The Heartbreak And The Triumph: Syd Interviewed

“It begs the question once the art is made and released, who does it belong to?”

Syd is on the cusp. This next birthday takes Syd out of her 20s, a period of success and turbulence, but above all learning. Moving into newfound maturity, she’s learned to balance the pain life can sometimes offer with the inspirational possibilities of art.

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Over her decade long career, Sydney Loren Bennet – known to her fans as Syd – has been part of not one but two game-changing projects: first Odd Future and then The Internet. Whilst she’s certainly had her fair chair of challenges within the industry, this multi-faceted artist – in addition to bring a writer and producer, she’s also a globally sought-after DJ – has moved from strength to strength. In 2017, Syd released her first solo-album ‘Fin’ which was full of her signature sensuality and masterful lyricism. Since then, fans have been on the edge of our seats waiting for what’s next for the alternative R&B artist.

Whilst Syd has a shy demeanour, minutes into our call I’m in admiration of how she carries herself. Despite just finishing an espresso, her answers are equally relaxed and profound. Her comments are broken up with her contagious laughter and there’s a lightness to her that you may not expect from someone about to release a breakup album.

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The Heartbreak And The Triumph: Syd Interviewed

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Syd’s highly anticipated ‘Broken Hearts Club’ is out now. It’s been a long time coming and it certainly hasn’t been a linear journey to get here. The album was originally intended to be an album full of love songs, but amidst a breakup and a global pandemic, Syd had to navigate transforming the album into an emotionally vulnerable album chronicling the end of a relationship. “I had to take a long break. When I first started trying to write about the heartbreak, it sounded so mean,” Syd explains that she took time out to read, sit in the sun and heal. When she looked within she wasn’t expecting to like what she saw. “When you get dumped, there’s that natural feeling of inadequacy that forces you to look at yourself and say, okay what is wrong with me? Thankfully my conclusion was, nothing is wrong with me, maybe something is wrong with them,” she laughs.

Syd has been open about living with clinical depression and her journey with therapy. I’m curious of whether she thinks this helped her creatively. “Before I started therapy with my last doctor, I probably thought in my head that I’d covered every perspective on everything I was going through and she was able to find more,” she shares. “So yeah, shout to therapy!”

There’s now plenty of joy in Syd’s life. She and her new girlfriend post gorgeous selfies on socials and last summer she released a music video for ‘Fast Car’ which served up some much needed Black queer love. Upon the release, she stated she wanted to make something for gay Black girls to see themselves in. I ask what she hopes they take away from ‘Broken Hearts Club’. “I hope to help with the representation. There’s not a whole lot of me’s out there. Growing up I didn’t see any either. I wonder what it would be like for somebody like me now, watching and listening to me and hearing about my heartbreak and my triumph.”

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The Heartbreak And The Triumph: Syd Interviewed

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The 13-track album conveys a range of emotional states. In ‘Goodbye My Love’ one could believe they were listening to a purely instrumental track. That is until the melody quietens and makes room for Syd’s ethereal vocals as she sings “I suppose this is goodbye, my love… Just wasn’t destined to work for us / we had to put ourselves first for once.” By the time listeners get to the upbeat ‘Tie The Knot’, we’ve travelled through the highs and lows of this journey.

For Syd, her favourite song on the album is ‘Control’ which was produced by Darkchild, who is a huge inspiration to the multifaceted artist. “He’s like one of my top three producers of all time,” Syd gushes, sharing how nervous she was to be working with him. “He and his engineer left the room and left me in his studio by myself with a little microphone. I was in there whispering because I didn't want anyone to hear me. Which is why it sounds that way. It's very calm vocally. And it's kind of ‘cause I was trying to be really inconspicuous, I didn't wanna be heard cause I was so nervous. I'm just so happy that it came out to be one of my favourite songs that I've probably ever written.”

Whilst break-ups and lockdowns are isolating, the album features Kehlani, Mamii, Smino, Lucky Daye and The Internet’s guitarist Steve Lacy, who keep Syd in great company. What was the collaborative process like? “It was really easy,” she smiles. “That’s just what you hope for and it rarely turns out that way so the fact that it did in all of my collaborations for this, I just feel very grateful.”

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The Heartbreak And The Triumph: Syd Interviewed

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When I ask if there’s anyone else the artist would like to collaborate with in the future, Syd’s voice fills with warmth. “Missy Elliott is somebody I would really love to collaborate with. But it’s tough. There’s so much respect there that I probably would be afraid to actually try. She’s somebody I that I don’t talk about enough but she’s had a huge influence on me. I would love to tell her that in person.” For Syd, she’d be happy to just watch the icon work. “I’ve heard that she works alone like me mostly. But yeah, I’ll shoot my bat signal for her!”

Syd is a musical genius and so it would be understandable to assume she always set out for a career in music. Her upbringing was filled with music, with her mum being an “encyclopedia of sorts” and priding herself in her mental musical database and her father loving a range of music from Metallica to reggae. Syd’s own uncle is a legendary reggae writer-producer, and her parents have always supported her interest in learning different instruments from a young age. Though it wasn’t her first choice, as she admits: “Even when I wanted to be a basketball player, one of my dreams inside of that was to make enough money to own a recording studio just so I could walk in on sessions and sit around and hang out with the artists. ‘Cause that’s what my uncle did. Once he had settled down he ran a recording studio and he just got to walk in and say ‘hi’ and he was the big man on campus!” –

By the time she was in ninth grade, Syd had learnt piano and drums and was picking up the guitar. She’s now praised for her unique harmonies and vocals but singing was the last thing she got into. Growing up she’d sing around the house to Brandy and Usher (the first two albums she bought and are still on in constant rotation to this day) but she never viewed herself as a singer. “It wasn’t until I started writing songs that I started singing just for the sake of recording… and even then, I was trying to find other singers to sing them for me. One, I didn't know enough singers at the time; two, the singers I did know had their own style. And I was writing in my own voice. I realised later on that a lot of the songs that I write in my own voice sound better when I sing them. Just from a delivery perspective.” Eventually, The Internet’s keyboardist Matt Martians encouraged Syd to leave her vocals on the tracks and the rest is history.

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The Heartbreak And The Triumph: Syd Interviewed

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The soon-to-be 30-year-old has already achieved so much within her career, but how does she feel about her upcoming milestone birthday and what does she hope the next decade brings? “I would like for my thirties to bring me more contentment,” Syd tells me. She remembers Matt Martians telling her: “There’s something about turning 30 man, you just know yourself so much better, you just let go.” Syd reflects that she can feel that “I can feel myself letting go of ego dreams. Old ego dreams that I had. That’s probably been the hardest thing about this approaching birthday. Letting go of my teenage dreams.” Both Syd’s birthday and my own fall within Taurus season – I share that the struggle of letting go of expectations is very Taurian of her. “Is it? Honestly the only other Taurus really in my life is my brother and he’s a May Taurus.”

‘Broken Hearts Club’ is not the only thing on the horizon for Syd. She’s set to co-star in and work on the soundtrack of an upcoming film by Lena Waithe’s production company. “It’s a great metaphor for where I am in my career, where a lot of artists find themselves. Where the audience begins to dictate the art, or they try to. It begs the question once the art is made and released, who does it belong to?”

Throughout her time in male-dominated groups and industries, Syd has faced much attention from the press for singing about girls from the beginning. “Everyone was like oh my gosh, are you doing this to cause an uproar? I’m like ‘no, I’m just gay, what’s the big deal?’” When I ask how she deals with the pressures placed on LGBTQI creatives to make political statements with their art she notes that due to the aforementioned uproar from her existing as a gay woman she’s able to be political without even trying. “I like to write thoughtlessly. I think that helps maintain my integrity. It means that everything that’s made come from a real place and then from that point, it depends on what I choose to release.”

“I have written quite a few politically charged songs, they’ve just never come out,” she reveals. “Some of them are like okay, they’re not ready for this or I’m not ready for this. It’s easier also to do that with The Internet. When you’re going to say something polarising it’s much easier to do it with a crew behind you, hence Odd Future’s success.”  

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The Heartbreak And The Triumph: Syd Interviewed

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And speaking of star signs, it’s an interest that threads throughout The Internet. “Matt has a mind for that kind of stuff. He’s a Virgo. He’s very analytical he likes to look at the world around him from an outside perspective,” says Syd. “I think the next Internet album might end up being pretty political actually.”

In previous interviews, Syd has commented on how much more progressive the industry is now when it comes to LGBTQI artists. But does she feel freer when it comes to how she expresses herself now that it is? “Ironically, no. Maybe I felt more free before. I didn’t think too much about it. It wasn’t until I realised my first Internet song, and then we got the response that we realised: oh, people are watching. People are gonna have opinions and make assumptions. So if anything I feel a lot less free.” Syd notes that this is felt by many artists in general, not specifically LGBTQI artists. She also notes that it can be hard to find inspiration from people in the community because light isn’t shed on them, not nearly enough. “I hope to see more of it coming about. I hope to inspire it as well.”

When members of The Internet split off on solo projects, fans were equally excited to see what came out of it but also worried that we may never get another album from the Grammy-nominated band. One of The Internet’s biggest strengths has always been the camaraderie between the different members. So it’s no surprise that they are all on the same page regarding not wanting to force anything and allowing it to come naturally. “Matt, he’s the real leader of The Internet, so when he says he’s ready, we’ll be ready too,” Syd smiles. “There’s something beautiful in that and us being able to do that and us not relying on each other. We made it a point to do that, to put our friendship first. We’re grateful that none of us are hurting for money, we don’t have to do this, that’s the blessing.”

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The Heartbreak And The Triumph: Syd Interviewed

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Words: Nic Crosara
Photographer: Matthew Cowen
Styling: Marquise Miller
Creative Direction: Rob Meyers

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