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On the (Abbey) road with Ian Sweet

The singer on her band’s new album, “Sucker,” and highlights of their 2023 tour.
On+the+%28Abbey%29+road+with+Ian+Sweet
Courtesy Alexa Viscius

Jillian Medford was home for the holidays. The 30-year-old artist, known by her fans as Ian Sweet, was visiting her parents in California for Thanksgiving two weeks after the release of her fourth studio album, Sucker, and a few days after her Chicago show at the Empty Bottle, punctuating a year that took her band around the States and the UK.

“Sucker,” Ian Sweet’s fourth studio album, was out Nov. 3 from Polyvinyl records. (Fair use)

The past few months have been pretty busy for Medford and her band, but she likes touring. “I’m addicted to it,” she said in a video interview. “It’s my favorite thing.” When asked if she could recall a highlight, she paused for a moment, then asked: “Are you familiar with Abbey Road?” 

Ian Sweet was hanging around London after playing at the Pitchfork Music Festival in November and got an email invitation from the legendary studio to come in and record for a day. “We were all so giddy,” she said. “We didn’t even care how lame we were acting.” 

Medford, who admires badass, emotionally mature iconoclasts like Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush and Björk, loves performing because it makes her feel “so connected to myself and my body. I get to look back at how joyous I am on stage most times. There’s photos of me mid-jump or something, and I was just pure blissed-out playing,” she said. “Looks like I’m flying.” 

Ian Sweet recorded for a day at Abbey Road during their time in London for the Pitchfork Music Festival. (Courtesy @ian_sweeeeet)

When she plays live, Medford can also give songs new meaning. “We’ve been playing the song ‘Sucker’ live, and my bass player and drummer will take a seat on the stage and get all cozy and we’re all just playing it and just feeling it out with each other.”

Lately Medford has been listening to a lot of Troye Sivan. His silly-haired Australian charm has captured the hearts of many, including Saturday Night Live’s Sarah Sherman, who is featured in Ian Sweet’s video for “Your Spit.” On Nov. 11, host Timothée Chalamet played Sivan as Sherman’s sleep paralysis demon. When her doctor, played by Bowen Yang, tried to get rid of him, Chalamet called on his legion of Troyes, which—to the delight of many—was musical guest boygenius. Medford’s boyfriend—“not the redhead and not John”—wrote the sketch. Martin Herlihy is one-third of Please Don’t Destroy, which recently toured during SNL’s hiatus with Ian Sweet as their opener.

Medford’s a fan of boygenius, too. Noticing a tooth tattoo on her left shoulder, I asked if it was in any way related to the ones on Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers (whom Medford describes as “the freaking blueprint for indie folk music”) in reference to their song, “Bite the Hand.” Medford said she was ahead of the band—she and a friend got theirs six years ago. “I should just start telling people I’m the president of their fan club. They’re the best.” 

Medford was a proud wild child in contrast to her “perfect angel” sister. She was fearless until she broke her arm skateboarding. We discussed the merits of various cast bandage colors—I like orange, she prefers blue—and the stories behind nicknames. She started writing Sucker at a retreat in upstate New York in  October 2022, and it was recorded last January with a live band. On the title track, Medford laments a guy that can never get her name quite right, with “two L’s when there’s only one / and a G instead of a J.” 

Medford was christened Ian (minus the Jil-) by some California skater boys. In fact, Avril Lavigne was the catalyst for her musical career. “There was an era of before-school there, when VH1 and MTV would play music videos on TV. And so every morning, eating cereal or whatever, getting ready for school, the ‘Sk8er Boi’ music video was always on. I just fell in love,” Medford said. “She had a sparkly blue electric guitar and I begged my mom to go to Guitar Center and get me that for Hanukkah one year.” She said that the beginner’s Squier is probably still in her parents’ garage.

After her skater days, Medford embarked on a career as a music supervisor building soundtracks for movies and television—she says her inspiration was the impeccable (500) Days of Summer—and found the job a happy medium between satiating her artistic interest and having gas money until she became a bona-fide musician. “I can’t believe I chose to do this, and have continued to do it, but it’s because I love it so much that I physically can’t give up, you know?”

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About the Contributor
Lucy Walker, Assistant Online Editor-in-Chief
Lucy Walker ('25) joined The Review in 2021 as a freshman. She likes Big Salads and her second favorite animal is a shark.

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  • A

    Ally RodriguezJan 11, 2024 at 9:40 PM

    grrrrrreat stuff

    Reply
  • E

    Elizabeth HuJan 11, 2024 at 2:39 PM

    Yeahhhh!

    Reply