Portland-based solo artist and multi-instrumentalist Sylis Ander wants to reclaim silence. To provide an alternative to the ear-splitting rock shows to which we’ve grown accustomed. To inspire appreciation for our hearing in a world ever noisier. To promote caring for our ears and being aware of when something is simply too loud. Nearly 50% or people aged 12-35 are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to needlessly loud sounds, and Ander wants to do something about it.
He knows better than most: he was born with sensorineural hearing loss, which culminated in him losing half of his hearing by his late twenties. He also struggles with deafening tinnitus, which means that his hearing loss is also oppressively loud. The struggle to take part in conversations without having to read lips or pretend to hear became so arduous that he began to avoid conversations and the accompanying social discomfort as everything became quieter and his tinnitus became louder.
All this led him to innovate a new type of show: in February 2020, he hosted a concert entirely through headphones. Using a self-designed sound system that placed emphasis on fidelity over volume, Sylis Ander played his first show – a sold out, sixty-person event wherein the entire band could only be heard through headphones; remove them and hear only the whispers of the person sitting next to you.
Sylis Ander’s first full-length album, Dear Paige, is ready for release, and his attentiveness to aural sensibility carries through the album in a way that’s hard to miss. Thoughtful vocal lines sit squarely in the mix, framed on all sides by sparkling guitar licks and spirited instrumentation. Tackling a wide spectrum of motifs including humanity, climate change, and loss, Dear Paige is both a love letter to his remaining hearing and to his new daughter, highlighted by second track “Trippin’”: “Then we made a little human of our own – she has your eyes and I still can’t believe mine.”