Interview: Sycco sets her stage for pop domination

Sycco, Sasha McLeod

Sycco (Sasha McLeod), courtesy.

While the U.S., Europe and much of the rest of the world devastated by COVID-19 are just beginning to see the end of the dark pandemic tunnel, Brisbane, Australia native Sasha McLeod, who performs as Sycco (pronounced psycho), already has a 12-date spring tour planned starting in two weeks.

“It’ll be super sick to have everyone just completely vibe again,” says the 19-year-old pop singer-songwriter of performing in front of dancing, moving fans. “It’s not that we weren’t grateful for the sit-down shows [which Australia has allowed for months because the country has handled the pandemic so well], but they were really hard to get inato and the people in the crowd were getting a bit sick of just sitting down and being super contained.”

Playing shows in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, McLeod says she’s excited to see bigger, livelier crowds than what’s been allowed the last few months. As restrictions have continued to ease, more tickets have been made available and more shows added to accommodate the demand. She says she feels more confident performing than before the pandemic because she’s learned to miss the freedom of a packed concert, but also because she’s used the time to up her game.

“The songs are just better,” Sycco says.

On April 2, Sycco will release a remix of her newest single,“My Ways,” which she wrote over Zoom about lockdown life and dropped in February. She recounted sitting on the floor with a broken laptop charger, trying to write and connect with a new collaborator overseas whom she’d never met in person.

The songwriting ended up being therapeutic.

“It’s hard to connect on a friendship level, but I’d say when trying to get emotional lyrics out, it’s easier because you can just be vulnerable, you’re just in your bedroom, in your safe space,” she says.

Sycco initially gained International success after releasing low-fi indie pop singles like “Nicotine” and “Dribble.” The songs were picked for Apple Music and Spotify playlists, as well as Australian tastemaker radio station Triple J, which added her to its rotation and awarded her cash to buy a bedroom microphone. Now she’s averaging about 500,000 monthly streams.

Last November she signed with Future Classic, known for representing artists like SOPHIE and Flume. Now she’s working on an EP.

“It’s wild. I feel like it’s hard to tell [the success] because they’re all just numbers and I didn’t actually see real humans, except for now,” she says.

Long before Sycco, McLeod began writing songs during class while saving money for a laptop to create beats. In 2015 she self-released her first collection of original music to SoundCloud.

“My friends didn’t even want to listen to it,” she says.

Her father taught her to play guitar, and she’s also picked the bass. She even played the drums on 2019 single “Peacemaker,” but says she’s fallen too far out of practice.

The name “Sycco” is a play on “psychedelic.” McLeod loves colorful visuals and wants to incorporate color references into her music. She brings this aesthetic full circle by adding an abundance of bright lights and distorted filters to her artwork and videos.

Her influences include Clairo, Tame Impala, Hiatus Kaiyote and Charli XCX, the latter of whom she admires particularly for her work with other singers like Selena Gomez and ELIO.

“[Performing] was the only thing I could ever do. … I couldn’t do anything else. I don’t have the brains for it,” she says, laughing. “I was writing songs in grade three. Not everyone does that. But [to me] that meant that I would make it.”

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