Some of the best musical acts that are getting ready to blow up are coming from up North, and you should be okay with that.
When you see a new act for the first time, and you get blown away by what you witness on stage, that’s a pretty good indication that the artist in question has that “something” to them. Sumo Cyco is a perfect example. National Rock Review found out about them as they closed out their first US tour with headliners, Mushroomhead, at Realm in Toledo, Ohio.
This Hamilton/Toronto, Canada metal, punk, dancehall four-piece is Sever (formerly solo artist Skye Sweetnam) (vocals), Matt “MD13” Drake (guitar), Ken “Thor” Corke (bass), and Andy “THE WOLF” Joseph (drums). When we went up to their merch booth to find out more about the band, we, at the National Rock Review Office of Northern Talent Searching, knew we had to get Sever with a few minutes of easy questions and bring it to you hungry listeners of new bands to get in on them early. She didn’t disappoint us in the slightest. We hit on a few different topics including the touring, the Pledgemusic.com campaign, and all of their cool music videos.
Enjoy the exchange below. And when you’re done, head over to our Facebook or our Twitter and let us know what you thought.
NRR: Thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for National Rock Review. What has Sumo Cyco been up to so far in 2016?
Sever: Thanks for having us! We started off 2016 with the intention to start recording our sophomore album, and we got into writing a bit before we had a bit of a bump in the road. Our drummer at the time decided to part ways with us, and we set out looking for a new drummer.
At the same time, we were getting tour offers, so we knew we had to find someone quick. Simultaneously, we were working on our first double feature music video; “Fuel My Fire/Crowd Control,” which debuted Apr 01, 2016. So all this, including the upcoming tours put the recording on hold. We were lucky enough to make our fourth trip to UK and Europe, this time with Butcher Babies. We barely returned home and performed two back to back shows for Canadian Music Week in our hometown of Toronto. We just got back from our US tour with Mushroomhead, so things have been pretty non-stop!
NRR: Let me start off by asking about the pledgemusic.com campaign you have going for the follow-up to LOST IN CYCO CITY, what can fans do to help and what goodies can they geek over for pledging?
Sever: We’d love for fans to get involved in the campaign by pledging to pre-order the album, better yet, to opt into a package. We’ve thought long and hard about having something for each budget. There are some staples such as exclusive T-shirts, posters, and hand written lyric sheets.
I’ve been working closely with our friend Francesca Ludikar on a few of the packages including a deck of CYCO playing cards, with each card featuring a different character from our music videos and a CYCO Pin-up calendar. We’re offering custom made jean vests and some pretty fun experiences. Some of the experiences include writing a song with us, being in our music video, OR hosting a private concert.
NRR: You have a bit more of a history together, as far as the core members go, then a good deal of outfits out there so how did the band go from concept to reality?
Sever: Yes, Matt “MD13” Drake and Kenny “Thor” Corke and I have known each other for over a decade. They both were hired to play as my backing band when I was a teen solo artist. I always laugh about how they corrupted me and got me into punk, metal, and rock. Matt and I have always collaborated when it came to songwriting, and one day we both were at a crossroads with our previous projects, so we decided to throw ourselves into something new.
NRR: Being from great white north and described as a punk-metal band, who were your musical influences that helped form the pretty unique mix of vibes in your sound?
Sever: Well I have to credit Skindred as being one of the main influences, we also get a lot of comparisons to No Doubt which is no coincidence because Tragic Kingdom is one of my favorite records. Other favorite bands include Rage Against the Machine, Refused, System of A Down, Clutch, and Skunk Anansie. We also LOVE hip hop, and I’m a huge fan of almost anything out of Atlanta; Janelle Monae and OutKast.
NRR: Being an unsigned crew, at least for now, what are some of the harder issues to deal with as a DIY band and does having prior experience working with a major label make things easier for you as a band?
Sever: YES, in short I take a lot of what I’ve learned being on Capitol Records as a learning experience. DIY in this day an age is everything since budgets are so tight. Everything from, marketing, branding, social media, tour managing, music videos, merchandising, costume design… it all has to be thought about. It’s hard for me to imagine a band getting by on just playing music alone. It’s kind of sad in a way, but it also separates those that want to be in the music business, from those that just want to play music.
NRR: What was it like working with some pretty well-known bands like Butcher Babies, and most recently, Mushroomhead, especially with being in the States for your first time performing?
Sever: It’s amazing supporting these bands that are amazing at what they do. I really look up to both bands as performers/creators and the fact that they’re actually super cool as people is just a bonus.
NRR: You guys have great merch for sale at your table during your shows. Besides begging for the big foam heads to be for sale, do you think fans, in general, realize how important the sale of swag is to bands?
Sever: I think some do. We have fans that have handed us a few bucks for gas on top of buying a t-shirt. These people understand that if we don’t break even every night, there is a smaller chance we won’t be able to afford to make it to their city again. Luckily we have been doing well in merch but some nights are better than others.
NRR: Now, I’m being told by the ravens of metal mastery that there is a hefty video based storyline that’s been done in support of the latest record, what makes these videos have so much buzz about it? Is it the voice in which the tale is told from one to the other or is it the style in which the videos are shot, or a bit of both in your opinion?
Sever: I think it all comes down to giving fans an experience that goes beyond just the music. We try to immerse fans within our world of Cyco City. We stick to some of the tried and true horror/B-movie favorites such as zombies, clowns, and haunted houses while doing it in our own Cyco way. The continuing story line is inspired by stories like Alice in Wonderland and also adds a cohesiveness to the album. The entire record is about the enemy inside, so I like dramatizing it in a fantasy world.
NRR: Is there a moment, that thinking back on it now, in the your time together, or with any band in the past, that you can’t help but still feel a tad bit embarrassed about, a situation that makes you laugh about despite yourself, or just still makes you shake your head in disbelief? A Spinal Tap moment if you will, that you’d be willing to share with me?
Sever: Well there was one show where I was opening up for an artist who was playing an arena. We had videotaped the show, and it was a habit for my band to watch the tape after each performance. I remember hearing a roar of laughter and shocked to see on the video, that my skirt, without me noticing, had a bad case of static cling. For a song or two, I performed as if nothing was wrong even though my skirt was stuck so every time I turned around I was flashing the crowd.
NRR: With festival season here, and having some veteran status with Warped Tour under your belt, where would you be a good fit for the lineup of a show either up north, in the 50, or even across the pond for you guys?
Sever: I know I previously mentioned them but I would love to open for No Doubt as well as Refused and Skindred. Huge fans of those bands.
NRR: Just out of curiosity, is there any fear as anyone in the band goes jumping out into the crowd or is it all in the name of showbiz and a way to get the fans to connect with the band and not nearly as anxiety inducing as the security crew makes it seem on their faces?
Sever: I almost ALWAYS get into the crowd at my shows. I’ve crowd surfed, moshed and got in people’s faces, hell I’ve even eaten people’s food mid-show and spilled peoples drinks. It was the very FIRST time in my career at one show this past tour where I felt inappropriately groped by someone in the crowd. I have the mic, so I call people out if they’re being rude, dangerous or inappropriate. I actually have so much faith in music fans that we protect each other. When someone falls down in the pit, you pick them back up. I’ve had dudes protect me in the mosh pit when I’m performing even when I’m raring to get in there more. I’m not one to let fear dictate my choices. Yes there are bad apples out there, but most people going to a concert just want to have fun.
NRR: Last question, and we’ll let you get some well deserved rest. What might have been one or two lessons that you learned with touring in Europe and the States recently that would do well if given to new(er) bands as advice in starting out on their own?
Sever: Well we recently changed from bread to wraps. They take up less space, don’t get squished like a loaf of bread and don’t go bad as fast, (laughing), cheap tour food is a must. We have also learned to always think ahead about tour pranks so that you get the last laugh!