Silvia Ryder, of Sugarplum Fairies, On Optimism And Artistic Growth
Silvia Ryder, the mastermind behind Sugarplum Fairies, has defied every musical expectation ever placed upon her. For nearly two decades she’s been a singer, releasing numerous albums and singles in the span of her storied career, and each release has been different than the last. But, as she explained to me over the phone, pursuing music was never initially part of her life plan and at one point, it seemed unlikely that it ever would be.
She began her career in journalism, only dabbling in music after friends had approached her about working with them on their lyrics. Although she enjoyed the experience of creating, Vienna, Austria’s cultural norms regarding careers weren’t exactly supportive of business professionals pursuing outside projects.
“Vienna is a very small town,” she said. “If you have one profession that you’re well known for and you add something else to your resume, people don’t understand how you can do both. You can only be one profession and be good at it. You couldn’t multitask, it was not accepted.”
It was only after she moved to the United States in 1991 that Ryder started getting increasingly serious about her music. Her move to Los Angeles provided her with a sense of freedom, and she started the process of transforming words and ideas she had kept in journals into songs.
Until 2013, Ryder had traditionally worked with her former husband, Sugarplum Fairies founding partner Ben Bohmand. They were married for 20 years, first meeting in Vienna. After she and Bohmand parted ways, both privately and musically, she continued making music on her own, working with her son and a rotating cast of friends and collaborators for releases including this year’s Payday Flowers. She feels as if this most recent release is truly reflective of a new direction.
“Payday Flowers is just more uplifting than any of my other albums,” she said. “It’s a reflection of a new relationship that I’ve been in for three years and it’s been a happy time period. The whole time though, I was also keeping in mind that this is a period that will end at some point, so there’s some sadness. There’s always sadness at some point, there’s no way of getting around that.”
Pointing to three tracks on Payday Flowers, including “Dedeaux Fields,” “Malta Smile 55,” and “Jaguar Jackson,” the songwriter noted how her new album veered into a “mismatch of genres,” combing European pop influences, Americana, and folk music. Regardless of how her music might be interpreted by critics, she personally wishes for her work to explore how loneliness can affect people during different points in their life.
For Payday Flowers, Ryder incorporated synthesizers and reworked guitar from instrumental contributors, creating an atmosphere of what she deemed peaceful sadness. She wants to continue in that direction for future releases, moving on from past sounds to something that feels more true to her current personal life and ideals. As Ryder revealed, she’s literally trashed mementos of her past, and instead wants to focus on continuing growth.
“If I look back to that very first album that I think came out in 1991, it just makes me cringe,” she said. “I think I had a hundred of those albums left and I threw them in the trash. I just couldn’t bear it. It’s very pop and I don’t think it’s very unique. I’ve grown so much as a vocalist from then until now. I could live without that first album.”