Sound Source: Deep Dive: Syzygal

Joanne Haner, Diversity & Inclusion Chair



Electropop group Syzygal walks us through their song “Shadow Warriors” from their debut album, “Right Path.”

[beginning of “Shadow Warriors” by Syzygal]

ANNA SOLTYS: When the Sun goes down and things start getting really quiet, and these demons, if you will, sometimes will come out. Our own shadows can be sometimes spooky, the little people sitting on our shoulders telling us things can be spooky. And so I think the song was kind of derived from that concept of fighting off these voices or these ideas or (our) own worst critic or our own worst enemies.

JOANNE HANER: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Joanne Haner, and this is Deep Dive — a Sound Source series where we hear the stories behind the music on or around campus.

JOANNE HANER: The song you’re hearing is “Shadow Warriors” by the electropop trio Syzygal. Today, we’re sitting down with two of their members, lyricist and vocalist Anna Soltys and co-creator and musician Mickey Kellerman, who is actually a Northwestern alum from the Class of 2003. They’ll be telling us about their songwriting process and walking us through “Shadow Warriors,” the seventh track from their debut album, “Right Path.”


LYRICS: Shadow Warriors, get to it / Pull your dark ships though the night

ANNA SOLTYS: The first verse really deals with that self-battle of comparing where you’ve come so far with what your expectations are.

MICKEY KELLERMAN: Writing this song, we had been a few months into the shutdown. I started writing it in April or May of 2020 and all the way into, like, June when, like, the George Floyd protests were happening. It was one of the most emotionally raw times of my life. It was scary, it seemed like society was completely unraveling.

ANNA SOLTYS: All of our work, from start to finish, is about mental health. That’s something that we focus 100% of our attention and energy on.

ANNA SOLTYS: You know, a lot of these songs were written through 2020. That was a way not just for ourselves to feel connected to the world and maybe to try to connect with other people, but for us to heal.

ANNA SOLTYS: Music writing becomes so much fun when you can trust your instincts and when you can trust your intuition. And in all of these songs, it was so freeing to be able to do that.


LYRICS: You always see what you want / Find reason to pursue

ANNA SOLTYS: This voice that we have inside of ourselves can lead us down really kind of scary places.

ANNA SOLTYS: Take the time, do the work, absorb it and then let’s talk.

ANNA SOLTYS: It was a lockdown, and we didn’t know if we would leave the house again. You know, “Is anyone ever gonna hear this?” I don’t know. You know, it wasn’t about that, it was literally about the process of creation.

MICKEY KELLERMAN: Unlike a lot of electronic dance music, which is like laptop-based and all sampled drums, like the electronic dance music I’ve always been interested in writing, I’ve always wanted it to have actual powerful acoustic drums as a part of it and a live drummer.


MICKEY KELLERMAN: The first part of the song starts kinda sparse and then you have like a sparse beat, dance beat that comes in and it kind of builds an intensity for the first half of the song. And then it kinda shifts gears and it gets to an even more intense part.



MICKEY KELLERMAN: There’s like this cymbal banging almost. I remember writing that part, specifically, feeling so cathartic. It was such a release. I remember like pantomiming the cymbal hits.

ANNA SOLTYS: Since I’d started the project, I’d always been kinda like intrigued by dance music and by that culture and the platform, and it always had been my little dream to bring sort of the folk-vocal element to something a little bit more modern.

MICKEY KELLERMAN: Syzygal is, for me, the opportunity to express myself without any boundaries.


LYRICS: When you know more than you know / now

JOANNE HANER: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Joanne Haner. Thanks for listening to another episode of Sound Source’s Deep Dive. This episode was reported and produced by me. The Audio Editor of The Daily Northwestern is Lawrence Price, the Digital Managing Editor is Angeli Mittal, and the Editor-in-chief is Jacob Fulton. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear more from Sound Source.


Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @joanne_n_h

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