19 April 2011
MY FAVORITE PUNK BAND IN BROOKLYN
THE SPEED OF LIGHT BECOMES THE WORLD
AN INTRODUCTION TO SLEEPIES
There are, I admit, a lot of bands writing fast songs and playing the shit out of them. Ty Segall, Little Girls, Screaming Females, Sweet Bulbs, Male Bonding, Happy Birthday, Jeff the Brotherhood... These are the bigger names and maybe you haven't even heard of them. Punk is weird like that. It operates outside the Pitchfork-industrial complex, and (to my ears) there's no rhyme/reason as to who breaks through. Some of these bands call themselves "garage" rock, which I guess is one way to cut your losses. The whole deliberately obscure thing (as you know) happens a lot with this stuff too: cassette releases, barely publicized shows in badly lit neighborhoods, etc. It's a preemptive strike, though sometimes I get the feeling that, for a lot of Brooklyn bands, making punk music is less a calling and more a thing to pass time until the "digital creative agencies" start hiring again.
Keeping it real is one way to put off the inevitable, folks!
So: What makes one "fast songs, shit played out of them"-type band better than another? Is it a taste thing? Local boosterism? Desperation? The kind of desperation that a press release insists you can, in fact, hear in the recordings? To the point: What makes Sleepies the new Buzzcocks, and not the new--I don't know--the new Sham 69?
A few months ago I wouldn't have been able to answer that. I saw Sleepies play and of course loved them. They are a killer band with great range, and more importantly, they look pretty damn sharp on stage. But I couldn't articulate what truly made them special, which they are. It wasn't the aggression, though they have a few tricks in that department. Josh, who plays bass, knows how to write basslines that sound amazing with distortion. There's an art to that, writing distorted bass lines. The line has to be both sparse and melodic, otherwise it will sound like a walrus in death throes.
What about Thomas then. Thomas, who handles guitars and vocals, has an outrageous rock shout-sing. It's up there with Rick Froberg's, though Thomas is less sneering and more maniacal. Beyond that he is a super smart, handsome dude with great taste in sweaters and even better taste in thoughtful, surprising arrangements. The extra beat in the verse of "Feelers" is so efficient and disarming, yet it makes perfect sense. Thomas is incapable of frivolity. This man owns zero effects pedals. Zero!
So maybe it was Max, their drummer, who made them so special. Max can kick steady eighth notes on the bass drum, which is a real bitch to do. It's an old Wipers move for keeping momentum when the guitars ride the same chord for a while. You can hear him do that in "Sludge River Mouth" toward the end. But that wasn't it at all. Steady eighth notes on the kick isn't why my girlfriend told me she likes these guys more than my own band.
I asked Sleepies if they'd let me record a few songs for them. "No charge," I said coolly. "This one's on me." Red flags do not come in bigger sizes! But they said yeah sure, let's see what happens. I have to assume they knew they were throwing me a bone. Either way. We spent a weekend at my rehearsal space, tracking as much as we could until the metal band next door came in and ruined our room tone. We ate doner pitas. We recorded hours and hours of handclaps and auxiliary percussion that I knew we'd never use, just because. It was a fun weekend. Then for a host of reasons, including a burglary, it took me forever to mix, and I apologize for that. But it's out today, and their two of my favorite songs this year, and if you have two bucks to spare you should pick it up on bandcamp or amazon or itunes.
On the walk home that weekend I encountered that homeless guy on North 7th, right by the subway stop. This is not the old Polish guy who trolls the taco cart area in his underwear, though he's great too. I'm talking about the insanely tall homeless man who kind of looks like a worst case scenario Wayne Barrett. He's balding, with a crown of long craggy hair, and he wears a long coat, and he shouts a lot. The man was in the middle of Bedford Ave this time, screaming at people as they came up from the train. "The speed of light does not transform the world!! It becomes the world!!! Globalization is the speed of light!!" He was really on a roll.
This is as close as I can get to explaining why Sleepies are so special, so necessary. All these bands you don't know, screaming TOTAL NONSENSE at you, all the time... At a certain point they all start to resemble each other, and the only way you can deal is by ignoring them all. This band is the one bum out of a million you'll hear and think, Huh. Maybe he's right?
OUT TODAY: SLEEPIES 'HOT SINGLES' 7"
BUY IT AT BANDCAMP or AMAZON
SEE SLEEPIES TONIGHT 4-19 AT DBA IN WILLIAMSBURG
THOMAS SEELY (GUITAR, VOX)
JOSH INTRATOR (BASS, VOX)
MAX TREMBLAY (DRUMS)
HOT SINGLES IS:
'FEELERS' & 'SLUDGE RIVER MOUTH'
OUT NOW ON DOOM SONG
SONGS BY THOMAS AND JOSH AND MAX
RECORDED AT SOUND CITY IN BROOKLYN
PRODUCED BY NICK SYLVESTER
MASTERED BY ROMAN VAIL AT JLM SOUND IN DUMBO