Last year, Sufjan Stevens teamed up with Chicago emcee Serengeti and New York composer Son Lux for a collaborative project dubbed s / s / s and released the four-track EP Beak & Claws. The trio are back with new music, but this time under a new moniker, Sisyphus.
Their self-titled album is said to be partially inspired by the work of installation artist Jim Hodges, and was commissioned by the Walker Art Center and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Sisyphus the LP will first be available on February 15th at the aforementioned Walker Center, where it will accompany one of Hodges’ exhibitions. It will then receive wider release on March 18th via Asthmatic Kitty and Joyful Recordings.
Below, watch the lyric video for a new groove and glitch-laden song titled “Calm It Down”.
Asthmatic Kitty accompanied the announcement with a particularly colorful interview from Sufjan regarding the group and 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.
Whether the LP features guests:
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.
The making of the 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.
Jim Hodges’ influence:
His stuff is mostly abstract and it generally avoids a clear narrative, so there wasn’t a lot of literal conceptualization going on. We just kept his prints nearby and listened closely to its subconscious. Some of it is more obvious: sex, AIDS, drugs, fear of death, loneliness, love and beauty. We took some text directly from titles, but mostly kept the references loose. Jim’s work is meticulous, well-crafted and sentimental on the surface, but there’s some dark shit under all that ornamentation; I think this aesthetic informed our approach: we wanted to make ear candy—catchy raps and pretty love songs. But if you inspect some of the content, you’ll uncover some bleak events. Also those gold and metallic boulders Jim made were an obvious influence on our name change. It’s the Sisyphus stone with bling.