Open up your mind and take a ride on the wild side with Sumo Cyco‘s new album, Initiation. It is full of metal, rap style vocals, pop, and beautiful lyrics full of wisdom and hope. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to try something new, and you will be glad you did! These musicians are extremely talented, and full of kindness and compassion. As you dive into this album, start to envision the world they have developed. Take a step further and hop onto their website to find out what Cyco City club you belong to. Initiation is an adventure and a world full of stories and insight.
In 2011, Canadian pop star Skye Sweetnam decided to start a new venture and created Sumo Cyco. She is joined by Matt Drake (guitar), Matt Trozzi (drums), and Oscar Aneset (bass). Their first album titled, Lost in Cyco City was released in 2014, and their second album, Opus Mar was released in 2017. Initiation is their third album and first with Napalm Records and was released on May 7, 2021. It is jam packed with many musical elements and not one moment of boredom.
Skye and Matt Drake chatted with Metal Nation about this release. cyco cyco cyco cyco cyco
I have been able to listen to the album many times, and I noticed the lyrical content is really great on this album. There is a lot of insight in these lyrics, more than I think people probably realize. With the soundscape being a fun style, I was not expecting the lyrical messages, I think I was expecting more party style lyrics, so I was pleasantly surprised. There are many pertaining to anxiety, which I think many people during these times are maybe experiencing for the first time. Was this by design to help people during these troubling times?
Skye– “I do write a lot about that. I feel like the last couple of years has been the first time I have experienced as much anxiety as I ever have. I think it has been exaggerated with the covid 19 situation and feeling a bit unsure as to what the future holds as a band and as a career especially when things are changing so fast and I always find when I write it is almost like an explosion of thoughts and feelings and sometimes I don’t even realize until hindsight exactly what I was going through. When I look back I can see why the past me was using that metaphor because that completely makes sense with what I was going through at the time. It is kind of like a therapy getting all those feelings and emotions out. You are right though, there is always a part of me that wants to keep a thread in there of hope and encouragement to those listening. I never like to end on a dark or depressed note.”
Matt– “One of our biggest things is no matter how problematic something we throw into the song might be, we just never want to end on a dark side. We are always trying to lift people up even though we all deal with shitty things you know.”
I feel you guys balance that really well because there is that element of explaining what it feels like so people don’t feel alone but there is also those elements of hope and positivity. In particular “Run With Giants”. It made me almost think of Star Wars and a rebellion of hope *laughs*.
Matt– “I think ‘Run With Giants’ was one of those after we had been touring our butts off for the past bunch of years. With all the things that was going on, it is all about tackling and moving forward. We were trying to play with big bands and big tours and we were just these little guys just trying to keep up with this big world. So that is what came from that song is push yourself.”
You guys toured with Jinjer, who is sweeping up the whole nation in excitement, so that is really good exposure.
Matt– “Super good people too. They are absolutely incredible human beings. They took us under their wings, they were very nice people. We had a lot of fun partying nights *laughs*.”
Skye– “Yeah it was a great tour. They upgraded venues like two or three times because they just kept selling tickets.”
Matt– “We started to get a lot of messages from people who were into the stuff we’re doing from Russia and Moscow and New York and places who had seen us through Jinjer tour as well. So definitely some Jinjer people have embraced us.”
Which is really cool because it is entirely different styles of music. cyco cyco cyco cyco cyco
Matt– “Yeah, we were actually really surprised. We knew we would win over a lot of fans and people live, but on the recordings that is definitely a different beast than something like Jinjer and we are still getting a lot of love from that world that is coming from them, so that is good.”
It is well deserved. It is also bridging that gap between the different music styles, which metal is not always gracious and accepting with, I think we can safely say. cyco cyco cyco cyco cyco
Matt and Skye- “*laugh*
Skye, with you being a pop artist initially, was it nerve wracking for you to start dipping your toes in the metal world, knowing how narrow-minded this community can be?
Skye– “I think that is come to be more apparent the past couple years as we have kind of moved more into getting signed with Napalm Records and touring with more heavy acts that we have. When I first started Sumo Cyco it was really kind of a cry for freedom. I have kind of been stuck in a box creatively with trying to write radio singles to radio singles, three minutes thirty seconds, always hit the chorus, hook after hook…”
Matt– “We still try to write those though *laughs*”
Skye– “Of course *laughs*. All I mean is it did not leave much room for experimenting with different types of genres or different types of vocal techniques, from screaming to rapping to all these things that I love to do. I really wanted to feel free I was kind of feeling a little claustrophobic I think creatively, so when you open your mind up, you can break rules. I think that is a theme we have learned the past few years is thinking there is a barrier and realizing you can break that barrier. Then you get through to the other side and find more barriers…”
Matt– “It is quite a big barrier though *laughs*. There is a lot of push and pull on this. We don’t even consider ourselves like a metal band, we never really have. We are a punk guitar player trying to play metal in a dance hall pop band. It is a really strange dynamic between us. We have always known there is going to be people who get really bent about bands like us and it is usually pretty funny seeing some of the comments, but we are getting a lot more love than hate. It also means we are expanding and scaling pretty good because a lot more people are paying attention because we get a lot more hate these days.”
Skye– “Yeah it is a sign that you are reaching more people *laughs*. As soon as you are casting that wider net, you are bound to catch people in it that aren’t big fans.”
Matt– “One of the worst things is the misogyny. It is one thing to hate saying we are not cool enough or heavy enough, we have heard it all before, we expect it all before. Skye comes from a different place, she doesn’t dress like a ripped jeans punk rock girl, that’s my life. Skye comes from a place, she is like Cher, she loves flamboyant, she loves crazy costumes. So what’s crazy, is the amount of people that are offended by skin. It seems like mostly dudes too. It seems so weird. She is allowed to show what she wants, she is allowed to wear what she wants, instead of dissing the music, or anything even related to the music, they are just dissing her because she decided to wear a bikini top and a pair of jeans, which eight million other people have done before. People walk around daily at the beach and there is no reason someone should be so nasty about those things in 2021.”
I definitely agree. Unfortunately, the metal genre is male dominated, so I think it is that, maybe shock factor instead of embracing something different. You can’t teach old dogs new tricks I guess. The more open-minded metal heads will be the ones that are more accepting, and those are the ones you want to have in your corner anyways.
Matt- “You are totally right. That is what we are sifting through right now. Napalm is a heavy label too and so it was one of those things where they knew what they were getting themselves into with us just as we knew what we were getting into with them. We had phone calls saying we were going to get this and that, but we are trying to shake it up. That’s what’s happening.”
Again, bridging that gap. Metal is a hurt community over the past 20 years or so. Being able to bring something that is a more popular genre through pop elements can possibly bring more people to the metal world, which I think is really important.
Matt– “I always use ‘Chop Suey’ as an example. I don’t think radio and mainstream music was loving metal, then that song hit and people loved it for a while, then it not as much anymore, then not hardly at all. It is just a smaller world. Skye especially says she doesn’t want to live in just a metal world, she wants to go out there and wants everyone to embrace that kind of style.”
Skye– “You are right, it is a bridge we are trying to build over to, I was using the imagery of a crazy metal castle with a moat around it and everyone wants to protect their walls and not let anybody in. We are trying to build that bridge to say, ‘Hey, metal fans can walk over to the fields of pop and the pop people can walk over and visit the metal castle.”
Matt– “Here is the question, are you the one defending the castle?”
Skye– “No that’s the elitists *laughs*”
Matt– “You are the Viking *laughs”.
Skye– “Yes, I am trying to get through the moat right now *laughs*.”
Trying to get past all the alligators and asking, “Please, let down your bridge, I swear it is worth is.
Back to the album, “Awakened” does definitely land on more of a positive note and ease the mind. I love that you ended the album this way. I know track placement is important for artists, was it placed last for that reason?
Skye– “Yeah, and ‘Awakened’ is kind of a bonus track as well. There were a few we were sifting through trying to find the right one to put on the physical copy of the record and I think that one balanced out what we were trying to create on the record. When you write a record, like you said, track listing is important, and you want those peaks and valleys and you want hit on all those different colors that we feel represents us as a band.”
Matt– “And with all the crap that has been going on, and how long it took writing the record and a lot of stuff, I think no matter how heavy we get or this and that, or dancy, or party, we finally wanted just a nice serious kind of, we are surviving, kind of song. We are making it through this.”
Were the lyrics written pre or during covid?
“There are a few songs on the record written before even an inkling of this pandemic was out there, but songs like ‘Awakened’, ‘Bad News’, ‘Bystander’, ‘No Surrender’, and ‘Cyclone’, were the ones written during 2020.”
I love the lyrics to “Bad News”. That is one I definitely related bigtime to.
Matt– “I want to say Skye that I love them too. I actually only know what you said in them, like yesterday.”
Skye– “Really what?! *laughs*”
Matt– “There is a lot of kind of rappy stuff and I can always hear most of it, but there is little words that slide by, and I have just let it happen where when we were recording I would just think, well whatever, but I didn’t realize every single word you say. Because I am cutting and editing, for our music video, I have to hear this thing over and over again. I am impressed with your rap skills.”
Skye– “Awe, thanks Matt.”
*laughs* I feel like those lyrics are some that many of us can relate to and it does feel like that is how the news outlets are anymore. Just turn off the news, even though you want to be educated in what is going on, sometimes it is not good for our mental health.
Skye– “One hundred percent yes. It is that balance that I did feel more than ever. Usually when a huge global pandemic is going you are thinking, what is happening next?! You want to know all the news and on top of that all the politics and riots and all these things that everyday had me feeling even more helpless because I am watching all these things unfold through a screen and felt so far away from my fellow humans and it was really effecting me.”
Matt– “There were some days I was like, ‘Skye, you have to turn the tv off. Put your phone down.” It doesn’t matter how much you want to be educated, right now it just isn’t helping because you can’t fix any of it either. You can’t fix covid, or anything like that so there was so much going on watching the world.”
Skye– “Yeah it can be overwhelming.”
You are both clearly very sincere and compassionate people, so when you have that aspect to your personality, you want to try to fix things and you carry the world on your shoulders and it can become extremely overwhelming. It is good you have someone to pull you back and say, “This is not good for you, go do something else.”
Matt– “It also seems it sparked something else. This is the worst year I have every seen online. Maybe because we are living online, because of covid, and all the things that have happened, but it feels like the trolls have come out in masses. They are sitting at their computers because they are in lockdown, or whatever. The hate online is stronger than ever this year. The amount of complaints and hate about everything, and some of it is legit, and some of it is so not legit. It is just brutal. To me it is a little nerve wracking with that.”
Skye– “It is like a mental warzone trying to get through the internet.”
Matt– “I feel bad for some generations that are growing up younger than us that are living in it so tight where their whole life is online. Our life is online right now, I can’t imagine what a ten year old ten years from now mentally might be going through if they don’t know how to keep their heads on straight with all of this world right now.”
With all this, how important is self-care and balance throughout all this? cyco cyco cyco cyco cyco
Skye– “Self-care is really important and I actually feel like it was a weird, I don’t want to shed positivity on the covid-19 situation, but I do feel like I was in a complete burnout situation right before the pandemic hit as far as touring. I just came off a pretty heavy tour that we were stuck in snow storms, we lost our van (in Idaho around Boise, which Matt discussed at one point), I was sick for about half the tour, it was rough tour to get through and at the end of it, I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I can do this over and over again if this is what every tour from now on is going to be.’ It was a really draining process.”
Matt– “I kept saying to Skye, don’t worry, when we get back from this tour, we signed this deal with Napalm, we HAVE to literally spend three months finishing everything. We get three months delegated to this, and we were home for about a week?
Skye– “Yeah about a week and covid hit and everybody went into lockdowns.”
Matt– “So everything got kind of screwed up for us. For the first few months, Skye had trouble even getting focused because she was so messed up about the situation.”
Skye– “Yeah not seeing family or friends, not touring, how are we going to make money, what are we doing?”
Matt– “We can’t put the record with Napalm out now, it makes no sense to drop the record just after signing when we can’t tour the thing. So we waited for over a year. Skye is a very innocent heart and wants to love and be joyful, and she was making dinner the other day and started crying. I asked her what she was crying for and she said, ‘I just miss my family’. I miss people, but I don’t have that.”
Skye– “I am a new aunt too so I have a young niece and nephew that live a little bit further away and just because of the restrictions in our province right now, I can’t see them. I just see pictures of my little guy growing up so fast and I just wish I could be more a part of their lives.”
Matt– “It is such a weird mental moment. They are young and you want to see them grow but you can’t, we are watching it through a screen. Which is exactly why ‘Bystander’, came out.”
Thank goodness for technology so at least we have those mediums to be able to use but it still is really tough. I am so sorry.
Skye and Matt– “It is ok. We are getting through it together.”
If you woke up tomorrow and were able to change one thing about the world, what would you change?
Matt– “I would make it a social economy. I would make it to where everyone would have the same economic ability. I want it to where nobody makes more money than the other. That solves everything right there.”
Skye– “I think people need to have more empathy. I think if you can really realize where someone else is coming from, and try to really put yourself in someone else’s shoes, I think we would have a lot less bad hostility and crappy situations. If everyone was a little bit more kinder to each other.”
Wonderful answers. You are both incredible humans and I really appreciate you and your answers.
Skye and Matt– “Well, thank you.”
Initiation is full of twists and turns with a fun challenge to tackle many areas of music in one sitting, and they do it beautifully. Not only is this album an enjoyable journey, but Skye and Matt are two very genuine and incredible humans. Make sure you check them out and support Sumo Cyco!