merril Garbous.

"She asked our band to open for her and that is when we both quit our day jobs and we were like...  we're gonna do it. And during the course of that tour, more and more people started showing up for our sets. You know, it's a real change when you can visibly see your audience growing." But as Sylvan Esso became more embedded in the dance space, the number of women Amelia was used to being around, decreased. 

"It's very different [going from] being surrounded by women to being surrounded by dudes all the time. But that's par for the course in this industry at the moment. So we just actively try to employ as many women in our team as possible."

As well as employing and working with women, Amelia is a huge fan of other women in music. 

"Right now I'm really into this woman called Tove Stryke... I love her. No one in the States knows her. Like no one knows about her and I love her soooo much. She is my fave right now. Merril, from Tune-Yards. She's great. One of my best friends Jenn Wasner - she's in Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak. She's releasing a new record. She's a powerhouse. And she's just started producing which is really exciting. It's super cool. There's all the pop-queens. Beyonce and all those ladies, of course."

And tonight, Australian artist and producer Woodes will open for Sylvan Esso at the Oxford Art Factory.

"[Elle is] just a sweetie. Did you see the note she wrote us on Twitter? She wrote this beautiful handwritten note on Twitter being like, 'Can I open for you?' And it was so sweet, and her music was so dope, that we were like, 'Totes."

It may be a man's world in electronica, but you get the sense that Amelia Meath is helping to change that.

Sylvan Esso play the Oxford Art Factory tonight. PARAD(w/m)E is out now. Details at Facebook/SylvanEsso