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Interview: Skye Sweetnam of Sumo Cyco

Sumo Cyco are currently on their ‘No Sleep! No Surrender!’ tour across the UK, before they took to the stage in Newcastle we caught up with singer, frontwoman and “captain of the ship”, Skye Sweetnam.

Music Existence: You’ve just released the video for your new single, what was that like to shoot?

Skye: It was fast, it was cold. We did it in two and a half days, the editing and the filming. Sumo Cyco do all of our videos ourselves, myself and my guitarist usually direct the videos and come up with the crazy concepts. This video was kind of a bit special because we had a fan of ours named Glen from California who had built us customized skull masks that he made out of the goodness of his heart. He’s a special effects artist out there and really just loves our music and wanted to be a part of our videos and sent us our own custom “Terrornaughts” – which are these skull, intergalactic, mafia.. Kind of our logo/our trademark. So yeah, they were featured in the video and Glen did an awesome job and sent us five masks and we were like “we have to use these in the video!” And then because they’re so colourful with the stark contrast with the snow, it just so happened to be a snowy blistery day in Canada, it just worked out!


ME: It wasn’t intentional that you were going to shoot in the snow?

S: Yeah actually! I posted on twitter a couple of back to back shots of when we were scouting the location versus when it was filmed, and when we were scouting it was very gloomy and grey – no snow. Where as the snow brought this pop of white against the colourful stuff, so you’ve just gotta roll with the punches when you do that stuff so it worked out!


ME: How many more videos and singles will you be releasing from your album?

S: We’re not even sure if it is an album or if it’s an EP, so with Undefeated it kind of came out of nowhere, we were thinking we were just gonna release off of our second album Opus Mar as kind of a ramp up to this tour, but we had Undefeated completed and there was a side of me that was just like “I love this song so much, I bet the fans would love it, do I wanna sit on it and just pretend it doesn’t exist while we go on these tours or shall we just put it out?” I kinda love the fact that, being an independent band, one of the pros of doing things ourselves is that we make our own rules. So for that one I was like “let’s just put it out!” It’s been going off great live, and we’ve been doing it acoustically at our VIPs everyday, so I’m really glad we have it out and who knows! Who knows what’s gonna happen moving forward, if we’re gonna just keep releasing singles until it compiles into an EP or if we write enough songs, if we’re on our game and we get enough done in the next little bit, then we’ll make a full record, but I just think it’s important in this day and age to not wait so long in between releases! I really really like the fact that when you love a band and they’re gonna have some new stuff for you without having to wait two or three years, it’s like torture when you love a band to wait that long!


ME: Do you like doing what you want, having no-one saying ‘do this or do that’, do you enjoy the freedom?

S: Yeah! When I was younger I was signed to a record label and there’s definitely moments where I felt a little bit suffocated with the fact that I felt like I wasn’t completely free to explore everything I wanted to. That’s something that Sumo Cyco was born out of, that rebellious side of me that didn’t like the fact that I was told that I couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that, and I wanted to do everything I was told that I couldn’t do in Sumo Cyco. There are definitely pros to being completely independent but there’s also a lot of challenges. We are here running a full ship. I’m setting up merch every day, tour managing, figuring out the routing, fronting all of the costs for all of this to happen.. There’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff that keeps me super busy so I don’t have a lot of time to just play rockstar, have a few drinks and just go to a bar, or go look around a city. Sometimes I’d love to do that but, it’s work. I do it because I love it and I do it because I’m passionate about it, but there are pros and cons.


ME: Do you think on the next tour you’re gonna give yourself a few days to explore or is it going to be work, work, work?

S: Well that’s the thing, every day that you’re out on the road and not playing a show that’s money lost. Because you still have the overhead costs of having the crew, the gear rented, the tour vehicle, the hotels, so everyday you go without having the income. We meet bands like Mushroomhead, who are a great example, we went out on tour a couple years ago and they were extremely independent to the point where they would not have one day off because they knew how much money they’d be losing. We did 19 shows completely in a row.


ME: I guess that’s quite tiring when you don’t have a break! When you get home do you chill out or do you keep working and keep writing?

S: It never stops! [Laughs]


ME: What is your favourite track from Opus Mar?

S: We really love Sleep Tight, it’s a great and powerful song live because it has such an epic intro.


ME: You collaborated with Benji Webbe on Move Mountains, who’s idea was it to collab? Did you go to him or did he go to you?

S: We came to him. Skindred is the band that pretty much influenced me to start a band, so when I heard the Babylon record I saw the mix of genres and the way that I could still move my booty at the same time, and rock as hard as fuck, I loved it! It’s been a long time coming that I kept pursuing. I pursued Benji, their producer, their manager, I was like “I wanna work with this guy so bad!” so I’m glad it worked out.


ME: And you performed Move Mountains with Benji at Hellfest, do you wish he could sing it with you every night live?

S: Oh yea, hell yeah! If only he could be in our travelling party with us and just go on tour with us!


ME: So how was Hellfest?

S: It was great! Amazing, Benji was kind of the best part of the whole thing. We really are nervous when we get into a situation where it’s completely full on metal bands. We love urban music, dancehall music, we love all these other kinds and we just don’t know how these pure metal guys are gonna dig what we do. That’s what I think is so great about the feel of our band, we just like to have fun and when people see someone else having fun they are really accepting. More and more people are not so boxed into just their one type of genre, so I don’t think I gave them enough credit for how awesome they could be, how awesome the crowd was.


ME: Who else would you like to work with in the future?

S: Lots of people! I get the comparison a lot to Gwen Stefani from No Doubt, I think that she’s definitely one of the female frontwomen that influenced me early on in life, which kinda made me believe that I was capable of doing what I do. That would be a crazy switcharoo because she’s not really doing the same type of music I fell in love with back then so I don’t really know if there would ever be an opportunity where she’d wanna collaborate with a heavier band. I’m also really a big fan of hip-hop! I love ATL hip-hop, I really admire Janelle Monae, I think she’d be really cool to work with. I know she’s done collaborations in the past.

And we just went to Toronto to see Enter Shikari, they’re obviously huge here but no-one has really gotten what they do in Canada or the US yet so when we saw them there was only like 300 people. We know how much they draw over here so it’s so intimate compared to shows where you guys would have to see them from distances, while we’re hanging out with the after the gig like it’s no big deal! I think it would be really cool to go on tour with them or collaborate with them.


ME: What’s next after this UK tour?

S: We’re really excited to be going on tour in the States with Butcher Babies and Nonpoint as well as Cane Hill, who I’m brand new to. I’m really excited because they sound really great and we know Butcher Babies and Nonpoint from being on tour before. That’s what excites me about the tour so much, I already know the people I’m gonna be spending a ton of time with and I know they’re great people. Basically we’re gonna have an awesome tour and I think the fans will really, hopefully, dig what we bring to the table.     


ME: So it’s going to be a lot more chilled out than the UK tour? You’ve got friends, you can take it slow, seeing as you’re not the headliners?

S: Yeah! Headlining does put a lot more to-do’s on the list every day and when you’re playing a shorter set and you’re not the one in charge of the whole thing it’s a little easier, but then there’s things where you don’t get to play as long, you don’t have control, you’re last in line when it comes to the merch space and things like that, but we’re used to it! We just roll with the punches.


ME: Is 2018 gonna be super busy for you guys, any more music in the pipeline?

S: For sure. We’ve been writing, we have I think 5 or 6 songs that are getting close to being shaped into their final form. But I think Matt and I especially want to really take our time with the next release as far as writing goes, we’ve pretty much released almost every song we’re ever written – where as a lot of bands I know will write a ton of stuff and narrow it down with the best stuff and I’m excited to write a lot and see what comes out of it.


ME: Do you have any more covers planned?

S: Not right now, we’re kinda spontaneous when it comes to the covers. The last one we did of Dua Lipa we thought to do it and then completed it within the week, did the video and everything like that short amount of time. Sometimes if we’re going on a tour, like for the upcoming US tour, when we’re opening up for crowds that won’t know who we are we’re gonna want to pull in a few covers there so they can get a little bit into it and break the ice. We’ll maybe experiment with a few other covers.


ME: Do you prefer to play the larger venues or more intimate shows?

S: Intimate shows like this are amazing especially when they’re a lot of our own fans that know the music really well, are singing back the lyrics, they really get into it. But I also really enjoy when I have the challenge to look out at the crowd and go “oh, holy crap, I’ve gotta make these people love me or else they’re gonna throw me off the stage!” [Laughs] I find that really motivates me to put on a really good show because I’m trying to really get those people onto side Sumo Cyco so I push myself really hard to make everyone have a good time. Even with larger crowds I’m not afraid to just get in the crowd and run up to people and sing to them. Our motto is “no one’s safe at a Sumo Cyco show” – you can’t just pretend you’re at the back in your own world, I’ll come up to you and I will dance with you!


ME: Will you be doing that on tour with Butcher Babies or will it be smaller shows?

S: It’s going to be around 500 capacity, I’m excited. I know Butcher Babies and Nonpoint have done really well in the states before and I’m really hoping we bring out the awesome crowds and some Sumo Cyco fans have been begging us to come to the states for a long time, so you guys got your wish now, you better show up!


ME: Is there anywhere in the world you’d love to play this year?

S: I’ve been dying to get back to Japan, I used to play with my solo music and I used to go to Japan a lot. I haven’t been there for 9 or 10 years, I would love to go back and experience it again. I found even when I was doing music in my teens and I was playing pop music the crowds were so obedient in Japan! I would say “clap your hands!” and when you say that here, say that in America and some people would do it but it’ll eventually trail off after a while. Where as in Japan they’re not stopping until you tell them to stop and then they will do something else.


Sumo Cyco are on tour across the UK March 14 -March 27 and will be on tour across the US with Butcher Babies and Nonpoint April 25 – June 8. Tickets can be found here.

Watch the video for Undefeated below.

About Tash Peto

23 year old photographer, film maker and occasional writer from Newcastle, UK. Often found at punk rock shows. See you in the pit!

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