In an ominous turn, Brian Fennell’s adoptive father was diagnosed with cancer the day Fennell’s self-titled debut as the artist, SYML was released in 2019. His grief was then captured in the 2021 EP DIM, but just beyond that lies the collection of songs together entitled The Day My Father Died, a conscious and uplifting celebration of life that’s anything but stricken. The works are relatively near to each other on SYML’s timeline, but where the earlier is dark, the later work is the opposite. “They’re pretty close in their creation point,” Fennell explains. “But the way they differ is, the first one carries the pain and confusion, and the album is actually light, at least for me.”
Light is exactly how the record plays. “We have this awesome capability to be conscious and know what it is to be here,” SYML states, and for the artist, it’s clear his conscious is open and receptive to the gifts of love and connectivity. Over the course of the hour, we’re delivered music that acts like a balm to the existential senses. Opening track “Howling” is a slow burn that builds to rapture with Lucius backing up SYML’s falsetto like an angels’ chorus. “It’s about worshipping your partner, wanting to be saved by their beauty,” he says.
Harmonies harkening the CSNY and Simon and Garfunkle sounds of his childhood with his father carry “Sweet Home,” a loving tribute. “It came very quickly,” Brian says. “People’s sense of home is as varied as we are as individuals. The sense of welcoming somebody home is in itself a place of peace, literal or metaphorical. It’s like a wish for people, especially now when there are those living in parts of the world where those homes are destroyed or under threat.”
Careful guitar work threads the album, something Fennell found initially challenging to get precisely where he wanted it, but he found full support in producer Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, Built to Spill, Band of Horses), who ensured they’d capture exactly what they were looking for. “To me, this album feels very cohesive,” he says. “I was like an athlete for a few days, my fingers became stubs, my arms locked up… It took real grit and commitment between me and Phil to get the album to this point.”
The point has arrived. The record captures a celebration of life through the lens of loss. Final song “Corduroy” get’s right to the heart of it: “I want to show you that life comes in circles / I want to show you life / Drink all your whisky and spend all your money / And let no one steal your shine,” he sings.
First single “Believer” is uplifting audiences across the country at stations like KPNW, Lightning 100, Indie 102.3, WMMM Birmingham Mountain Radio, and KMTN, and SYML is currently on an extensive tour with stops in Europe, the US, Australia, and Mexico.
Photo by Sarah Cass