SYML at Koko
London seems to have been an emotional, nostalgia-infused stop for SYML, the indie-pop solo project of singer-songwriter and Seattle native, Brian Fennel. He recalls having played his first concert at St Pancras Old Church, in front of 100 people – and now, who knows what thoughts are running through his mind as he looks at a much (much) bigger audience, waiting to be taken on a journey that one could define as simultaneously sensual and soulful.
He plays several songs from his second full-length studio album, The Day My Father Died, including one of the highlights, Howling: “I was made pure in that holy place / You set me free on my final day / But I will remain / Insatiable,” he sings, his voice ascending to a climax. One could be convinced of a sacrality to the feverish desires of the flesh just by listening to SYML’s inebriating hymn to carnal and spiritual love, as they co-exist and become one.
The whole album, in fact, is about the healing process following the aftermath of the death of a loved one. Rebuilding oneself, moulding the ruins into something new, something comforting – finding peace through sensual pleasure, even. SYML is not ashamed to let all his emotions out, and he even says so to his audience: he used to fear exposing too much of himself, but now he has reached that stage where he can communicate with honesty through his clean, soothing sound. He does love to talk, and people love to interact with him, briefly turning the concert into a Q&A.
One of the anecdotes in the singer’s vast repertoire involves none other than Lana Del Rey, who has recently released an album called Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd. SYML was in Paris, feeling particularly homesick, but leaning into that state and embracing those sensations. Eventually, he decided to write a song on the piano, without words. The song, I Wanted to Leave, was then sampled by Lana, who added her own lyrics and made it her own.
The violin is certainly a significant element to the music throughout the whole concert, contributing to building tension with an eerie tone lingering in the background. There is also a deeply felt tenderness to the sound, especially when combined with the soul-wrecking lyrics of the emotional Meant to Stay Hid, the leading track on his 2017’s EP Lost: “If I wasn’t so afraid / I’d shine a light up to space / Then my soul could be / Strong enough to see your face / One more day.”
If it wasn’t for the occasional background noise, the experience would have been an immaculately intimate one. Overall, SYML and his band create a warm, safe space for an audience hungry for that intoxicatingly consoling sound. It feels like the last caress received from a lost lover – the ghost of a caress, still haunting, still lingering.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit SYML’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Believer here: