Sumo Cyco is the hot, new Toronto indie band that’s been garnering more and more attention. With a Toronto Independent Music Award already under its belt, the band is looking to the future with plans for a potential CD and more interesting things. Frontwoman Sever (formerly Skye Sweetnam) recently sat down with Raz Mataz Magazine to talk all things Sumo Cyco, and some personal stuff, too.
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): Sumo Cyco’s sound is pretty aggressive. It’s definitely not sweet and tender! What genre would you classify your band as?
Sever: We’ve changed our definition of our sound a few times since we started, but as the world likes labels, we’re using punk/nu-metal as our classification for now.
RMM: I’m a fan of aggressive and loud music myself – Tool, Metallica, Evanescence, etc. (the louder, the better). Who would you say influences Sumo Cyco’s sound and style of play?
Sever: I can only speak for myself, but a few of my favourites are Skindred, Refused, Animal Alpha, and Skunk Anansie.
RMM: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved bands with a dynamic like yours: Female, girlie vocals that are backed up by a loud and aggressive band that just plays the hell out its instruments. I think of Evanescence or even Flyleaf. Hell, even No Doubt, if you want to go back that far. I’m wondering if your vocal style is somewhat influenced by the female-fronted bands who came before you?
Sever: When it comes to vocal style, I don’t like to limit my influences to gender. My biggest influence is Benji from Skindred. When it comes to female singers, I’m drawn to vocalists that are on the outskirts of the rock genre, usually with a bit of an urban feel. You mentioned Gwen Stefani from No Doubt; sometimes I even find myself channeling an M.I.A. vibe or Janelle Monae.
RMM: Your band’s videos – I can only describe them as a sumptuous feast for the senses – are very creative and seem to have a horror theme running throughout. I understand they’re shot only on a small budget, which makes them all the more impressive. Are the videos supposed to tell a story, or are they just meant to be something entertaining that your fans can look at while listening to Sumo Cyco?
Sever: Thanks. Film and video is a big part of who we are. They all definitely have a story, with the exception our first video ‘Mercy’. We have developed a strong style to our videos, and if you follow all of them, you can see a bit of a formula underneath each different theme.
RMM: Congratulations on winning the Toronto Independent Music Award for Best Female-Fronted. That means you’re more rawkin’ than all the other female-fronted bands! What does it mean to you, that your industry peers have recognized you in this way?
Sever: It was super great getting our first award. I think it energized the band knowing that we’re getting recognition in our hometown.
RMM: Sumo Cyco’s obviously not your first foray into music. Some may even remember that, several years ago, you were just fresh-faced, young Skye Sweetnam when you released your solo debut album (not the badass you are now as Sever). As a solo artist, you sounded more along the lines of an Avril Lavigne in the sense that your songs were undeniably more poppy. Can you take us through the musical transformation that took you from Skye to Sever?
Sever: Sever was always inside me, just waiting for her time to escape! I started in the professional music industry at age 12, and was signed at 14. There’s no doubt that you are a different person at 24 than you are 10 years earlier. It took me time and confidence to grow into the artist I am today. I still love and continue to write pop music but I don’t feel it represents me at this point in my life. I listened to Metallica, Faith No More, and Clutch when I was 16, and always begged my band to turn up the distortion, even when I was on tour with Britney Spears. The greatest battle is the war within yourself. I personify that with Skye vs. Sever.
RMM: What’s the weirdest/most shocking/most memorable thing a fan in the audience ever did while you were on stage performing?
Sever: I guess the weirdest thing was when I put my hand into the crowd once while preforming, a bunch of kids tried to steal my jewelry right off my hand.
RMM: Does Sumo Cyco have any plans on putting out a CD soon?
Sever: We’re still figuring that out. I don’t really believe in CDs or album format in this day and age. But the fans want one, so stay tuned!
RMM: Who are you listening to these days?
Sever: I don’t like the music on the radio, so I listen to lots of talk radio. The last album I bought was Billy Talent’s Dead Silence. When I’m in the car these days, I turn on Janelle Monae or Rage Against the Machine.
RMM: What are you watching on TV these days?
Sever: I don’t watch TV; I actually don’t have the option to because I don’t have cable or satellite. I watch movies and I go out to the movies almost every week. There are a couple of on-going series I follow via DVD: Sons of Anarchy, Dexter and The Walking Dead.
RMM: Tell us about the rest of the band members. What are M.D., Thor and Legs like?
Sever: Just uploaded the behind-the-scenes footage from our latest music video; if you want to get a sense of what it’s like to work with my guys, all you have to do is watch. Thor is hilarious, and super down-to-earth; M.D. is intense, mega creative and hard working. And Legs doesn’t play with us these days – awesome dude though. He’s out with Everytime I Die. A guy by the name of Andy has been playing with us, he’s into older women, booze, and drummers. . . haha – great guy!