MEAWW's Basement Tapes: Mysterious alt-rock duo sym fera's music revels in the dichotomy of hope and despair
The duo has maintained a level of secrecy as far as their identity is concerned but sonically and visually, they tell tales of a dystopian world with a tiny glimmer of hope rooted deep within
Mysterious Los Angeles duo sym fera recently dropped their song, 'little things' with an accompanying music video, and it simply adds to their evolving yet almost mystical persona.
There's not a whole lot of information about just who sym fera is. In a world that prides itself on information and knowledge, it can be difficult to connect with an act that caters to neither. Yet, sym fera has an allure to it, owing entirely to the duo's moody, haunting, and dystopian sound, something that makes them a perfect fit for the times. Their vocals have been described as something in the between Jeff Buckley and Radiohead, while their latest song, 'little things', has been called "one of the year's best slow burns" by Rolling Stone.
Musically, sym fera take on slow, evocative rock and do so with a level of mastery not common among artistes that are relatively new to the craft. The duo evokes the sounds of bands like The Neighbourhood and Arctic Monkeys but manages to not drown among a sea of gifted musicians. sym fera stands on their own and delivers a sound that while reminiscent of others, is still unique. And their mysterious identity simply enhances the vibe their music creates.
The 'little things' video beautifully matches the song's intensity, while also being topical and in some ways interpretive. As the band shares, "'little things' is about corruption, specifically about how corruption of the individual can lead to corruption of the state and the globe...it matters what kinds of people are granted great power, so the video is a collage of one powerful man's memories and fantasies as he goes about his morning routine getting dressed. These private mental moments reveal much about who he really is, and yet they are always by definition inaccessible to everyone with which he interacts, and over which he exerts influence."
This story finds its protagonist frozen in time as we get to glimpse his inner thoughts via shots that feed into the overall narrative, including a little child crying while being bullied, a man cocking a gun, and another fixing his cufflinks. The video is structured in a way that juxtaposes sharp, violent shots with lingering moments of quiet emotion, perfectly complementing the building orchestral track. What you’re left with at the end of it is a feeling of being unsettled as you come to recognize the cycle of violence being portrayed in this clip. And that feeling is certainly by design, as it perfectly fits into the mystery that is sym fera, an act that elects to give you hints into their artistry while not allowing their identity to overpower their sound.
Expanding on the symbolism behind their latest work, sym fera states, "If this project is trying to be about anything, it’s probably about navigating the problem of other minds: that is, that other minds exist, but I can never actually experience them. And that condition leads to mistrust, love, pain, war, conspiracy, politics. All of it. We all live in these separate locked rooms of bone and we never leave, and no one ever really comes to visit. We can only detect clues that there are minds other than our own. We are all 'island universes’."
Yet, sym fera's philosophy isn't all bleak. Their sound, as haunting and dark as it might seem, bears within it the seeds of hope. We may all find ourselves locked away from one another, but, as the band shares, "sometimes we can overhear the music coming from other rooms, and it makes us feel less alone."
"And eventually, we get this silly idea that, maybe, we could make some music of our own, and maybe those minds in those other rooms might hear it, and maybe they’ll feel something. We’ll never get inside their rooms, and they'll never get inside ours. But the walls are just thin enough that there is music. So, maybe that's something." And that, perhaps, is what makes sym Fera's music so alluring: it presents human darkness and pain and sorrow in a way that recognizes that life cannot exist without it, but does not have to exist solely within that space either. Which, as it turns out, happens to be one of the most important lessons for us all right now.
'MEAWW's Basement Tapes' is a column that shines a spotlight on undiscovered/underrated musical gems.