Photograph by Angela Satine
Sugar World’s Katryn Macko “was secretly a big fan girl when I heard the music [bandmate Ryan Stanley] was recording in his bedroom, and I felt very lucky to scoop him up.”
Katryn Macko met Ryan Stanley while they were both living in Tallahassee and attending Florida State University. Macko worked at a venue called Club Down Under, which was run by a student organization. She describes it as being akin to a larger version of UCSD’s Che Café. While working there she ended up hiring Stanley, at that point an aspiring bedroom musician, as an intern. The two moonlighting songwriters soon joined forces in a project called Naps.
“I was secretly a big fan girl when I heard the music he was recording in his bedroom, and I felt very lucky to scoop him up as a co-songwriter,” Macko explained. “The other two band members, Laura Hicks and Jeremy Probst, they also worked at that music venue. That made it really easy to just go from band practice to work.”
The Naps sound was directly influenced by twee bands such as Tiger Trap and Black Tambourine. These bands were a bit soft compared to many of the other acts floating around Tallahassee at the time, so they became, in Stanley’s words, “a punky twee band.”
He continued, “When we were playing house parties, we also wanted to kick ass. We weren’t a hardcore band, so we just played twee songs really loud and with a lot of distortion.”
Naps ended up releasing two EPs, got some positive national buzz, and worked hard to build their online presence. “For whatever reason, we just existed on the internet and tried to create an internet following,” Stanley said. As a result, they picked up pockets of fans in different scenes throughout the US, and some in Europe.
But, in 2016, before they had completed a full-length album, Naps was history. Stanley relocated to Southern California in 2017 and Macko arrived a year later. They initially lived in Temecula but soon after relocated to San Marcos. They continued their southern migration when they landed at their current digs in Normal Heights. They are once again songwriting collaborators.
The duo considered dumped their old moniker for their new project. “When we reunited, we were thinking of continuing Naps, but we really did want to start over and use what we learned for a new project with a slightly different sound,” Macko explained. The new, Sugar World vibe, as evidenced by a handful of stand-alone singles, is a bit more synth-driven and darker than the twee Naps output. Stanley added that the duo is making a concerted effort to get weirder with the music than they did in Naps.
“I would also say it’s dreamier,” Macko chimed in. “I think it’s a little more polished, and the songs we’ve put out so far aren’t really the weirder songs. They’re a little bit more mellow, but the subject matter, especially with our new song ‘Time to Kill,’ is a little more mature. Just getting older and having a different view of the world you start writing about things other than break-ups. At least for me, my songwriting has been very different subject-matter-wise within the last couple of years as opposed to when I was in college.”
Like countless other US bands and artists, Sugar World has spent much of the COVID-era writing new songs and tinkering with recordings in their home studio. They are shooting to release a full-length LP — a milestone that they both regret missing with Naps. The album will likely come out next year. If so, it may be part of a tidal wave of 2021 releases created in the midst of the pandemic.
“I’m kind of expecting there to be a change in the popular styles,” Stanley said. “A lot of artists are writing for the stage, and I am interested to see if a lot of those artists will end up adapting to a more moody or subdued sound because of the current world situation, or creating albums intended to be listened to more at home.”