Sumo Cyco @ Download Festival (The VH Interview)

Canadian DIY Garage Punks were one of the highlights of this year’s Download Festival, quite the feat considering they were contending with the likes of Tool’s return to Donington Park, 13 years in the making and Slayer’s last ever UK performance. Still, they brought their unique energy and thunderous musicianship to the Avalanche stage on Friday, creating something akin to their stage’s name, especially when single ‘Move Mountains’ dropped, sending the crowd into a delighted frenzy. Shortly after their superb set, we had a chance to sit down with vocalist Skye ‘Sever’ Sweetenam and Matt ‘MD13’ Drake to discuss their influences, DIY spirit and if considering their name, we can expect to see them in a sumo ring any time soon:

Tell us how it was making your Download debut?

Sever: Finally, our Download cherry is popped. We’ve been hearing so much about this festival over the years that we’ve been playing the UK.

MD13: We’ve seen photo after photo of other bands playing here.

Sever: And fans showing up to our shows with Download shirts on. After shows they’d be like “you need to be at Download” and we’d be like “yeah but, we’re not”. That was until this year when we could tell them “Yup. We’re going to be there and you’d better be down the front row.” I think our UK fans came to support us.

MD13: Yeah, I was really excited to see how many of our fans came out. We’ve been coming to the UK a lot but to see how many people know who we are and what we’re about. That was awesome.

How have you found the festival so far? Have you had a chance to check out any other bands?

MD13: I just lost my mind because I met Neil Fallon (lead singer of Clutch) who’s one of my heroes.

Sever: We literally interrupted-

MD13: Everything.

Sever: -all the interviews just being “Neil Fallon from Clutch!” Just running in and taking photos.

MD13: I don’t care who thinks I’m a geek. That guy’s awesome.

Sever: We could try and be cool as we’re in a band playing the festival but we’re also fans so we have no problem geeking out about this.

MD13: No problem at all.

Mentioning Clutch, during your set you played a cover of System of a Down’s ‘BYOB’ and your single ‘Move Mountains’ has a guest appearance by Benji Webb from Skindred. Who are some of your other influences?

Sever: Oh my gosh. Where to start?

MD13: For me Refused, huge refused fan.

Sever: Obviously Rage (Against the Machine).

MD13: Yeah Rage, Faith No More a little bit, a lot of punk rock, I could go on and on with that.

Sever: For me, a lot of female vocalists I listen to, everything from No Doubt to Animal Alpha who are symphonic metal, Obscure, Bjork, Cranberries, Blondie, Pat Benatar. It goes all over the place.

MD13: One of my influences right now is Enter Shikari. I got into them about two years ago and being out here touring, they weren’t getting a lot of play in Canada, I didn’t really know who they were but they’re huge here. I really liked what I heard. I feel like a lot of our material right now, it isn’t ripping off them but the influence is there for sure.

So where do your songs come from?

Sever: All sorts of places. I’ll come to Drake with a lyric that’s come to me or he’ll come to me with a riff. I mean, we’re lucky because we have our own studio and Matt’s an amazing producer and songwriter.

MD13: Aww, thanks.

Sever: So we’re lucky we don’t have to wait and book a studio to get in there and create. We can just wake up one morning and go, “hey, want to write a song?” and you’ve got a song.

MD13: Yeah we just get ideas and we go with them. It’s great to be able to cut out the middle-man. We can just start with a riff or a lyric and go from there.

With having your own studio, it is important to keep that independent spirit?

MD13: Oh, it’s definitely super important. It’s actually been a struggle as we get a little bigger, you get more phone calls from companies and labels that want to work with you and you’ve got to be careful about not just jumping aboard. Right now we have this creative freedom and we get to do what we want so I get scared when people say, “I want to help, I want to do this, I want to do that”, I like to keep it as much in-house as possible.

Sever: Well especially since we have the talent in the band, I think we’ve grown as well as videographers, as social media people. I think if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish what you need to, without a need for an outside corporate entity saying, “This is what you need to do.” Instead of doing what we do because someone told us to, what we make comes from the heart and I think the fans respond to that. It’s independent spirit but it’s about creating a real link with our fans.

As regards your music and performances, how much is driven by creating that connection with the fanbase?

Sever: I think that some groups can get a little caught up in their own ego and they forget that what makes music so powerful is communication and to communicate, you need two parties. You can’t just be constantly putting out into the world without receiving because for us relationships, seeing how people receive our music, what they get out of it that we didn’t even realise. To me that’s so powerful, to be like, “oh look at me, I’m so good at what I do. I don’t need anyone else’s opinion.” It’s a little short-sighted. For us to hear back from our fans and to integrate their experiences of us is great because we obviously can get caught up in our own world, with people telling us how great they thought shows were afterwards, you can get forget to have a bigger picture view.

MD13: Yeah, being on the road gives us that perspective. Getting to talk to people, find out what they liked, what they didn’t like. Actually, while we’ve been on the road, we’ve been practising the Download set so we’d be prepared for today and one of our fans who he’s been following us on tour, I just started asking him what he thought. I want to know what people really think. We don’t make music just for us. I wouldn’t be fucking standing here if that was the case, I’d just be at home, watching TV and making music. Anyone who says that they are and goes out and plays shows is lying.

So here at Download, it’s not just music, there’s also WWE wrestling. You two being Sumo Cyco, any chance we’ll see some Sumo wrestling here?

Sever: Yeah, I could take him (MD13) down, don’t you think? I think my stage outfits are kind of wrestling outfits anyway.

MD13: Having spent an afternoon jumping around on stage, I could go watch some wrestling. But yeah, you do seem ready to get in the ring.

Sever: I need a good wrestling name though.

Well, the Sumo Cyco’s a pretty good one.

Sever: I like it.

MD13: We could put a plural in there, be a tag team. The Sumo Cycos. It’s got a ring to it.

Sumo Cyco’s third album will be out later this year. They are touring the UK in the Autumn

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