Almost two years ago we heard about the formation of s / s / s, a band featuring Sufjan Stevens, Son Lux, and Serengeti. The trio released an EP called Beak & Claw then disappeared. In the meantime, Son Lux released this year’s superb, Sufjan-reminiscent Lanterns, and Serengeti has released three (3!) LPs on his own since then. Sufjan has, like, Tumblr’d a lot. But it turns out they’re getting the band back together. Now named Sisyphus, they’ll release a self-titled LP this March on Asthmatic Kitty.
The album features 11 tracks including “Take Me,” which Sufjan shared as a demo two months ago. Sisyphus was originally planned as an EP and commissioned by the Walker Art Center and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra to accompany an exhibition by visual artist Jim Hodges. That exhibition will run 2/14-5/11 at the Walker, where 50 copies of a limited edition of the album will be on sale. On 2/14 Sisyphus will make a “cameo” for the exhibition’s opening night, which also features DJ sets by Dirty Projectors’ Olga Bell, Angel Deradoorian, and Tom Vek. On 2/15, the band will join Hodges for a roundtable discussion at the Walker.
In a lengthy interview on Asthmatic Kitty’s site, Sufjan explained some of the background behind the album. On the name change:
s/s/s started to sound like the Nazi Schutzstaffel with a lisp so we had to change it. We wanted a word with three S’s and Sisyphus felt like a capable anti-hero—endless struggle, the human plague, the existential condition. We are all working towards nothing. Also, the apparent futility of this collaboration—a black rapper from Chicago, a white singer-songwriter from Detroit, and an arty producer with cool glasses, though I dunno where Ryan’s from, Cleveland? We have so little in common but we have deep love for each other and we are pushing that stone together.
On whether there’s any guests on the album:
Like celebrity guests? Just make something up to generate press. Kendrick Lamar ghost wrote all the raps. Hudson Mohawke did the beats. Beyonce. Jay-Z. Janet Jackson, etc.
And here’s his explanation of how the EP became an LP:
Our intention was to make another EP, but there was a wellspring so we ended up with a full length. Ryan just finished his record and I’m working on a ballet, so we had mad ideas. The first EP was the Bastard Stepchild of Myspace and Pets.com. We did it all remotely. For this one, we decided to make everything together in the same room. And it was a very small room. Things got messy. There was a lot of Axe body spray and menthol cigarettes and red wine. The whole thing was done in three weeks total. Fast and furious. Geti kept saying what happens when the jams come on Spotify at the frat party? Are they singing at the hook, is the bass thumping, are the girls grinding? Lowest-case scenario. I mean, seriously, this is far from frat party music, it’s still heady as shit, but that was our objective, to trust our impulse and make it fun, for whatever it’s worth.
There’s more where that came from. In the meantime, check out the first single from Sisyphus, “Calm It Down,” in a lyric video below.
Sisyphus is out 3/18/14 via Asthmatic Kitty.