L-R: Josh, Thomas, and Max at Crown Victoria
At the risk of sounding like a complete fangirl, I'm just gonna come out and say it: Sleepies is my favorite band right now. I know, I know, that sounds like something that could change every week, but I've been feeling this way for, like, forever. I can't help it and it's not changing anytime soon. Their latest release, Weird Wild World, hasn't even officially dropped and yet I already know the entire record by heart (awk). We premiered a stream of the album just a couple days ago and you should go take a listen so you can get on my level already. Also, to further fuel my obsession, I will be attending their record release show at Dead Herring this Friday, August 17th, and I'm not even gonna resist the urge to embarrassingly sing along, so if you want to witness that/hear this kick-ass album played live, you should definitely come too.
Anyway, I decided that I had to meet the trio of geniuses behind my new favorite album, so last Friday, I headed over to Crown Vic Bar in Brooklyn for drinks and a chat with singer/guitarist Thomas, bassist Josh, and drummer Max. Don't let their grungy appeal and "Let's cut class" vibes fool you though; turns out, these punks are quite the academic type and spend their time doing things like giving writing advice to college students and counseling autistic children. Aside from their occupational lives, we discussed the band's internet presence, their odd listener demographic, scrapped band names, and the secret to becoming indie music's newest It Boys (just kidding, but apparently wearing a cool belt helps).
NOISEY: So, I've been listening to your new album Weird Wild World pretty much every single day since it landed in my hands.
Josh: Aww, thanks!
Max: We recorded it in January at Vanity Sound with Ben Greenberg of The Men. It'll be out August 21st on 16oh Records on vinyl. It will be a real, physical object—if you buy those kinds of things.
I do buy those kinds of things!
Josh: Thank God.
Max: And then GODMODE is doing the digital release.
Yes! [Label owner] Nick Sylvester is awesome. The first time I saw you guys was at a [Nick's band] Mr. Dream show.
Oh, cool! We're so fortunate to have awesome people helping us out.
Is there a concept to the album? A cool backstory? Perhaps a subliminal message?
Josh: Somebody today told us that it is more menacing and grungy than our last album, which is funny 'cause I don't think we were trying to do that necessarily? I don't know, In Utero is a big selling point for it, I think.
Thomas: Are there any subliminal messages? I guess we can't tell you 'cause they are subliminal.
Max: What's the thing Ozzy Osbourne got sued for? "Get the gun, get the gun, shoot shoot shoot shoot?" I think that's in there somewhere.
Josh: There's a quote on our vinyl that says…
Max: "As a fan of Waterworld, I find this to be an anti-Waterworld album."
Josh: So that might be our subliminal theme…except I think we all love Waterworld a lot. [Laughs]
Actually, the one song on your album that I keep listening to is "Waste Water," which I sort of call the underdog track of the album. I love it though.
That's really exciting. I was really stoked when we wrote that song and we were like, "Can we do this? Is this ridiculous?" It's so hushed and then we put violins on it, which I think we had an internal debate about.
Why, were you afraid it would be vibing too much on Yellowcard or something?
[Laughs] That was a concern.
Max: There wasn't necessarily an operating concept to the album, but there was an approach. As much as I love our first album, it's qualitatively one note, so we wanted to do more textural things.
I hear that. Anyway, you guys all went to NYU, right?
Thomas: Yeah, we met our freshman year.
I went there as well. What did you guys study in school?
Max: I went to Gallatin, which is affectionately known as the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure school. My concentration was called "Mediations of the Body" and it was primarily feminist theory and queer theory and continental philosophy—the latter is what I ended up doing in graduate school now.
Josh: I was in the film school, but I concentrated on traditional, hand-drawn animation, which is just as lucrative as it sounds. [Laughs] I don't think I've animated anything since the day I graduated. I'm in grad school now for art therapy at SVA.
At what point were you guys like, "We should form a band?"
Thomas: At lots of points, actually.
Max: This is the third version of the band we tried to form. The first one was a terrible dance band with a very sweet and dear but totally arrhythmic keyboard player. [Laughs]
Josh: We never had a drummer, so we practiced with acoustic guitars in the dorm practice rooms. There are a couple demos that exist of that.
Thomas: They are two horrifying recordings.
Max: This version of the band had its first practice in November 2007. The thing is we've been friends the whole time and thinking we should all be doing something together.
Josh: It was a no-brainer to start a band together, even though Max didn't play drums.
So you picked it up recently? Wow.
Max: Yeah, I fucked around a little bit before, but I never played drums for a band until they asked me to.
Was it basically your similar tastes in music that brought you guys together initially?
Thomas, I think you and I became friends because I told you you had a cool belt. [Laughs]
Thomas: It was a really deep connection we had.
Ah, so your band was formed purely based on looks.
Our fashion, yeah.
Actually, Noisey's Editor-in-Chief, Ben Shapiro, called you guys "dreamy." Is that a thing you hear a lot?
That we're dreamy? [Laughs] Maybe that we have cool belts. The belt I'm wearing right now was made by an Amish man in upstate New York. He gave it to me.
Josh: We were in Nylon once. That's a fashion magazine!
Max: They didn't say anything about our clothes though. We're not necessarily trendsetters.
What, you guys aren't It Boys yet?
Thomas: [Laughs] No, but maybe if we get on Alternative Press, we can do one of those cool shots like New Found Glory.
Yeah, they'll start dressing you in things you didn't pick out.
Josh: I hate clothes shopping, so that sounds great.
What are some band names you guys went through before deciding on Sleepies?
Max: I was really adamant about calling us Tires and Skunks for a while.
Josh: Gone Jogging was one. So was Big, Ugly Vegetables. That sounds like a ska band though.
Thomas: The Water Bottles.
So why Sleepies?
Josh: I think it's cause we were about to play a show and we needed a name.
Max: And an internet presence.
Josh: Yeah, that too. We needed a MySpace page—that was the style at the time. [Laughs] We were listening to a lot of Feelies then so the "-ies" thing stuck with us. And we already had a song called "Here Come the Sleepies," so we lifted it from that.
Cool. What do you guys do outside of the band?
Oh man, I had such an eventful day at work today. I'm a camp counselor for autistic children and we went to the Norwalk Aquarium today and for the second time this summer, I had to wipe a kid's butt!
Aww. That's sweet though.
My day was pretty long, but I recently discovered one of my kids does the best version of "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls I have ever heard, so I've been parading him around to other counselors. So I did that a bunch today, and that was pretty cool.
That's really adorable. What about you two?
Thomas: I do photo retouching, so I basically sit in front of a screen all day.
You're kind of doing what you studied in school though, right?
Max: Living the dream!
Thomas: It's wild.
Max: I'm currently in the philosophy PhD program at the New School. I'm also a writing tutor for graduate students at our university writing center, which they're trying to re-brand as the "Learning Center."
Josh: That sounds like an internet university to me.
Max: Yeah. I'm also a research assistant for a very dear professor friend of mine and I'm a teacher as well.
Josh: Don't forget published author!
Max: Well yeah, that was kind of a job. I co-edited White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race with Stephen Duncombe, who was actually my advisor at NYU.
Wow, a lot of impressive things! What about in the past? Any torturous past jobs?
Josh: Thomas, do you remember that job we had together? It was our first summer living together in the East Village…
Ha! Sorry, that sounded really romantic.
It was, kinda! It was our first of seven consecutive years.
Where did you guys work together?
We walked to work on 34th street and 9th avenue from 6th street and 2nd avenue everyday in the dead of summer, so we would show up drenched in sweat at this place called ValueOptions, which is a managed care company. I still don't know exactly what they did but Thomas lucked out and got to shred papers all day.
Thomas: Yeah, they gave me confidential medical records to shred, so I sat there and read them.
Josh: I wanted to pocket some, but then I thought how amazingly unethical that would be. Also, what would I do with them?
What did you do while he was shredding away?
I was a customer service representative, so I was on a headset phone. The terrifying thing was, the calls got pushed through automatically. You didn't get the option to pick up, so you would have to stop whatever you were doing.
That sounds stressful.
Max: In college, I was a case assistant at a law firm and it was very Kafka-esque in the sense that my desk was in the back of the stock room with all the old case files, so you would have to walk through a dungeon-like atmosphere to get there. It wasn't too bad, but one lawyer there was the biggest dick I have ever met in my entire life. I did a project for him by putting his files in a binder and then two days later he called me to scream at me, saying everything is out of order. He also said "I guess no good deed goes unpunished."
What? What an ass.
Also, I developed sciatica that summer from lifting boxes.
Oh my God.
Josh: Fuck that law firm!
Seriously! Do you guys have any nicknames or secret stage names?
Thomas: What? [Laughs] Do a lot of bands have secret stage names?
I don't know! I think you guys are the first band I've asked but, like, what if every band has secret stage names and I just never knew?
Josh: True, you gotta ask.
Max: I do have a secret rap persona. Rider Strong.
Josh: There's also Sand Dudes!
Max: It was a fake band we were gonna do. We were basically just gonna lock ourselves in a room and get really drunk for the weekend and write a bunch of beachy songs. This was right when Wavves and Best Coast were getting very popular.
Josh: Lots of reverb and lo-fi.
Max: And Ronettes-like drum beats.
Josh: We were trying to up our internet presence as much as possible by starting a sensation.
Oh, totally. How is your internet presence now? What is your Klout score?
[Laughs] Oh man, I don't know if we have one.
Max: We got a blurb for one of our songs on a conservative music site called Yeah Right.
That's so weird. Conservative music site?
I read their mission statement and it was all about purging the social menace from rock 'n' roll music. [Laughs]
Oh wow. That's your listener demographic, I guess.
Josh: Romney 2012.
Thomas: The other odd thing was there was an interview with that metal band Eyehategod.
Josh: The interviewer asked what they were listening to these days and one of them said Sleepies. He listed a bunch of bands I didn't know about—probably metal bands—and then he listed us. As far as I'm concerned, there's no other Sleepies.
Max: Turns out that guy is a huge dick, like he sexually assaulted someone on stage or something. It sucks a whole lot.
Thomas: [Laughs] It doesn't reflect very well on people who like our music!
Max: I know! We appeal to to conservatives and sexual predators.
Josh: And teenagers.
Hey, those are the only three markets you need to become successful these days.
We're going to the top.
I think you're doing well with the internet presence in that case. Anyway, your album release show is at Dead Herring on Friday, August 17.
I will be there. What can we expect at the show?
Aside from what I'm guessing will be sweltering heat (bring some misting fans), it's gonna be an awesome show.
Max: It's gonna be like the line for the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios with the misting stations.
Josh: That would be amazing. We should get those, except that would cause a lot of water damage at Dead Herring.
True. Do you guys have any pampering tips to stay dry and sexy at such sweaty rock shows?
Max: I think the only tip is you can't.
Thomas: [Laughs] "Dry and sexy"—I like that.
Josh: Fashion tips aside, I'm really excited. We're playing with Eula and Mr. Dream, who are our favorite bands right now. And Dead Herring is my favorite venue. The vibes are gonna be good.
Can't wait! See you guys there.
Previously: Day Jobs - Milk Music