Music Inside Out: Sylvan Esso

Sep 6, 2018

Sylvan Esso began as two people who couldn’t sit still. In 2013, the singing songwriter Amelia Meath and the performing producer Nick Sanborn were in North Carolina, working with bands that didn’t enjoy touring. Luckily for them, they found each other. But Meath and Sanborn share more than wanderlust. Theirs is a common musical sensibility that leans toward tender folk harmonies passing though an electronic soundscape. The hard-working duo has released two well-received albums, an EP and a variety of singles. See? They still can’t sit still. But the work is paying off in a spectacular way. Sylvan Esso has a growing audience on television, online and at concerts worldwide. They’re in motion — devotedly and relentlessly so. Over the past year, they’ve played New Orleans three times. 

Now about that name… 

Video gamers already may recognize “Sylvan” as a wood sprite who roams a musical forest in the popular Superbrothers game, Sword and Sworcery. Sanborn also says he and Meath were inspired by characters from the Lev Grossman book series called The Magicians. Wandering mythical creatures inform much of the duo’s creative aesthetic — adding an otherworldly quality to their music. But Meath says the most compelling reason why there’s an “Esso” in “Sylvan Esso” is that the words flow so well when spoken together. Like a secret password to an enchanted kingdom, the name smacks of magic and mystery. Sylvan Esso’s songs, meanwhile, seem like something more than words put to music. They’re moody and atmospheric soundscapes in which the listener is the sylvan — roaming unspoiled terrain.