Sydney Sprague's upcoming LP, maybe i will see you at the end of the world, wasn't written in the midst of the pandemic.
But it's shaping up to be an ideal soundtrack for the times.
Sprague says the two years in which she wrote the album's 10 songs "spans a lot of, like, an existential crisis. Some [tracks] are personal love song stuff that’s kind of about falling in love at the same time as losing your faith in humanity, which is a weird little mix-up of feelings.
"I’ve always been very paranoid, and I don’t want to say conspiracy theorist, but kind of always like, 'Hmm, something’s going to go wrong at some point.' It’s a theme in my music for sure, but it’s funny that the timing worked out how it did."
"I refuse to die" debuted last week and is the first single off the LP, which Sprague says should drop in October. The short tune, full of weariness and resolve expressed by Sprague's soulful voice, is "the thesis statement of the album."
Maybe i will see you at the end of the world was produced by Sam Rosson at the Hall of Justice in Seattle (a longtime dream of Sprague's), but the video for "i refuse to die" was a DIY affair.
"I learned to make music videos in the process of quarantine," Sprague says. "I bought a green screen and taught myself editing software and through the process of that I made the video for 'i refuse to die,' which is inspired by how watching the news just feels like a big joke at this point.
"It’s like every day you turn on The Onion; it’s just the craziest bullshit you can possibly think of. So it’s a news anchor-style video, and there’s all kinds of different crazy headlines. Some of them are actually real, which is hard to wrap your head around, but some of them are fake and just super-exaggerated, wild headlines." (The video, which Phoenix New Times is debuting here, can be seen below.)
Maybe i will see you at the end of the world is Sprague's first full-length album, but she's released three EPs since 2015 and, despite being 28 years old, has been in the local music scene for well over a decade.
"I started playing gigs around town in Phoenix when I was 13 or 14," Sprague says, a circumstance she attributes to "very, very supportive parents. That’s really the whole name of the game. My parents are just kind of obsessive. I don’t really know a nicer word to say there. They’ve never missed a gig. They’re just always there, front and center."
Since those early days, Sprague's musical process certainly has evolved.
"When I was younger, I was just kind of vomiting out ideas, writing a song in 10 minutes and just leaving it, but as I get older, I’m more critical, and I’m definitely editing myself a lot more," she says. "I spend a lot more time writing lyrics and then coming back and fitting them into music, so I think it’s a lot more focused than when I was younger."
That focus has paid off during the past few months. Sprague's spring and summer plans included her first appearance at South by Southwest and some festival dates in Colorado, but instead, she's had time to hone her craft, which may have been a blessing in disguise.
"I’ve been really busy, actually, making videos, learning to make lyric videos, all the kind of graphic design stuff you need for website and socials, and the logistics of doing a really good job of putting out music. As unfortunate and terrible as everything is, it’s kind of been good for me to have this change of pace to be able to focus on giving all of my energy to getting this music out there."