It is very late on a Sunday night and Sydney Wayser and I are talking about sex. We’re underground, sitting in a corner table in Little Branch, a candle-lit, jazzy West Village hangover from that period in the last decade where Speakeasies were the thing. It’s fun to talk about sex with Wayser. She’s so impeccably gorgeous that the idea of any crass thoughts emerging from her cortex is almost riveting. Secondly, she’s part French, raised in California, and lives in Brooklyn, a framework that connotes the beguiling, openness and knowing qualities that make for good, sexy chat.
I’m far from the only one who sees this stirring side of Wayser. Her new album, Bell Choir Coast, a dreamy, throaty collection (fitting somewhere between Marianne Faithful and Regina Spektor on the songstress spectrum), provides the soundtrack for Billabong’s new Summer Swim video, where New Zealander Zippora Seven cavorts by her lonesome on a sandy cove, Wayser’s “Dream It Up” scores each playful step through the sand and every shake of Seven’s bikini-clad rump.
Wayser’s song doesn’t contain the hard-driving surf pop, or the limp, Jack Johnson riffs you’d expect from such a video, it’s deeper, almost otherworldly. Which makes sense, because that’s where Wayser’s new album comes from—another world. “Bell Choir Coast is about a fictional land where I was able to start over, discover myself and learn to take life a lot less seriously,” says Wayser. It was an escape for the singer—who wanted to be anywhere but in New York City—a chance to lose herself in a fantasy. At the same time, the sound is incredibly intimate and paired down, just her and a close friend making music.
The fantastic and the personal are notions that combine in Wayser’s look, as well. “For this new chapter in my life, I wanted an article of clothing or accessory that I could wear at shows that made me feel confident and strong,” she says. “I asked my designer friend, Sam Klemick, to make a headdress for me drawing inspiration from 1920′s head pieces, Athena and Joan of Arc. Before each show, I have this quiet meditative moment where I put the headdress on and gather my thoughts and strength. The headdress is a reminder of the person I aspired to be while writing my record and each time I put it on I feel a little closer to her.”
Tucked into our corner table, Wayser seems very much in this moment, very down to earth—her jeans and plaid flannel shirt a testament to the relaxed, elegant aesthetic that pervades her entire aesthetic. She’s comfortable in this bar, in this skin; off stage, there’s no need for a headdress. “I love mixing and matching patterns, styles old and new, feminine and masculine and drawing inspiration from characters like Annie Hall,” she says. “It’s gotta be comfortable and make me feel good. I’m all for skinny jeans, a flowing blouse, patterned flats and chunky jewels.”
The sexiness that pervades Wayser’s look, her sound, her entire aesthetic comes down to truth, to authenticity, to the intersection of where’s she’s been and where she is now. The hippie songstress; the perfectly comported Parisian; the New Yorker laughing about the licentious in this dark, expensive bar. “Hailing from Los Angeles and Paris I fit right in with the crystal loving hippie look, but also feel at home with the sophisticated city style of Paris. Seeing as how I have ended up geographically in the middle of these two cities, in New York, I like to think my fashion sense is somewhere in the middle as well,” she says.
“One part rainbows and one part berets.”