Social media scares Landon Jacobs, the 30-year-old frontman of the California rock band Sir Sly. He admitted one of his recent endeavors — creating a Tik Tok account — was not something he was initially comfortable with.
“I was talking to my therapist about it, because people kept telling me to be a little more tapped-in,” he says with a shrug. “I realized that a big part of it was discomfort or fear. And that doesn’t sound like a very good reason not to do something. So, I’m trying it.”
Jacobs is no stranger to facing challenges head-on. Over the last two years, Jacobs made a major life change: He got sober. After struggling with alcohol addiction in his 20s, he became keenly aware that what he thought was initially a habit might be a larger problem.
“I probably talked about it in a way that — I don’t want to say was disingenuous — it was as honest as I knew how to be,” he says. “But I don’t think I realized I was struggling with alcohol addiction and wasn’t doing much to help get better.”
Jacobs says getting sober was emotionally straining. The singer felt he had repressed the emotions that came along with losing his mother to cancer in 2016, and they reappeared as he stopped drinking.
“There was a lot of undealt-with grief over losing my mom to cancer,” he says. “The first hundred days that I got sober I cried every day. And then I cried more. I hadn’t dealt with that stuff in years because I had been drinking every day. It was like a neat little compartmentalization, and it caused either anxiety or numbness, but it wasn’t a real process.”
Jacobs says deciding to go to therapy and joining a 12-step program were crucial steps.
“Therapy helps with some of that neuroplasticity. Our brains are reshaping all the time, and I knew that I wanted to put myself on a more positive trajectory,” he says. “I was feeling really tired of being alive, and I wanted a more positive spin on my life and a better understanding of who I am and where I am headed.”
Though these subjects can be heavy and hard to talk about, Jacobs says they are vital ones to address — not only to himself but to everyone else.
“I think just talking about it is a good way to destigmatize conversations about these sorts of things,” he says. “I still don’t know what’s up with me. I just know that I felt compelled to drink a lot, and now I feel quite a bit of freedom from that. I feel genuinely happier, but I also know it’s still difficult to wake up sometimes. So, I’m sussing that out with my therapist and trying to find good tools.”
Jacobs’ outspoken nature is present in much of what he does. He has been vocal about his values throughout his time in Sir Sly. Recently, he has been a proponent of the Black Lives Matter movement, and he is not afraid to share his thoughts on Donald Trump’s presidency or the former leader’s supporters. Like his struggles with addiction, these topics are addressed on Sir Sly’s upcoming third album, “The Rise & Fall of Loverboy,” due on April 23.
“I think there’s definitely some reference on the album to my general antipathy towards the very backwater, white supremacist way of thinking,” he says. “Having grown up Christian, I kind of grew up in that, too, so it really embarrasses me to see people thinking and talking that way. It frustrates me in a different kind of way, because I know it’s possible to snap out of it and see the world differently.”
Jacobs’ passion for social justice led to the album’s delay. The record was completed well before the pandemic, but as the country turned its focus on coronavirus and Black Lives Matter during the spring and summer of 2020, Jacobs thought it was more important to emphasize voices other than his own.
“It didn’t really feel like our time to shine. There were just so many things happening — from the pandemic to the rightful shift of people’s attention on Black Lives Matter and on a lot of other sociopolitical and economic issues,” he says. “It feels OK to release music now, because it’s not really flying in the face of a bunch of important stuff and distracting from what else is going on in the world.”
The band has continuously put energy into supporting social justice movements, often donating money to different causes, and, in Jacobs’ case, attending protests.
“I don’t really know how to start fixing these things, but there are a lot of people who do, and I think uplifting those voices is a really good thing,” he says.
His writing process is intricately tied to his ability to process life events and emotions. With the vast array of emotions Jacobs has felt in the last two years, the songwriting process on this album was especially important to him. Though he says he rarely uses prewritten lyrics before starting the music, there are tracks on the new album that contain entire portions of poems written separately.
“For a lot of people, music is a place to celebrate or write a song they want to party to or write something about falling in love,” he says.
“Those are the types of songs that people walk down the aisle to. I’ve always written music to deal with and help sort out my questions about life or about myself or the nature of my relationships, so I think I just kept doing that with this album.”
Jacobs has used music as an outlet for most of his life, beginning his journey after learning to play the piano as a child. He says he felt somewhat compelled to write music.
“I don’t think I ever chose to start writing music. I think it kind of needed to come out of me. I had a lot of sadness and anxiety that was kind of begging for an outlet,” he says. “And then I was hooked. A lot of people write journals or talk to their friends to process things. I had music, and it has always just stayed that way.”
Sir Sly’s third album is a triumph of sound. With deeply emotional lyrics and heavy, modern production, the album stands alone as one of the most unique releases in the last year. It feels like it came from the future, featuring a mixture of electronic and acoustic sounds. It’s darkness is carefully balanced by the right amount of light.
“We’ve always been as good as we can be about following wherever the inspiration leads us and not trying to manipulate it too much or force it into some kind of box,” Jacobs says.
Jacobs’ medley of influences, ranging from Young Thug to Thom Yorke, are channeled in unexpected ways throughout the album.
“I think that’s what’s kind of fun about music. You get to wear your inspirations on your sleeve and then mix that with what is going on in your own life,” he says. “It’s always going to come out differently than what anyone else could do, even if they sat down and tried to synthesize all those things.”
Jacobs says waiting throughout the pandemic to release the music felt unusual. Even beyond the lack of touring, as someone who emphasizes the performance aspect of music in general, he says it was difficult to know the album was going to go unheard for several months.
“It’s a really great adrenaline rush to play shows, so I’ve missed having that, but I think music is naturally performative,” he says. “When you make music, it is meant to be received at some point in time, so I think just sitting on the music for as long as we have feels unnatural in that sense.”
Jacobs is excited to see the music in the hands of others, where they can have their own conversations with the material. He hopes listeners find some comfort in what they hear. Though the album has its dark edges, it is ultimately a window to the hopeful place Jacobs has found himself in after two years of sobriety.
“For all the heaviness and darkness on the album, I think there’s also a lot more hope and genuine positivity. I don’t think I could have ever written a lyric like ‘everything’s going to be OK,’ and actually believed it before. And now, through a lot of the work I’ve done, it feels possible,” he says. “It’s always possible to change and do better.”