A new album means festivals for Brian Fennell. The artist better known as SYML is playing Pinkpop and Rock Werchter, among others. In his Festival CV, we talk about the experiences and highlights of his festival life. Where would he like to perform again? And what is his most beloved festival memory?
“The first one I ever went to is this small, but kind of big festival called Bumbershoot. It’s in Seattle, where I’m from. There’s a lot of weirdness to this festival. It’s kind of hippyish and a little trippy. I grew up going to that festival, so it was also my first one. I can’t remember what I saw the first time I went there exactly. It was probably something like The Smashing Pumpkins.”
“The first festival I ever played is called Summerfest in Milwaukee. It’s huge, probably the biggest festival in the United States. It was really good. It was the Fourth of July, which is our big Independence Day. I have great memories of that day. There was this moment where I was being driven around on a golf cart and the fireworks were going off. I was playing way early in the day, which meant I had the rest of the day to wander around and see shows.”
“I don’t remember which festival it was. It was like a fair festival. There, I went to see The Flaming Lips with my friends. At some point this crazy looking guy came up to us and asks us if we want to dance on stage with the Lips. We were like ‘all right’. So, we go backstage and there were all these good looking women dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. And me and three other guys were there. One guy was dressed as the Tin Man and I was dressed as the Cowardly Lion. I thought I was going to be dancing for one song, but it turned out to be the whole show. We were dancing on stage for like, two hours. If I would have known that beforehand I would have gotten more drunk. It was a really memorable, crazy experience.”
“These are the first shows I’m doing with a full band. Usually it’s just me and a loop pedal and stuff. This time there’s a full band of drums, bass and a lot more. I’ve only just started playing with them and I’ve had to stop myself from smiling the whole time! I constantly feel like ‘holy shit’. I’m loving it. It’s a bigger and better sound. It fits the music I’ve written for the new album really well, too. The timing is perfect, because the album just came out and I’m immediately touring after. It’s the perfect time to share the new music!”
“One of my new songs ‘The Bird’ is really fun to play live. It’s such a vibe, with a lot of drums and stuff. It sounds great with the band. And then there’s ‘Animal’, which reminds me of a mid-90’s song. It’s really laid-back and chill. It has a real summer vibe.”
“As a bucketlist festival I would have said Coachella or something, but I feel like it’s overdone. People get sick from the amount of dust there! It’s become a festival where you go to be seen. People go there for an Instagram moment. Festival culture in Europe is way better. It’s more healthy; mentally, not chemically, haha. People in Europe go to festivals to lose their minds, not to take a picture. Festivals are very special! Where else can you go for three days and see legendary bands all in one place?”
“So, bucketlist festival.. I’d say Burning Man, maybe. But I don’t think that’s really my genre, haha.”
“I like playing at festivals better than going to them. I think I just got a little spoiled. I love having a place to hide, where it’s comfortable and you can have a drink. Yeah, I’m really spoiled. I love sleeping in a bed during festivals.”
“The best thing about being able to go backstage is that you can watch bands or artist from the side stage. Last year I was at Best Kept Secret and I saw Vince Staples from the side stage. I was just by myself, nobody else was there. It was so smoky and foggy. It was fucking epic. I was just watching it so excited, like a kid.”
Beer or wine?
“Beer. If you drink five wine, you’re already kind of drunk. If you drink five beers, you’re fine. You’re also kind of getting hydrated at the same time. You have to pee more often though.”
Indoor or outdoor stage?
“I love all the new kind of tents for festivals now. You can see all the lights inside, but there’s also an airflow. It’s not completely disgusting and sweaty. So I’d definitely go for that. A nice and big tent.”
Play a show in the pouring rain or the burning sun?
“I hate both of those options. Probably rain. I’m from Seattle, so I can focus more when there’s rain. I’m kind of used to it. I’d rather not be hot. They’re both really shitty, though.”