“I have a newfound respect for anyone who’s ever experienced heartbreak,” the musician Syd says. “I feel like I joined the club.”
Syd, who is the frontwoman for the alt-R&B group The Internet, is seated on the couch in her Los Angeles townhouse, telling me about her forthcoming solo album, Broken Hearts Club, out Friday. It’s the 29-year-old’s first full-length project since her debut solo record, Fin, which dropped in 2017—for obvious reasons, much has changed in the L.A. native’s life. During the pandemic, Syd went through a tough breakup that caused her to completely rethink her place in the world, and within the music industry; a crisis of the self that most people experienced during 2020. But unlike most people, this personal crisis took place midway through writing Broken Hearts Club. The event could have interrupted Syd’s musical creation—instead, it became a catalyst for her to heal. “This club is one of those clubs that nobody wants to be a part of,” she says, laughing. “But most of us become a part of it at some point. And it makes us all stronger.”
Below, Syd delves into her favorite books, the diverse playlists she makes, and how spinning heartbreak into gold led her to operate from a place of honesty, even to this day. (It’s worth noting that, during this interview, Syd’s current girlfriend sat near her, just off-camera, adding input and clarifying specific dates here and there. When asked if it was awkward to discuss a previous relationship in front of her, Syd replied, “We’ve kind of been there, done that. We’ve talked about that and took some time to heal.”)
When did you start working on your album, Broken Hearts Club?
I started working on it the beginning of 2019. I was in another relationship, we had just finished touring Hive Mind at the end of 2018 and I had a chance to sit down and think about things. By the time the pandemic started [in L.A.], I was out of my relationship and was trying to figure out, Okay, what is this album gonna be about now? Because before that, the album was not called Broken Hearts Club. My working title was In Love.
It sounds like you had to pivot pretty hard midway through the album. What was that like for you?
It was pretty difficult. Initially, I thought I was going to be able to throw myself into work. But that didn’t pan out how I imagined. I ended up writing some really bitter-sounding songs. I was like, I need to stop. I need to heal. So I started doing everything and anything else. I read a lot of books and I worked out a lot, started lifting weights. I found that to be the best release for my frustration. I was also in therapy before, during, and after the breakup and that helped a lot.
You were physically, mentally, and emotionally lifting heavy stuff.
Yes. Doing the work, as they say. And that’s all I did, since it was the beginning of the pandemic when things were super shut down and we were scared to go outside. So it was easy, in that sense. There were no distractions.
Do you have a favorite song from the album?
It changes from time to time. But right now, my favorite song is Control.
Because that song was almost effortless [to make]. And it’s in collaboration with one of my favorite producers of all time, Darkchild. He’s somebody I grew up listening to and never dreamed I’d ever work with. I wrote the song at his home studio. And the version you hear is exactly how I recorded it: on a handheld mic sitting at the desk.
Now, onto the Culture Diet questions. What time do you wake up in the morning and what is the first thing that you do?
As of now, I wake up, like, three times in the morning because I’m fostering puppies. Lately I’ve been getting out of bed around 10:30 AM. The first thing I do is take them to the roof to pee on our little turf area. And then we get coffee at this spot down the street from my place. We take the puppies—they know the puppies. And they know my order by heart.
How do you get your news?
Word of mouth. I get my news from my parents or my girlfriend, who’s on Twitter. Every so often, I’ll get news from [Internet band member] Matt Martians. He’s tapped into the news, politics—and from a bird's eye view, because he lives in Georgia in the middle of nowhere by himself. He’s not on social media, but he’s very informed.
What books are on your bedside table right now?
One is The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin, the second book in the Broken Earth trilogy. I’ve read The Fifth Season. I got the new Sister Souljah book, Life After Death. I haven’t read it yet, but I picked it up at a Black bookstore a while back.
What were you reading during the pandemic and your breakup?
I read a bunch of Toni Morrison books, and one self-help book, The Power of Now.
I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression in the past. I went to an Erykah Badu show a few years back with my mom and I’ll never forget it: First of all, she performed for two and a half hours, just because she just felt like it. Secondly, she said something that was like, Anxiety is a result of living in the future, and depression is a result of living in the past. The only way to truly be happy is to be present. And that just stuck with me. By the time this breakup happened, my ex, who broke up with me, had just finished The Power of Now. So I also was like, “What was in this book that made her decide this wasn’t it? What the fuck did this dude tell her?!” But I realized it’s a really powerful book. It’s all about being present and how to do that. It’s very repetitive, so you have to really need the message to be able to receive it.
What’s the last thing that you Googled on your phone?
I think it was “CB2.”
Are you looking for furniture?
I’m always looking for furniture. Lately, I’ve been looking for some little storage pieces to put in the puppy room: organization stuff, hooks that I can hang over the doors, things like that.
What albums or playlists are you listening to right now?
I’m a routine shuffler; I go through albums really quickly and then they end up in my shuffle. I made a playlist for my grandmother not too long ago and I’ve been playing that a lot. She has dementia and she spends all day in bed, just laying there. When I went to see her, I played her some music and she started saying, That’s nice! And I was like, Oh, snaps, I’m gonna make you a playlist! I’ve got some Nora Jones, some Amy Winehouse, some Corinne Bailey Ray, Jonny Greenwood—super random—I’ve got a Joni Mitchell song, some Khruangbin in here. Moses Sumney, Sade, Solange…
What is your go-to karaoke song?
I’ve only done karaoke once, with Steve Lacy when he dropped [the song] “N Side”. He did a small thing at this karaoke spot here in L.A. and we just sang “N Side,” like, three times in a row. I’m pretty sure I just left after that.
Do you believe in astrology? What is your Zodiac sign?
I do believe in astrology. My sun sign is Taurus. I also have a Capricorn moon and a Scorpio rising, which I identify with much more so than the other signs. That’s what made me a believer: especially now, as an adult, I can look back on my life, and be like, Yeah, I get it.
What is the last thing you do before you go to bed?
Usually, I wash my face and brush my teeth. Sometimes I’m really lazy and I’ll just hit the joint one time and pass out. Nowadays, it’s take the dogs out to pee and then put them in the crate and wait for them to stop fidgeting.
You’re a true dog mom: your day starts and ends with the dog.
I’m basically a full-time parent.