Interview by Gary Trueman
When you’re an up and coming pop starlet with a great sense of unfulfillment then what do you do? Take the money and run or follow your heart and make the music that you really want to make? In the case of Sever, aka Skye Sweetnam, it was the latter. The result is Sumo Cyco, a rock band with heavy alt overtones that also uses Skye’s pop nous making them one of Canada’s fastest rising groups. Gary Trueman had a chat with Skye about her band and what made her change her career so dramatically.
You’ve been around for about five years, so not that long and yet you’ve already got to play with bands such as Coal Chamber, Filter and Life of Agony. Was it a big deal for you to get exposure to fans of those bands?
“We kind of made a point on the very first show just wanting to get in front of new people. We said let’s just find every festival we can in our area around Ontario in Canada and just start playing festivals and opening gigs and getting ourselves out there. It was a couple of years before we decided to do a headline show.”
The Canadian music scene, one band people would recognise over here is Kittie and also there are independent bands such as Kill Matilda. How is the scene set up? Is it centred on the cities?
“You know Kill Matilda. Cool. Yeah so our band is both from Toronto and Hamilton and Toronto is super expensive right now and it’s growing like crazy so most musicians who are too broke to afford it there have all moved to Hamilton an hour away. They have all the steel mills there; it’s kind of industrial and dirty but I like it. It’s a rock and roll town. Both have great music scenes. Hamilton is just that bit out of the way and has lots of cool underground bands that you can discover.”
How do you find the fans different in the UK and Europe to Canada?
“There’s more of that I’ll just wander into a bar and check out the band kinda thing. When we had the shows in Germany they went crazy, rocking out super hard. I love touring over here, I’m a fan of all the history and culture. In Canada it’s really hard to break in the scene. Over here we’re a lot more accepted.”
It’s a little island and people have to accept us over here. Moving on to yourself, you did two solo albums prior to Sumo Cyco. Do you find you have to compromise more now you have other band members wanting input in to the music?
“I find it a hundred per cent different from that because when I was solo I was working with a major label whereas now we’re completely independent. I’ve had and bad experiences in both situations. When I was doing my solo records I was really young so I was learning everything. I learned so much which now helps me with this band. Working with Capitol records is way different from us just starting from the ground up and paying your dues, which you should do. With Capitol you just get flown to shows, I was touring with Britney Spears when I was sixteen which was a shock to the system. I got over my stage fright pretty quick. With Sumo Cyco I have a huge part in every aspect of it. I direct and edit all our music videos and write all the lyrics and melodies for our songs and although this is our first time in a bus I’m normally navigator too. I’m the tour manager. I do all those things so I definitely have control over everything. Me and my bandmates work together so well.”
What are your best and worst character traits?
“I’m a bit of a control freak with everything. Sometimes I like to have everything planned and the guys are like, “what! You didn’t tell us”. I’m stubborn because I’m a Taurus, I like things the way I like them which could be a good point a s well in some ways. You need to know what you want and go for it. I’m pretty cool and calm when there’s a huge disaster.”
If there’s one law you’d like to change what would it be?
“Ah, now you’ve got me thinking. Well I’m really pro the LGBT community so anywhere where they don’t think people, no matter what sex they are, can love each other then I’m like; you guys need to get your act together because you’re on the wrong side of history on this one. I feel really strongly about that. One of my main missions when I’m writing lyrics is to make young women especially but also men too, to feel powerful and that they are in control and that they can stand up to injustices. A lot of my songs are about finding that inner strength.”
If you could edit your past what would you change?
Oh my goodness that’s a tough one. I’d like to say that if there was a time between my late teens and early twenties when I almost didn’t start this project. Things had been getting bumpy and I had to make a choice about what I was going to do. If I could edit my past, those three or four years when I waited, I would have done that faster because this has been the most rewarding thing. I used to think people didn’t take me seriously because I had a pop career, people said I was manufactured. I was a little scared and I had to find my own inner strength but this is where my heart is, this is the music that I love. I was like middle finger up to the record label and let’s try this, and it was the best thing I ever did.”