Saturday, October 8, 2011

Spotlight Local Artist - SleepyV - October 2011 - Pittsburgh

SleepyV is our local spotlight for the month of October. They are a young band all still in school, playing their brand of indie pop. The band was kind enough to answer our normal questions about how they came together, the goals of the band and a great piece of advice for local bands trying to make it in the area. There are songs embed throughout the article, along with links for the band at the bottom. 

How did the band come together? Were you all friends that went to school? or?

Gene (acoustic guitar, vocals) and Derek (drums) went to high school and played together in a band called Vinyl 6, as well as doing a bunch of other music. John (trumpet) went to the same high school, but played in a ska band. They started playing together in June 2009.

Ben (bass, vocals) went to a different high school on the other side of the city and did his own music, and even had a stint as a solo act signed to an indie label. He and Derek worked together as student employees at the University of Pittsburgh's audio-video services department, played together in a glam/folk thing called The Cockatoos, and then Derek asked him to play with SleepyV in the fall of 2009.
Dominique (flute) went to high school in California, came to the University of Pittsburgh for its nursing program, went to some shows in Ben's basement - dubbed The Aviary, now one of Oakland's numerous defunct house venues - and we met her there. She started playing flute in the spring of 2011.

How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?

It's sort of in between the super serious indie bands like Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent, Dirty Projectors and the more fun indie bands like Tally Hall, Fleet Foxes, and the Decemberists. We like ornate harmonies and complicated song structures, but we can't seem to veer ourselves away from infectious reggae rhythms and nice melodies. A lot of people seem to tell us there is a jazz element to our music, and we think a lot of that comes from just playing and grooving together so often. We're pretty comfortable with improvisation, despite how planned out and intricate all of our recordings and performances are.

Are you all originally from the Pittsburgh area? Families here as well?

All of the dudes have family in Pittsburgh, but Dominique is from California. We call our parents regularly and visit as often as possible. Yeah, we're sorry we haven't been home in three weeks, but look, if you're gonna make meatloaf every damn time you have to understand WE GET SICK OF IT.

Do you all create music full time or is this more of a part time venture?'

If by full time, you mean more than forty hours a week, I think it's definitely a full time venture. We feel bad for all of our friends who aren't musicians because when it comes time to hang out and relax, we usually just sit at home and play or write. It's kind of sad, to be honest. We only get to go out on nights we have gigs!

Do you have day jobs?

We all do. Full-time class schedules too.

How do you create your music? What is the song writing process?

Our songs generally avoid verse/chorus structure, so instead of having vocabulary like: chorus, pre-chorus, bridge, etc., we just refer to them as "parts." Any member of the band could write a part or come up
with an idea for a part. Then, it's up to everyone else in the group to play the part together and write lines and rhythms and lyrics to go with the part. After that, we're left with a group of small parts of songs, which we then have to string together by coming up with transitions from one part to the next. This is tricky because if one part doesn't feel natural following the other, adjusting it to find atransition that will work can sometimes be difficult. For our "Storybook EP" we went through this process for about 26 minutes worth of music, and then Ben wrote arrangements for flute, trumpet, violin, and clarinet.

What are your goals for the band? What would you like to accomplish? Are you trying to get signed to a label?

If we were able to make music for a living, we'd all be living beyond our wildest dreams. Most people in this world have to put a smiling face on every morning to go to a job they don't care about so that they can make enough money to buy things that won't make them happy. We're already lucky in that we have everything we need to keep us alive and the key to our happiness is right at our fingertips. If we are able to make a living from the music and travel around and play, we'd all probably be the happiest people in the entire world.

What advice would you give to local acts trying to make it?

Don't promote all of your shows! If you want venues and promoters to keep calling you back, you've got to have a draw at every show you do for them, and that means if your friends came out to see you the night before, they probably won't come out the next night. Also, just be friendly and cool. We've had some weird experiences trying to talk to other bands who just see us as strangers walking up and saying "hi." If we're playing a show together, we have something in common and we can have a beer together, so stop being awkward! Also, stick around and see all the bands who play at your shows. If you only care about your own music and aren't interested enough to check out the other bands you're playing with, other bands probably won't be interested in you unless you fit their style and draw tons of people (not usuallythe case).

Have you all toured nationally? Or do you usually stay more regionally?

We've taken one trip to play at an arts center in Mansfield, OH with a shoe-gaze band called the La De Les from Boston. We packed four people and all of our equipment into Derek's corolla and broke even on cash after paying for gas and food. It was super fun and we look forward to doing more weekend trips and possibly a tour when we're all available for one.

Being in the Pgh area, do you find it more difficult to try and succeed?

Some bands we know who take more trips out and tour tend to say that there are lots more people outside of Pittsburgh, but so far, other than Mansfield, OH, this city is basically all we know. It's been hard, but I think we're finally starting to see some rewards from doing gigs for local markets and networking with out-of-town bands who come through.

What are some of the obstacles you face trying to create some 'success' in Pgh?

There are practically no small venues with built-in local crowds (as in, pretty much no venue to start your band at). Playing shows to drunk college kids in basements is pretty much the best substitute for that, though. You just have to have the resources and initiative to hook that kind of thing up.

What are the positive benefits of being in the area?

There's not a lot of competition. I have to wonder if SleepyV would even be a speck of a band in a neighborhood like Brooklyn, but in Pittsburgh, any band who looks cool and sounds good seems to have a shot. I think the city has also taught is to take a lot of matters into our own hands. Since there is such a lack of musical community around, we've done a lot of our own work. Ben's basement (The Aviary) was our main place to play until Manny Theiner started booking us around town more (which he did because we were able to bring kids from our basement out to Garfield Artworks). Also, Derek and our friend Bryan Heller have started this thing called "Take Away Tuesdays" at which is basically just small-time Pittsburgh version of La Blogotheque. We're on it, and so are all our friends' bands.

Is there a venue you have enjoyed playing more than others in the area?

We certainly enjoy playing for bigger crowds who don't know us. We recently opened up for Tally Hall at Mr. Smalls, and the crowd was fully attentive and extremely enthusiastic. Our second show ever, we got to open up for Jack's Mannequin in the middle of Bigelow Boulevard, right next to the Cathedral of Learning, and that was alsoa surreal experience. Other than that, The Aviary was probably the most consistent fun every time we played it (mainly because it was one of our basements filled with all of our friends who were all drunk).

No comments:

Post a Comment