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Sylvan Esso's Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn are building community one dance party at a time

Photo by Brian Karlsson

The duo is throwing a Psychic Hotline Block Party on Saturday, Oct. 15 in Carrboro, N.C.

Sylvan Esso just won't take a break. After wrapping up a spring tour that included multiple nights at the Historic Durham Athletic Park, the highly creative, hard-working duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn is back with a new record called No Rules Sandy.

Amelia and Nick joined WUNC's Eric Hodge as they got ready for Saturday's big Psychic Hotline Block Party in Carrboro, N.C.

The event will feature an array of artists:

The A’s, Arooj Aftab, Bartees Strange, GRRL x Made of Oak, Hand Habits, Indigo De Souza (DJ Set), Joe Rainey, Joe Westerlund, Lambchop (duo) – Kurt Wagner & Andrew Broder with special guest, Loamlands, Maiani / Sanborn / Westerlund, Quetico, Truth Club, Well$

This is an excerpt of an edited transcript of that conversation. You can hear the full interview by clicking the LISTEN button at the top of this post.

You seem to have an affinity for these big gatherings, but they seem like a lot of work to me, what attracts you to them?

Nick: "A big goal of ours is always to build community. I mean, at this point in our career, I feel like the thing that's exciting to us the most is other people and how many more people we can kind of bring into the fold. And the label's been a big part of that and all these big shows are kind of a big part of that. It's just more fun when more people are involved."

Amelia: "Darn tootin'."

How does it feel to get such an amazing reception for No Rules Sandy? I have this image in my mind of you Nick saying to Amelia: 'I'm not sure that's how we do it. And then, you Amelia say No Rules Sandy!

Amelia: "That was basically what happened in that No Rules Sandy, the line, is like a backup part that I wrote into a song on the record called 'Your Reality.' That was mostly a joke, but definitely became the anthem of the record."

Nick: "Yeah, we actually played the song for Jenn Wasner, our dear friend, and immediately she was like, 'That's the name of the record whether you like it or not.'"

Amelia, the new single from one of your other bands The A's, where you work with fellow Mountain Man Alexandra Sauser-Monnig is a cover of "Lonesome L.A. Cowboy." It's amazing. How do you decide what songs you want to record?

Amelia: Oddly, I don't know how it happened. But The A's is like the most aesthetically solid band I've ever been in. And it's the weirdest aesthetic. There's kind of a flowers and trees, [Disney] cartoon energy to everything. And because of that, it's really easy to choose which songs we're going to cover. Everything has kind of a strange tongue and cheek, wink and a smile energy to it that I really like.

I was watching the video for "Echo Party" which is one big dance festival in a warehouse. And one of the responses to the video came from a fan who said they had been listening to the song for hours while dancing alone in their home after midnight before they saw the video and felt like they were already part of the scene. There is a sense of inclusiveness about your relationship with your audience. Where does that come from?

Amelia: My favorite moments of transcendence have been with a large group of people dancing in a room and because of that, I want to give it to as many people as possible. It's my favorite feeling and as close to the divine as I've ever gotten.

The Psychic Hotline Block Party gets underway Saturday afternoon, Oct. 15, at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, N.C.

Eric Hodge hosts WUNC’s broadcast of Morning Edition, and files reports for the North Carolina news segments of the broadcast. He started at the station in 2004 doing fill-in work on weekends and All Things Considered.
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