with Equipment and Taking Meds
Sweet Pill has a style earmarked by an earnest ingenuity that many young artists are quick to romanticize and aspire to but slow to cultivate and execute. It takes time. For singer Zayna Youssef, guitarists Jayce Williams and Sean McCall, bassist Ryan Cullen, and drummer Chris Kearney, however, their 5 years together have seen their hard work rewarded tenfold in half as long as it would take almost anyone else. From their 2018 inception, Sweet Pill forged a storied path leading to this moment: the release of their new EP, Starchild, their first for new label home, Hopeless Records.
There’s a cinematic quality to Sweet Pill’s forming in college in New Jersey, converting a small school bus into a tour-ready, cross-country capable vehicle (complete with bunks!) and driving it to SXSW in efforts to draw attention to their newly growing passion. In true film fashion, Sweet Pill arrived at the world famous Austin festival only to be informed of its cancellation as the introduction of shelter-in-place restrictions surrounding the emergence of COVID-19.
Proceeding to return home, their converted vehicle buckled under the pressure of the excursion, leaving them stranded for several days in Baton Rouge, LA before returning to their new home of Philadelphia.
It was this struggle that set the stage for the writing process that conceived what would become Sweet Pill’s first full-length LP, ‘Where the Heart Is.’ When it came time to record, the group went to the studio Gradwell House with Matt Weber (A Great Big Pile of Leaves), eventually releasing it on classic emo label
Topshelf Records in 2021. ‘Where the Heart Is’ and the support tours it led to (La Dispute, Their/They’re/There, and Origami Angel) didn’t come directly next, either. The band waited another year after their SXSW snafu before signing to Topshelf. With time, though, offers materialized, and their song “High Hopes” even earned itself a spin by Paramore’s Hayley Williams on her BBC Radio podcast “Everything Is Emo.” Bit by bit, buzz started to grow, leading the band to land a tour with The Wonder Years and, soon after, catching the ear of veteran indie label, Hopeless Records.
Starchild sees Sweet Pill returning to Weber and Gradwell House for another triumph, tapping in Dave Downham for mastering, and ‘Where the Heart Is’ art illustrator Kerry Dunn to continue the style their debut established. With these two releases, Sweet Pill only hopes to inspire others into a life lived passionately in close community with like-minded individuals, as they have been by bands like Algernon Cadwallader, Hop Along, and, of course, Paramore. For Williams, the only intention is “to live a sustainable life while playing music and uplift the people around me,” while drummer Chris Kearney feels it is his only path. “I don’t know what else I would do, I don’t have another purpose in life.”