As with any time someone chooses to put their heart on the line, there is a chance it will be shattered and tossed to the curb. For a decade, Syd, lead singer of the internet alt-rap/R&B group, has used this truth to bravely take audiences on an emotional roller coaster. Listeners experienced emotional loops of sadness, reflection and sensuality, all punctuated with memorable lyrics and melodies.
On his last outing, broken hearts club, the Los Angeles native is in an even more reflective mood. The 13-track audio film follows Syd as she heals from the worst breakup she’s ever had. The end of the relationship — which got tangled up in the pandemic — caused her to completely rethink her place in the world and within the music industry.
Released in April broken hearts club — a sequel to his 2017 solo debut, Fin — reflects those complex feelings, his signature airy voice cascading over production from Brandon Shoop (“CYBAH”) and GRAMMY-winning artists like Troy Taylor (“Fast Car”) , G Koop (“Out Loud”) and Rodney “Darkchild” Jenkins (“Control”). However, “after writing [it]I couldn’t get out [and perform] with what those songs were like,” Syd tells GRAMMY.com of the album’s early development, post-breakup. Instead of letting this energy disrupt her peace – and her creative process – Syd used the Broken Hearts Club as a catalyst for her to practice healing and self-care.
In this exclusive encounter with GRAMMY.com, Syd operates from a place of honesty. She discusses the importance of not letting bitterness take root, shares tips for finding peace as a plant parent, discusses the future of the internet, and opines on her favorite record from the upcoming effort. solo by Steve Lacy.
Let’s start with broken hearts club, Sydney. What were some of the standout moments you had while recording that you hope listeners started learning about after digging through the album?
I want people to hear this album and remember to cherish the good times in a relationship. Even though it’s a heartbroken project, most [contains] love songs. Sometimes we forget that heartbreak only lasts a few months, whereas my relationship, this specific relationship, lasted two years – and it was great so far.
These three, four months when I was injured, spoiled the memory of this beautiful relationship. I wanted to take this album and make it as beautiful as the union was. [I did not] even dwell on the fact that it ended or that I was so hurt. [Instead] I focused more on the love we had, the good times, and the triumphs of overcoming something as painful as heartbreak.
My situation went from 10 to 1 and all I could think of was, Shit, what did I do? She says, “Nothing,” and I wonder out loud if there’s anything I can do to fix this? It was a situation where I thought I had to do something, but all it was was that she wanted to date the opposite sex again. I can not do anything about it. It made me feel hopeless [and] it was so hard.
It is important to protect your energy and live your truth. It makes no sense to waste anyone’s time. By reading how you dealt with your grief, you became a plant parent. What advice would you give to people with similar feelings who are getting into herbal medicine for the first time after a relationship breakup?
Big question! It’s quality over quantity [is how I’d start off.] Ironically, most plants prefer to be left alone. They just want to live. [Laughs] Just give them some food, give them some water and leave their ass alone.
The toughest plants [in my home] were the ones in which I was too involved. When you start with a plant, you just want to love it so much. [But] Sometimes the best way to love something is to leave it alone.
You mentioned having some bitterness at first broken hearts club songs you were working on. What was the editing process like for you when you moved away from those darker entries to that lightheartedness that makes up the album?
I had to heal first. I had to stop completely, take a break and deliberately not work on the album. It may be my zodiac sign, but for me, my favorite form of “revenge” is success. I said to myself, Well, fuck it, I’ll take this album and do something [out] of this pain. Trying to do it only created After pain and After bitterness.
I was pressing play and thought it sounded so disgusting. And personally, I don’t listen to low vibration music. I love high vibrations, uplifting music, [but] doesn’t have to be happy. I mean broken hearts club is not a happy album. But I don’t really like sad songs, [and] so I wrote two sad songs and said, “That’s not even me! Who is that? That’s the most bitter sound I’ve ever heard.”
It was a reflection [of how I was feeling], but after writing a song, you fall asleep to it. I couldn’t get away with what those songs sounded like. Instead, it forced me to heal first and then come back to music. Frank Ocean’s “Dear April” helped me heal in a therapeutic way. I just cried a lot over this song and it helped me get a release.
After that, I wrote two bittersweet songs before writing a third, which was “Goodbye My Love,” and ended up on the album. I couldn’t record this song until I healed. I wrote it in tears. This beat actually came up and I was supposed to write it for someone else’s album, and I had to text the producer that I couldn’t sing that shit without crying.
He was cool, saying, “Don’t worry about it. When the time is right, it’ll be fine,” and that’s what happened. Eventually I had healed from the relationship and just had one more song to record…. [When] I could sing “Goodbye My Love” without crying and I knew right away that I had experienced a good recovery.
It’s official that the next album on the Internet will be the last, but does that mean it’s the end of the band?
No no no. It’s just the last album from that era or an iteration of how you came to see us. The group has projects [laughs]. This will be to be our last internet album for quite a while because everyone is really happy and satisfied right now. We enjoy life and we relax. We just want to live life before going back to the studio, which we are lucky enough to be able to do, so for us it’s important to take time.
This is our last album with Columbia [Records], which is a relationship we’ve been in for 10 years. We talked about starting our own label [and] sign ourselves. We want to create a situation where we can work on our own ideas and trust each other’s intentions because we are true friends.
We don’t need to consult anyone or play the industry game. We have always been fundamentally independent in the way we operate. And so I think we’re excited to try a new chord structure. Mind you, we have a great relationship with Columbia, but we’re really looking to the future and I’d like my next solo project to come out on an internet driven label.
Is it a good transition to find out what you think of the impact of your music and the band on music lovers around the world?
I hope what I’ve done, what we’ve done as musicians, which just broadens our horizons of what music can sound like, has inspired people to keep living this thing that we call life. To me, music can seem as simple or as collegial as you want it to be. It can sound as weird or as basic as you want. We’ve given the creatives, the creatives in the bedroom, hope in so many ways.
Internet started in two small rooms back then. I really hope that, if anything, we’ve inspired people to make the music they want to make, just like how our music has shaped us.
Talking about how music has shaped you all, I wanted to get your thoughts on this unreleased Steve Lacy song that he performed for 420. Everyone is eager to hear what’s next from him, but what did you think when you heard it?
This song, which I don’t think I have a name yet, is one of my favorites from his upcoming album. This may be one of the first songs I heard on his new record. He did this a while ago, but it’s everyone’s favorite, low key. There’s another song he played me that I think will close the record which is ridiculous. It’s just beautiful and magnificent at the same time.
But when I heard the album a few months ago, he said it just added some finishing touches. His mother and all his sisters came to listen to my record before entering the cabin to ask him background vocals on a song. They made a few records, I think, because his whole family sings – his mother, his sisters, everyone.
Now that you are out of broken hearts club and shared your feelings about emotional loss – how do you see your next album shaping up?
I really want the next one to be more general on the subject, more on what we have learned from this past experience. I’m already excited to start, but I’ll probably wait until next year to get started once this tour is over and my contract is legally terminated.
But just to let you know, I’m really happy to talk about what I’ve learned about myself and the self-awareness, self-confidence and self-esteem I’ve gained. thanks to this experience. I think it’s just about who I am, so let me tell you who I am. I think that will be the basis of the next album.
Maybe it will be eponymous or something [laughs]who knows?
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