Washington artist Brian Fennell, whose solo project goes by the name SYML, admits he has the “ugly trait” of being cynical while his wife holds a brighter outlook.
SYML sings all about it in his latest single “Clean Eyes,” which displays his talents as a songwriter and producer. It also highlights his versatility in crafting an indie pop song without losing his emotive lyric style, stirring vocal range, and truthful depiction of hurt or unrest.
“I wrote ‘Clean Eyes’ as an outlet to express my least favorite thing about myself — that I’m a cynic,” SYML said in a statement. “Somehow, I found someone who loves me through my cynicism and shows me the world through her beautiful and honest lens.”
The track, released in September via Nettwerk Records, holds a fast pace and up-tempo beat as SYML delivers a dichotomy in his sterling vocals. He is subtly solemn and distant during the verses, conveying the apprehension and distrust of a cynic. His slight change to more buoyant vocals for the chorus and the accompanying swell of sound relay his warming up to the view through clean eyes.
“This is really the first song we approached with more of a ‘band’ mentality,” SYML said. “It was a fun challenge because of the contrast between the intimate lyrics and anthemic choruses.”
His Where Did We Go World Tour kicked off in Montreal last month and will end in Munich in November, with a show at the Chapel in San Francisco on October 19.
SYML’s home recording studio is in Issaquah, Washington, near Seattle. He wrote and produced a lot of material there this year while working toward his debut album, expected in 2019. In the meantime, he released the songs “Girl” and “WDWGILY,” in August.
The darker, beat-driven “WDWGILY” has been described as atmospheric, melancholic, and graceful. It finds SYML pushing past his musical boundaries to employ new sounds, new effects, and atypical song structures, according to Nettwerk.
Fennell also plays guitar and piano and was a founding member of the piano rock band Barcelona, formed in 2005. Barcelona was signed for a brief time to Universal Records and has released several albums including Basic Man in October 2016. Just a month prior, Fennell released the EP Hurt For Me, his first solo work as SYML, which means “simple” in Welsh.
Adopted as a child, Fennell later learned he has Welsh roots but knows little else of his history. Much of his music, which he has described as “being pretty sad or dark,” is influenced by the feelings borne from his unknown lineage.
SYML’s breakout viral hit “Where’s My Love” appeared on Hurt For Me as well as his sophomore EP In My Body out January 2018. The song is approaching 200 million combined streams.
“Where’s My Love” was on Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs chart for 20 weeks and was certified gold in Canada, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
Canadian figure skating duo Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau chose “Where’s My Love” for their free skate program during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. The song was used in the MTV drama Teen Wolf, Fox’s Lethal Weapon, and the trailer for the movie Adrift.
In further testament to its popularity, several renditions of the song have been made including an acoustic version, a piano solo, a duet with Lily Kershaw, a piano and viola version, and a collaboration with Dutch DJ Sam Feldt. Feldt immediately loved the track when he heard it on Spotify and approached SYML to propose the idea of a dance floor remix, released on Spinnin’ Records in June 2018.
“When it was written, the dance floor was the furthest thing from my mind, but I’m happy that has now changed,” SYML has said of the remix. “From the first version he sent, it was evident that Sam had a strong grasp of how to move people not only with rhythm, but also with melody. I think that’s something we have in common although we come at it from different angles.”