…find your own mystery, SYLVIE – Sylvie EP
by Walter Price
This is the most challenging review I’ve written in years. The first that I’ve had to actually research other reviews and writeups (something I absolutely despise), just to glean some information. It’s a sign of the times, the music artists who think being mysterious is the best route to success. Except for the part where folks can’t find your music almost instantly, then what’s the point in making one of the most beautifully constructed albums in recent times? But maybe commercial success isn’t even the point…
What I’m going on about is Ben Schwab’s (DRUGDEALER) side project, Sylvie (feat. Sam Burton, Marina Allen & Co.), and their self-titled EP. A stunning set that transports the listener back to the era when Laurel Canyon vibes, Carole King, The International Submarine Band, and Judy Collins were soundtracking breezy stoned afternoons.
An easy enough assessment. Then, while searching for some sort of social media links, the rabbit hole began. Firstly, on the collective’s YouTube page, I found this blurb from DRUGDEALERS’s Michael Collins, “In 1975, John Schwab and his band “Mad Anthony” sat in a barn in Southern California and recorded their songs. It was a narrative that was common during this period – the band was close to a record deal but it never came, and the tapes were stored in a box in a closet. Decades later, in a small town in Ohio, his son Ben Schwab came across them. The recordings would imprint a sound and feeling that he would end up chasing. They were timeless, effortless, and soulful. A harmonic birthright.
“Sylvie is the full return to the musical lineage and spirit that lived in all those lost yet beloved cassettes and reels. True to Mad Anthonyʼs form, Ben and his friends also sat around in a garage in LA to make these recordings. Of course, his fatherʼs voice is featured prominently, he sings one of the songs. Not much has changed.”
Now we’re adding romanticism to the perceived shyness behind this release. And in a way, regardless of wanting easy access to all things this group, it’s starting to feel like nostalgia for old days when all you had was the album, its artwork, and copious amounts of time to lay on the livingroom floor soaking up nothing but the sounds coming from the speakers. As you dreamt up the backstories of the players who crafted the magic unfolding.
The song that started all this deep-dive-ness, is the track “Shooting Star”. A song that’s been explained by Schwab, “This song was one that was floating around my world for a long time. It was conceived by my good friend Stanley Thiel a while ago. He is an unknown legendary songwriter in my eyes who has inspired me and other musicians around Los Angeles over the years. There are these songwriters like him who aren’t in the scene and don’t really play the game, but who write incredible timeless songs. You won’t hear them unless you go looking for them. I wanted to put this song on some sort of a platform for people to hear and to acknowledge the song and him.”
Ok, now, this entire project makes sense. And what a journey. Not only finding “Shooting Star” organically but discovering its EP and the album’s mysterious backstory the way I would have as a younger me. What a long strange trip it’s been… And proving that the magic of discovery is being lost to all the newfangled easiness.
You can stream the full EP and see the music video for “Shooting Star”, now at the GTC.
Produced by Ben Schwab
Sylvie, Written by Iain Matthews
“Me and Mike Collins (Drugdealer) started to call these types of songs that slipped through the cracks from that era “Sylvieʼs”, and that sort of started this whole idea for me. There is a musical lineage that I wanted to tap into and carry on so I named the project “Sylvie” after this song.” – B. Schwab