Where were you when you got word that Bonnaroo 2021 was not happening? Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn of Sylvan Esso were in the middle of practicing for their Superjam set, a special collaborative show that's always one of the most anticipated of Roo.
Meath and Sanborn joined Lord Taco and Barry from The What Podcast to share what it was like learning that the festival had been canceled by a storm. The duo also give some insight about what they had planned: "I wanted to take Superjam and turn it into the wedding band of dreams," revealed Meath. "Which mainly means giving everybody permission to sing the wildest, schlockiest, or songs that just have touched their hearts that they would never do because it's overdone."
We're keeping the spirit of Bonnaroo alive while supporting those in need of relief following Hurricane Ida with our new "Radiate Positivity" T-shirt at the Consequence Shop. A portion of proceeds will be going to the American Red Cross to help those affected by the storm, so grab yours now at the shop.
Make sure to like and subscribe to The What wherever you listen to your podcasts, and follow the Consequence Podcast Network for updates on all our programming.
Topics: Sylvan Esso, Bonnaroo, SuperJam
Guests: Amelia Meath, Nick Sanborn
It's been almost two weeks since we got the word that Bonnaroo 2021 was not going to happen. I'm betting most all of you who are listening can tell me exactly where you were when you got the word. Did you ever wonder where maybe one of the bands or some of the bands were when they got the word? Lord Taco and I talked to Amelia and Nick from Sylvan Esso and they tell us where they were and what they were doing. And they give us a little bit of an idea about what their super jam was going to be. It all happens right now on the What Podcast. Hey, how are you guys? Hey! This is awesome. How are you both? Great. How are you guys? I'm great. We've got Amelia, Nick and Lord Taco is with me. Say hi to Lord Taco. Well, now I'm wishing I would have picked a pseudonym. That's awesome. You guys are using your real names. I call him Russ, but he goes by Lord Taco. Now I feel like you have to explain it, Russ. Go ahead. There's not really an explanation. It was a Twitter handle I picked 12 years ago and never thought people would call it to me in real life. And now here I am doing interviews with people who think my name is Taco. It's kind of how you end up with a band name, isn't it? I think it's what tweeting and communicating online or something, right? Yeah, I made up an acronym and all that for it, but that was there was no real reason or purpose. Anyway, we were here. Russ and I were just talking about everything that happened after Bonnaroo, which is why we are talking to you guys. So I guess I feel like I need to, I don't know if I need to, but I want to sort of set some. I don't even know if we have to talk about it. I don't want to get on here and throw people under buses. That's not the goal, right? Unless you guys want to. I mean, if you want to, let's do it. I don't even know who would you talk to. Party. Let's do it. I'm in a bus. Don't throw me under the bus. He's one of those guys that would be stuck. So what I want to do is just talk about, I don't know what I want to talk about how, I mean, the amazing thing to me is you guys are one of the acts, one of the big acts and you were going to do a super show. So I mean, that whole thing is just, uh, what happened? What were you, what was going through your mind last week? Let's just start there. And if we go, if it ends up during the fall of Rome or after the fall of Rome, if we end up under a bus, we end up under a bus. I know where we were. The story of this show for us has lasted two years, you know, like, like we, um, so, so stepping way back, the, the company that used to be the majority shareholder in Bonnaroo, uh, AC, the company who runs it, um, we did an event with them in North Carolina that was like a one day festival. And so we had been trying to turn that into a two day festival for like four years, basically. It's just through a series of, uh, uh, venue problems and then errors. And then we finally got it booked and then the pandemic hit and so, and then yada, yada, yada. Anyway, so we've been like talking with them for a long time. And when we went on the with tour, which was this tour that we did in the fall of 2019 where we expanded from a duo to like a 10 piece band and we played all these like big old theaters. Um, they came out to that and immediately after the show, we're just like, you guys got to do the super jam next year. And that's always been like a dream of mine. Um, and so we were like, absolutely, let's, let's put it together. But, but then it's, you know, then the first one got canceled and then we moved here. So it's this whole arc has lasted like years. Indeed. And when we got the, when we got the text that Bonnaroo wasn't happening, we'd been in rehearsal for two weeks. I mean, we'd been with the band for two days. We've been with the band for two days, but we had like organized the rehearsals for our tour all around. Like we did like a week of our own two rehearsals. We had a little break and then we had a week with the with band getting ready. And then with the guests that was, that was going to happen. And we got the text in the middle of practice. Yeah. Wow. Which was the question. So the question everybody's asking, where were you when you got the news that Bonnaroo was canceled? So you were literally practicing. Yeah. It was nice. It was nice because it did do the like, what you always want to have happen where, uh, we like all kind of stared at each other for a while for like three minutes. And then we're like, well, we've got to keep on playing music cause this is so fun. So we finished the day. Yep. And then we came back to next day and then we came back the next day with the understanding that we were going to figure out how to find a show. But that's, I mean, you kind of got to it. This is not one of those things that just is like a yesterday thing. I mean, this had been in the works for a long time. I'm guessing you're talking probably Ashley goes back to Ashley caps probably goes back to even moot fest is, I mean, is it that far back? Is that what you're talking about is no. Okay. Yeah. What do you mean? I'm talking about Ashley and his moot fest. That's the one that he put on. But I guess what I'm saying is it, it goes back to AC entertainment. So it took it, it's, it's not just a yesterday thing. You've been planning it, wanting it, thinking about it. Oh, like all of us. That's what I guess. Oh yeah. And like it's been this long arc getting this all together, having it get canceled once having and get moved the second time coming back in, having this whole thing happen. And then, you know, two days before it's supposed to go out. Yeah. It's, you know, like with any major event, it takes a lot of planning. Well, I guess that's what, what I wanted to sort of express to people is this just doesn't happen. I mean, there's a lot of things, there's a lot of parts that have to happen. A lot of pieces that have to be moved and all of that stuff. Right. So what was the show? I almost even hate to ask this, but what was the show going to be? Can we talk about that? I mean, a little bit. Do you put that in the back thing? You know, what do you do or something like that? I think there's things that were going to happen that I almost don't want to talk about for fear that I might jinx them happening in the future. You know what I mean? But you, you, you take over, you, you like had this, I mean, you had the whole concept for the whole show. Well, when we were, when we were thinking about, it was going to be the first live show that we played. So I wanted to be post pandemic. And so I wanted to recreate when, oh yeah, not that it's quotation marks, not that it's over, but you know what I mean? And I wanted to recreate the first instance, a first instance of live music that we all experienced, which is going and going to a wedding and seeing a wedding band. So I basically wanted to, I wanted to take super jam and turn it into like the wedding band of dreams, which mainly means giving everybody permission to sing the wildest, schlockiest or like songs that just like have touched their hearts and that they would never do because it's overdone or because, because like they wouldn't give themselves permission. So yeah. So she was reaching out to all these people just being like, if you were going to, if you were going to get up and sing live band karaoke at like a dear friend's wedding reception, what would you sing? Exactly. And that, and that we put together a set of covers. It was everybody, all the guests had to do a cover. They couldn't do their own stuff. So it was, it was all based on this crazy, like legendary wedding reception. Yeah. Legendary wedding reception. That was about like raging. That like the, the, finally everyone coming back together. That was like the whole purpose. Yeah. So it was, yeah. Joy, joyous. Who's going to give the toast? I was, I was just going to ask Taka what his song would be. What do you say? Oh gosh. I don't even know. I mean, I'm thinking righteous brothers or I mean, that's a good, that's, that's a great theme. That's never been asked that. And I'm not going to ask, or maybe I will. Did you have a lot of people lined up ready to sing? I mean, that was the, that's the beauty for people who don't know who are listening, listening to the show for the first time. The super jam is an occasion that Bonnaroo does that I think they do as well as anybody. It's they bring people together who were already on the farm and they get somebody like you guys to be the curator and put together a 90 minute surprise, crazy, whatever it can be, you know, I love that idea. The wedding, man, my mind is just going crazy thinking of what it all could have been. Well, I think the beautiful part about that idea that I loved when you were pitching it to it was just, it drew something totally different out of each person that we asked. Exactly. It's like, it got everybody to do a thing that I would never have expected them to do. Exactly. I was like, that was the whole fun. And the most fun thing was it like, I, I'm a firm believer that when you ask someone to do something, you can be like, I like, or in pitching this idea, I was like, I was thinking that you could sing maybe these three songs. So you got, we got to curate in this different, in a totally different way where it's like, here's like, here's some covers that could work if you don't have an idea. Yeah. And it really shaped the whole thing in a cool way. Yeah. Did you have to go, I'd have to go for non-blondes. What's up? Oh, who doesn't want to, who doesn't want to belt that out? That's a serious, that's a serious undertaking. Yeah. Oh, I know. I'm like, talk, taco doesn't play. I didn't say I would, I didn't say I would do it good. The purpose is joy. Yeah. But it would be, it would be joyful. Taco comes hard now. Did you, did you have to go at it with the idea of who was going to be there or did you get to pick or both? Or I mean, how were you going to go at that? We were both asking people who were going to be there and asking people that we wanted to be there. There's a couple of people that we caught wind from the promoters would want to come. Yeah. So we asked. So we reached out to a few of those. We were also just, we also just shot the moon. Yeah. With a couple of people. But also towards, as the, as time moved towards the festival, everyone was getting more concerned about Delta. So there was like, there was some rearranging happening. Well, that was it. That leads to the next sort of obvious. I'm still, my head is exploding at this idea. I love this idea because you could have gone so many ways. I mean, so many people on site and I could just imagine you saying, calling whoever and saying, Hey, what would be the song you would sing at your best friend's wedding? I mean, what a great question. Now I'm just, now I'm just sad all over again that we didn't get to do this. Me too. What a great thing. I thought I was over it. What a great thing. So I hope you still hope to do that. Is it possible? We'll see. I don't know. Maybe. I don't know. When something gets canceled twice. Also to be fair, I do appreciate, like I, I am a great lover of this, of Bonnaroo in general, the super jam was never my dream. Definitely my dream. Definitely his dream. But I was really excited about the theme. Well, and you crushed it. I mean, that's the thing. It's like, I think it's a lot of these kinds of things. Like we, we have very different interests between the two of us. And I think bringing them together in that way is a thing that I think makes the band work in general. So it was kind of a perfect iteration of that. Also we had William Tyler playing guitar for this one and he's such a shredder. Like he can play anything. The crew was really, really good. Yeah. And for the makeup show, we still played some of the covers that we were going to play. Yeah. We had people in the band sing them, which was also great. So much fun. Came out and did Peg by Steely Dan. Yeah. Had Jen Wasner sing Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac. And Adam, Adam Schatz did his, his truly incredible rendition of the Isley Brothers shout. Yeah. We had to close with that. All right. So I got to ask Nick why you wanted it and Amelia, why you didn't, I mean, what the super jam to us is when it's right, it's awesome. What, what, what were you looking forward to and what were you not? I guess is, well, I think, I think it's an easier, I think what I would guess is I think baseline it's an easier gig for me. You know, I talk a little bit, but like I'm hanging out, I'm learning key spots. I'm learning bass parts. I'm like getting people organized, doing a little music direction and stuff like that. But like, it's a much different, the whole, it's a much different job for Amelia. I mean, she has to be like master of ceremonies for a 90 minute, like crazy set. You know what I mean? It's they're very different things and they require very different energies. And I think to me, I love the idea of like really being on your heels all night and like trying to make it work. But that's because I have a totally different set of responsibilities. You know what I mean? So it kind of, it was, it was just natural, but I think it shook out like that. Yeah. Yeah. To me, it's, it's mostly that like, I love getting to play music with people. And I believe that the way that super jam has moved the couple of times I've participated in it is that it accidentally has a tendency to turn into a who's the most famous contest. Yeah. Like who's the most famous guest. Yeah. I mean like, and sometimes the feeling is like, yeah, but like how much more famous is this? Like how many, how many guests can you slam onto the stage when like the thing that I am excited about doing is making music with people. And that's so like having so many guests gets, can get far away from being able to do that. From the original point. Yeah. From the original point, which is as we all know. That's such an interesting point. Cause the one I'm thinking of was 16, 17 with Billy Idol and Larry Graham and all that. It was so epic, but that really was kind of what it was about was. Yeah. So you're like the first thing about it is that like, like who was there, which is that's kind of part of the thing is super jam. Like you gotta take that with it, but like it does remove you a little bit from the magical experience of the thing that happens in the moment or it can, I think if you, if it's not done quite right. And we're just, we always lean kind of away from coolness, quote unquote anyway, I think. And just the fact, just the thing. Yeah. That's the thing I want. The thing I want, the thing I was excited about this being was like a celebration of being together again and having different, different people be able to do that with us and being it like, that was why turning the band into a karaoke band was the way that I could figure out how to do that in an authentic way that felt real. And it felt like it removed it from that. Like, cause it's just an inherently schmaltzy thing to do in the first place, but like, you know, no one is being too cool for it. That's like the best part. Exactly. But that's such a great segue to what you guys do. I mean, I've been listening to your music all day long and I'm like, this is such a natural melding. Why didn't this happen before? Kind of thing. If I mean, and I'm not being disingenuous when I say that it's like, I love what you do, Nick. And I love what Emily does. It's Amelia does. It's just this kind of thing and I could just hear it on the farm. It's perfect. It's kind of the best of everything. It's this mix of EDM and electronic and beautiful music and just, just feels right. So it's interesting that that's where it was going to go. And I really wish we would have gotten to hear it. Me too. I still don't totally, we never got to do it with all the guests, you know, like that was supposed to be when we were on set. So it's like, we didn't even really get to hear it either. You know, like I have an idea knowing what this Atlas was going to be, like what it was going to feel like, but like it kind of remains this like weird ghost, which is, we'll never know. Oh, I don't know. Did anyone turn you down that you maybe asked because when we, I think we talked to Karungba and they were saying they were real careful about not letting anyone in their bubble. Like they were wanting to be careful with, you know, exposure and they didn't want anyone to, you know, test positive because that would be the end of their tour. Oh yeah. So they were, they were very like cautious about who they bring on stage, who they interact with. Yeah. It's the same with us. Oh yeah. Yeah. We got, we had more trends down though, turned down though, because a bottle rock was like the same weekend. Yeah. Usually Bonner is on its own weekend. So everybody that plays it is there the whole time. Yeah. Which makes it much easier. Yeah. That was far and away the bigger problem. Yeah. Because everybody was doing fly-ins and also everyone was touring, touring in and out of this. Yeah. And because of the Pandy, it made it so that there was like, you just have to be cautious. The sheer amount of financial investment that we would lose if, if anybody on our crew. Yeah. And then we had to cancel the tour. I mean, that's, that's devastating. You know? And it's, that's the thing. I mean, like people see the two of us on stage up there, but like every tour you go to see, it's not just us. I mean, I know people say this, but like, you know, we have like 11 people on our crew out here, like plus drivers, plus local crews, plus venues and promoters. Like it's a, it's a huge mountain of people. And the artists are the only ones you get to see. But like for us being out is like trying to reactivate all of that and like get all of our, the people in kind of the extended Sylvanasso world, like back working too, you know? So like it's, it's, it's a lot of responsibility for sure. Talk about that a little bit, if you don't mind, just cause our listeners, this is so new to them. I mean, when you guys got the word, we got the word Tuesday at 4 30. When did you guys hear? Tuesday at 2 30. Yeah. Like shortly before they announced. Okay. And we had a feeling something was going to happen. We weren't sure that it was a full cancellation, but we were kind of braced for bad news, you know, like, but, um, yeah. And what, what do you do? What can you do? Uh, you just, yeah. Also it was like, it was flooding. There was actually just no way that the, the, it was actually going to be able to happen. The stages were sinking into the ground. They couldn't get any vehicles on site. It just wasn't. Yeah. We couldn't, we wouldn't have been able to get in. Yeah, exactly. So it was, it was just was what it was. Yeah. The nicest part again was the clarity of being like, Oh, well, the thing that we do is keep on making music because it's fun. It felt oddly existential, you know, like, like, cause there we were with a bunch of our friends playing music in a room together. And the purpose, the, the, the like, quote unquote purpose for that was removed. But I think it, it made us all feel like, well, what's the show isn't really the important part. Like this is the important part. Like, what am I alive for? Like, what are we all doing here? Anyway, in the first place, what's the point? Like this is the point. Let's just keep playing. So that's what we did. It felt oddly life-affirming. Yeah. It's absolutely correct. I think the one, the one lesson, and I've been doing this 18 months, 20 months, uh, since the pandemic. And the one thing I've heard from everybody, whether it's small business, big business, band, music festival is we figured out what's important. Yeah. It is, it is forced us to figure out what's really important. And that could be anything. I mean, it could be your kid. It could be your family. It could be your business, whatever. But that's the one thing that everyone seems to agree on. Yep. For me, I mean, I've had, I was, had this Volkswagen bus that was packed, ready to go camping to Bonnaroo. And when the cancellation happens, like, well, I'm still going camping. I'm still going to hang out with, you know, friends. I'm still going to see the people I was going to see there. It's just not going to be at Bonnaroo, but I'm still going to go. So, you know, it really didn't miss out on too much. So what do y'all do? I mean, what, what happens with the band? You've got 11 people you just said that are responsible for you guys. You know, tacos got his bus. I've got, I mean, I've been working in my basement now since March of 2020. I'm okay. Yeah. I'm one person. It's easy for me to just change directions and go somewhere else, you know, but I, yeah, I can't imagine trying to coordinate that with a crew, you know, 12 people. Yeah. I mean, that's, that's, I'll let you answer. I'll just stop talking. Well, we were, when we got the cancellation, we basically just said, like, we're lucky enough that we have a team where I said like, okay, well, find us a show. And they did. And it was branded through Bonnaroo. So we did a three band build. Right with Phoebe and Brittany. And I think on the, yeah. And then, and then we were going on tour. So then we waved bye to the West band and now we're on a, we're at the Greek in LA. We're going to play tonight. Well, yeah. And then in the macro sense of you guys talking about the pivot, I mean, for us, it was just, I mean, we did what we had to do during when we couldn't tour at all. And now that it seems like, I mean, it's, it is what it is now, I guess it's all about just setting new rules for the new reality. So it's like, all right, well, if we can do this, how can we do it in a way that feels in where everybody who's out with us feels taken care of and feels safe. And we had a lot of long discussions about that and set a lot of very serious ground rules. And now we're all out here living by those and it feels good. You know, I don't know. It's cliche, but you know, the show must go on is, is the phrase, right? Along those lines. Let me ask, because it came up when we were talking because everything has been so focused on this September, October, um, Bonnaroo just canceled. They're going to have to come out with their lineup pretty soon for June from your guys perspective. Are you, I mean, are you on the consideration list for next year? Or is that, I guess what I'm asking is that, is that it like hit a hard stop and then, you know, this ended and now we've got to consider next year or is it fluid? You know, cause everything was fluid up till now, but now it feels like hard stop. Yeah. Does that make sense? I mean, I have no idea. We haven't talked to them. We don't either. That's why I'm asking. Yeah. I mean, I don't know. Yeah. I also don't know what kind of financial situation they're in because they didn't make any money two years in a row, two years in a row. So that, I mean, that can, that can, well, I mean, last time it happened, they, yeah, I mean, like we get inside baseball, but you know, I think the fortunate part for them is with, yeah, it's a cancellation. It's an act of God. It's an insurance claim. So, you know, hopefully they can recoup the money that they had to refund and, you know, can just regroup for next year. That's the one, I guess, good part about it. But as far as you guys are concerned, it's not like your contract said, if we cancel, we'll talk about next time. As far as you guys are concerned, it's a hard stop. Well, I don't know about hard stop. I mean, like we're, we're all friendly with the AC dudes, you know, like, like I said, like we've been working with them for years and trying to set up a whole separate thing with them for a long time. So, yeah. So it's, it's a very open conversation. Yeah. It's not like we're mad. No, yeah. You know, yeah, nobody's mad. Thank you. That's, that's part of my question. Yeah. I don't think anybody is. We just, I guess what we're trying to figure out is, you know, you've asked, they have asked bands to, you know, be on hold or put up postpone or whatever for a year and a half, because who knew? I mean, this thing is crazy. Again, I'm not trying to throw anybody under the bus, it just, it's just like, where do, where do we go from here? Do they, is it all? Yeah. Yeah. I think you just answered my question. That's what we're, and then we're in the same, that's the point of the question is who knows, right? I mean, this has never happened. Well, it happened a hundred years ago. And Barry, Barry remembers that. What was it like a hundred years ago? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Add a similar anti-vax movement back then. It's a lot more people. A lot more. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's just interesting. Yeah. I, it's interesting to hear you say everyone's friends. I think that's exactly right. It's funny. I was on the phone with some of the AC people just before you and I got on, uh, cause we have our festival here in town and, uh, that one's going to go, it's going to happen. And so, you know, everything looks good. Uh, again, I'm not trying to, uh, I don't know what I'm doing. I'm just weird. This is so new. I'm not trying to get you to throw anybody or anybody under a bus. It's just so new that, uh, no, here's the, there's no one to throw. It was canceled because of rain. It was a, no, it's like it's no one's fault. Yeah. I'm not mad. Yeah. Like, you know, the only people mad are weird affluent kids on the internet. You know what I mean? It's not, there's no, no one, no one has any right to be mad. It just is what it is. Like, yeah, you don't get to be pissed off about rain. No, it's like, yeah, there's a literal hurricane. It's you know, it's not being able to hang out in a field and listen to music for three days is exactly. It's a small problem. Louisiana is devastating. Like it's still like New Jersey. Everything's cool. You know, we're fine. We didn't get to do a music festival. Yeah. I, I, I feel lucky to have, I feel lucky that we're in the position we're in in the first place where this is even a problem. You know what I mean? Like, I love it, like we are such a lucky band and I feel so grateful for all of the Bonnaroo experiences that we've already had. We've had two of my favorite shows we've ever played at Bonnaroo. You know, like I'm just stoked to be like in the family. Indeed. I love it. Talk about first world problems. I mean, yeah, this is, this is nothing. All right. So what's up for you guys? What's next? What you got? What do you want to make sure people know about? We're on tour right now. Most of the, there's some tickets still available for a handful of shows and then we're going to be on tour again in November. Come see us out on the road. I love, I love this is a great plug. Yeah. Do you want to feel true joy? Do you also feel as though the purpose is joy? Yeah. Bring your vaccination card or FTCR to someone as a show. 100% please wear a mask. Even if absolutely where I'm at. All right. Love it. Taco, what you got? I, I, you know, yeah, who knows? I might jump on stage with you and sing some Fournon Blondes. Very, very nice. Don't, don't count on it happening. All right, I can't thank you guys enough. Yeah. Anything else that you wanted to mention that I didn't ask about? No. That's amazing. Thanks so much for doing this. You care of each other. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. No kidding. Right. Go do it. It's easy. So easy. Thank you guys. Thanks. We appreciate it. Yeah. Of course. Talk soon. Bye bye. Wow.