We are in Knightsbridge, one of London’s wealthiest neighborhoods, where Sumner spends at least half the year (the musician also lives in Brooklyn). Specifically, we are in Sumner's local pub, the Nag’s Head. “I write a lot of songs in here, especially after a few of these,” the singer says, holding up a pint.
The offspring of famous people—Sumner’s mother is the film producer Trudie Styler—often struggle to make their own mark in life, but Sumner, now 25, appears to have found a voice. Five years ago, the singer was making music under the name I Blame Coco. There was an album, but it didn’t sell well, and the very mention of it today causes a wince. “Oh,” Sumner says. “Um. I don’t like to dwell on that period too much, to be honest. I was too young, I didn’t know what I wanted. So I think I systematically sabotaged my career. I just wasn’t into it. I was unhappy.”
Sumner’s more upbeat these days, despite the appealingly moody and pensive aura. This could be due to the fact that Information is a terrific record, full of angular pop songs drenched in analog synthesizers and crisp melodies reminiscent of the 1980s. “Dead Arms & Dead Legs” is haunted by New Order; Annie Lennox could have sung “What Good Could Ever Come of This.” On “Let My Love Lie on Your Life,” Sumner sounds so much like Sting, it’s eerie. What knits everything together is Sumner’s perpetual frown, both literal and figurative. The musician does alienation very well, and not just in song. In the flesh, Sumner is shy and surly, with skin pale, and unbrushed hair. The artist finds fashion “terrifying” —despite having a model for a girlfriend (Sumner won’t tell me her name, but they’ve been together for two years)—and dresses only in black. Today the musician’s in a shapeless jumper, which peels back to reveal a faded black Kenny G shirt. “I fucking love this T-shirt,” Sumner says, beaming. “It’s so comfortable.” The musician's long johns, meanwhile, are not of the drugstore variety, but rather Boris Bidjan Saberi. They retail for $400 a pair (so maybe Sumner’s not that terrified of fashion).