"My wife actually helped me pick it out... She knew that I was adopted and didn't find out until much later in life that I was a majority Welsh by blood, and so she was looking for cool Welsh words. It's a Welsh word that means 'simple.' She knows that that's something I strive for in most things in my life," vocalist Brian Fennell answered when we asked him the first question on everyone's minds. Back in the day Fennell was a part of Barcelona, who helped to create staggering and cinematic soundscapes reminiscent of an early-years Coldplay. In fact, we caught them a couple years back during a packed and sweaty performance at Spike Hill. These days Fennell is still tickling the ebonies and ivories, but now under his moody and gripping new solo project SYML.
We caught up with SYML recently, both to recollect some old memories and to create some new ones. Brian hasn't missed a beat since branching out on his own, and SYML picks up right where he left off. In our exclusive Baeble NEXT Session with him you'll get the chance to hear all about what Brian has been up to since starting his new project, as well as a peek behind the curtains about what goes into writing his devastatingly powerful and touching tunes.
Of course you'll also get the chance to hear those tunes, as SYML absolutely crushes it in our studio with his enrapturing vocal presence and unparalleled skill as a multi-instrumentalist.
Most importantly though, in addition to now knowing the meaning behind it, you'll also get the chance to learn how to pronounce SYML!
I go by SYML, and my name is Brian. My wife actually helped me pick it out because I'm pretty awful at this point, about thinking about band names. Like, it's really hard to think of a good band name. And she knew that I was adopted and didn't find out until much later in life that a majority Welsh by blood. And so she was looking for, like, cool Welsh words and found, I thought it was an acronym on her list, like, I thought it stood for something that she came up with but it's a Welsh word that means "simple. " She knows that that's, sort of, like, something I strive for in most areas of my life. I like to strive to keep things simple. It was nice. Like I said, there was only one song that existed at that point so it was, like, it was great, like, a good reminder to just continue being simple. I knew that people would think it was an acronym or, like, not know how to say it so it was a bit of a risk when picking it, but I also, at that point, didn't know that I would need to play music in front of people. I thought it was still just going to be, like, I would stay at home and try to get songs onto TV shows and stuff. This song's called, "Wildfire. " Darling, please take my hand Please get up, rise to stand I can't be the one to sing your song 'Cause I believe it's not your fault Don't be scared, you are my rock Nothing's gonna hold you down for long Sometimes we break so beautiful And you know you're not the only one I breathe you in so sweet and powerful Like a wildfire burning up inside my lungs I'm burning up, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh I'm burning up, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh I'm burning up In good time, you'll come to know When you release, when you let go You can find yourself where you belong You're not a curse, you're not too much You are needed here, you are enough Nothing's gonna hold you down for long Sometimes we break so beautiful And you know you're not the only one I breathe you in so sweet and powerful Like a wildfire burning up inside my lungs I'm burning up, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh I'm burning up, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh I'm burning up Darling please, don't give up Drop your hate and sing for love Let me be the one who sings along Sometimes we break so beautiful And you know you're not the only one I breathe you in so sweet and powerful Like a wildfire burning up inside my lungs I'm burning up The first time I met Baeble was with my old band, Barcelona. And we came and played in Williamsburg like this really sweaty, awesome showcase that you guys had. And the new EP that came out a couple of weeks ago is called In My Body. It is a collection of mostly new stuff and a couple of songs that are reworked from my first EP. I mean, I only have, like, 8 songs, 10 songs in the world, so it's really still in the beginning in a lot of ways. The song I did on piano's called, "Wildfire," and I wrote it kind of as a response, direct response, to people who had been reaching out online in response to my first music video for "Where's My Love," which kind of deals with some hard things, mostly about somebody not wanting to be here anymore. And I wrote it at a time when the whole west coast of the U. S. was on fire, like, literally from up in B. C. down through Seattle, where I live. And so "Wildfire" is the direct, sort of, message to that person saying, like, "It's my belief that it matters that you stay and that people that you don't think would ever listen to you will listen to you and that there can be beauty and, like, resolve in destruction and unrest. This song's called, "Where's My Love. " Cold bones, yeah, that's my love She hides away, like a ghost Does she know that we bleed the same? Don't wanna cry but I break that way Cold sheets, oh, where's my love? I am searching high, I'm searching low in the night Does she know that we bleed the same? Don't wanna cry but I break that way Did she run away? Did she run away? I don't know If she ran away If she ran away, come back home Just come home I got a fear, oh, in my blood She was carried up into the clouds, high above If you bled, I bleed the same If you're scared, I'm on my way Did you run away? Did you run away? I don't need to know If you ran away If you ran away, come back home Just come home Well, the first motivation to do a different version of "Where's My Love" was through my label. And when I was asked, I was kind of like, "This is so label. " Like, we need to service all the streaming platforms. So I went back into the session of the original version to just add an acoustic guitar and be like, "Here. I think that's how this works, music label. " Lost the session. LIke, the session was nowhere to be found which is, like, the first time that's ever happened to me. So I was like, "Well, I got to rebuild it from the ground up," which actually was like a blessing in disguise because it made me sort of re-realize the song. And then from there, I was like, "Well, that was cool. Let's do another. Like, let's do a cello version. " The folks, an amazing team of people I get to work with were right in terms of, like, how it reached a lot more people than otherwise would've heard it. And the cool thing now that I'm, like, on the road and playing some shows, is that people make their way to the shows...or make their way to the other songs I have through, you know, these obscure sort of versions of the song. If you bled, I bleed the same It works with different visuals. I mean, there's like a ice skating team from Canada skating to, like, four different versions in one song which is crazy. So my fear was that it would be sort of scattered and not connected, but it's totally opposite. In my body I have a master I bow down when she comes around In my body I'm a disaster I break down when you shake the ground Every time I stand to leave my cage In my broken body I stay I want to love like a man I'll build you a home when I can Give my new body a chance Patient now it's all that I have I fought the world for your hand I fought the world for your hand Give my new body a chance Give my new body a chance It's all I have In my body I fight fire With the snow, my hell is cold In my body I have a soft light Burning low, but too hot to hold I've become the only thing I hate Leave this broken body today I want to love like a man I'll build you a home when I can Give my new body a chance Patient now it's all that I have I fought the world for your hand I fought the world for your hand Give my new body a chance Lover, give my new body a chance I was hearing words in black and white Twisted up inside my broken mind Outstretched dirty hands just like a child Hungry little fool, but you were mine You're all I have You're all I have Give my new body a chance Give my new body a chance So "Body" is kind of the title track of the EP. My, sort of, classic thing I go for in songwriting is turning super internal in terms of what the different characters that are represented inside my, like, brain and heart and how they fight with each other and then how I, sort of, externalize to my friends, and family and people, to strangers, and like, how all those beings inside sort of are represented in my personality. And so "Body" is like literally about these people. Hey, this is SYML, and you're watching Baeble Music.
Brian Fennell is a student of simplicity. As SYML (pronounced simmel), which translates to simple in Welsh, Fennell writes emotive ambient pop songs that capture the ethos of his musical persona. With delicate piano, swells of strings and Fennells sterling vocals, the songs that comprise his debut EPs Hurt For Me andIn My Body, out January 2018, embody the relinquishing of all emotions, a cathartic release laid bare. The name meaning simple was the cornerstone of what I wanted in these songs, Fennell says. Keep it simple because you cant hide behind things aswell when it is stripped back and when it is naked and raw.
The projects origins stem from a pair of songs Fennell had written years prior, borne out of the resulting introspection from navigating a healthy and supportive relationship with his now-wife. Over a heaving string orchestration and harrowing piano on Wheres My Love, Fennell looks outward at a romantic partner and wishing for their emotional wellness for the sake of the relationship; on The War, a stark track with thundering percussion, a battle is waged between the boy and adult man living inside himself. Fennell shared these tracks with a friend who helped land Wheres My Love in an episode the MTV drama Teen Wolf in 2016, thus thrusting Fennell into the spotlight. So he wrote more songs, self-recording and producing in his home just outside of Seattle.
A child of a closed adoption, Fennell discovered his Welsh roots as an adult and utilizes his heritage in his music in the projects name and as a filter through which he views the world, though its ultimately the juxtaposition between his own happiness and the content of his music that is most resounding.I describe my music as generally being pretty sad or dark but the reality of where that comes from is a general mystery that exists behind my history as a person, Fennell says.On the Hurt For Me and In My Body EPs, Fennell examines the will of a person that exists after hurt and loss, the humanity in the thoughts and feelings we all possess when we close our eyes each night.
He reckons with internal struggles in Body,: Ive become the only thing I hate, he sings; a plea for a lovers own self-acceptance on Wildfire: Youre not a curse, youre not too much / you are needed here, you are enough / nothings going to hold you down for long.
Theres not a ton that we can all agree on other than like what it feels like at the end of the day being human and going through intense things such as hurt and loss, Fennell says. You can compare it to the honeymoon phase of something positive, we also have honeymoon phases in hurt and loss. At the end of each of those phases I think that we're unified in 'I have to decide how Im going to choose to still love after this. Do I still love myself?
Fennells heartfelt approach to music comes from an experience he had in college with a percussion professor. A classically trained pianist who graduated with a degree in music education, Fennell often rested on his laurels early in his career. The instructor inspired him to strive for more, to put more of himself into his practice.I had to bleed and really be upset with myself to understand fully how to learn something like music, he recalls. It all collided at the same time and I really latched onto writing songs at that point. You need to let go of being perfect or being the best. As soon as you accept failing at something and can give yourself up in a personal way to the music, then you can finally be light enough to reach your potential.
Ultimately, it is a kind and truthful depiction of emotion, grounded by his gut-wrenching vocal delivery that keeps SYML from sounding maudlin, soppy. Like the name implies, its the simplistic approach --things are hard, lets talk about it --that makes SYML relatable, the topics he sings about tangible.
One of the pitfalls of writing more emotional music, as a listener and lover of that music, would be you pulling the wool over somebodys eyes just to make them feel something, Fennell says. Im trying to be conscious of not doing that. Its not flippant music where Im throwing out this emotion to the world, Im trying to approach it with more care and conscience.