Interview: Sleep Lady

When Sleep Lady’s album, ‘So Long Lonely Ghost’ arrived pretty much unheralded at E&D towers we were blown away, it’s a truly fantastic record that touches on many of the styles we love here and seldom has one record been received with such universal enthusiasm by our writers group. Our interest was well and truly piqued so we sent Gilbert to have a chat with guitarist Michael Hayden and find out more about this San Diegan behemoth.

 
(((o))): There’s a lot of solo projects around at the moment, largely because it gives composers the ability to do things how they want. Why did Mike come back from that world after a brief flirtation, to be in a band again? What was different this time?

M: First off thanks for showing interest in our band! It really means a lot to us. I never really wanted to be a solo artist. I took time away from playing in bands in order to get my shit together. I had spent about ten to twelve years beating my head against various walls due to involvement in bands. Whether it was because of personal issues, musical differences or bandmate’s unrealistic expectations I couldn’t really handle dealing other musicians anymore. I decided to get a small recording set-up so that I could reinvigorate my desire to play music for purely selfish reasons. At some point I decided that I needed to record some live drums and Mario offered me a great rate at his studio and Jim (drummer on the first record) said he was down to record some of the songs before he moved away. Shortly after that Sarah and Mario pretty much just decided they were in the band, Kristy bought a keyboard and we had a weekend to record and a show booked. It all happened really naturally and since I already had plenty of material sketched everything fell into place pretty quickly. I’m pretty sure we had already recorded “Fighting For The Year” before we even played a show. I think I was sold on being a live band again the first time we all kicked in to one of the heavier parts together. No amount of home recording can compare to the feeling live music through loud amps.

(((o))): What’s the most beautiful sound you’ve ever heard?

M: This is a hard question! Either a thunderstorm or a well played cello.

(((o))): Do you think there is a fundamental difference in the way people hear music – how they listen to it – depending on whether they play an instrument or not? If so, who is luckier?

M: Yes I definitely think there is a difference. I can’t say one is luckier than the other. I think as a player I may have a bit more appreciation for the subtleties of great performance. I think non-musicians are pretty lucky to hear music from a place of innocence. I would compare it, maybe, to architecture. I can be blown away by a really interesting old building, but someone trained in architecture would probably have a vastly different reaction to it. They may see flaws or impressive little details that I would completely overlook, but we can both still get something enriching out of it. So, to answer your question, both.

(((o))): Following from this, is there really an almost infinite way of hearing music and does this make the stock interview question “please describe your sound for us” essentially meaningless as well as annoying?

M: Not really meaningless or annoying, it’s just a difficult question to answer from inside the music. I think if you are creating genuine music it’s a bit hard to describe it because the playing of the music is the description. I hope that makes sense. Any one of us could list our influences or life experiences that brought us to this point but that still wouldn’t give an accurate description of sound. I usually just tell people that our music is sometimes pretty, sometimes loud and the songs are moderately long.

(((o))): When you compose, do you think of sounds, textures, rhythms and melodies then work out how to create them, or do you think “this is our gear, what can we do with it”? Or some other approach?

M: I think it would be most accurate to say sounds and ideas come first and we figure out how to do it later. For this record we demoed the living hell out of it. One of the advantages of having an engineer in the band is he and I could quickly assemble a completed demo of a song for everyone. There were a few songs that we all knew and recorded but we had never played them in the same room. It really allowed us to approach each part carefully and make sure everything worked.

(((o))): There’s an assumption that musicians create in response to something – that someone or something inspired them. Can’t inspiration also simply come from within?

M: I think both are possible because I’ve directly experienced both. I’ve had song ideas come to me in reaction to things and I’ve also had what seems like a fully formed song just pop in my head.

(((o))): Instrumental bands often find tracks being referred to as “fillers” in a derogatory way and I imagine it may have been said about ‘Night Moves’ on the latest record ‘So Long Lonely Ghost’. What’s your side of the story?

M: ‘Night Moves’ in the only song that stresses me out to play live! It’s also one of my favourite parts the record, so I don’t consider it filler. We wanted to have a bit more acoustic elements on this album. Mario and I wrote ‘Night Moves’ pretty much as it is on the record months before we recorded it.

(((o))): Why do so many people not get experimental, progressive instrumental rock and metal? Does it ever annoy you?

M: I gave up on trying to understand why people like what they like a long time ago. Some things just resonate with some people. It never bothers me when people don’t like the same music as me. All five of us have pretty distinctive tastes and it never bothers me if we disagree on something. It does bother me a bit when people say there isn’t any good new music; I think that’s an indefensible position.

(((o))): It’s music that’s often self-described (as with Sleep Lady) or described by others as “cinematic”. Is this just an admission that there’s something intrinsically missing with instrumental rock and metal?

M: Not really, cinematic to me just means big in scope and sound. I don’t think it implies anything is missing.

(((o))): When recording, do you tend to spend more time in pre-production, recording or post-production? Which do you find more rewarding?

M: For this record we spent a good amount of time in all phases. Pre-production was pretty long because we wanted to make sure we covered everything we set out to do on the record. Mario and I would pretty much meet for a few hours at his studio and run around like crazy people putting ideas down. After everything was written Tony came in and laid down all drums and we just built it from there. Pre-production pretty much just became production once the drums were done; as parts were ready we would record them. The post-production phase was pretty great because we got to work with Aaron (Harris). We’ve never brought in outside ears on a project before and I was a bit nervous but it was a really easy process and he was really great to work with. I found it really interesting what he would focus on in the creative process. So I guess all of the phases are equally rewarding. Making a record with this band is by far my favourite activity. I can’t wait to do it again, even though it does stress me out.

(((o))): What has the response been like to your new record?

M: It’s been really great. We are really happy with the response so far.

(((o))): What does The Sleep Lady think about “Sleep Lady” the band?

M: I don’t think she knows we exist. I found out about her well after we named the band. I imagine there have been some confused parents stumbling across our Bandcamp page.

(((o))): If someone asked you to name your desert island disks, would you point out the existence of MP3 players, suggest that a lack of power would render them useless, or name the records anyway?

M: I’d name some records. Talking about music is second only to playing it in my book. Games like this are a pretty fun way to get into heated, drunken discussions about some records you love.

(((o))): What’s something everyone should know about Sleep Lady that they won’t find on Google?

M: At least one song title on the new record is directly related to a text message I received from Mario while he was playing Metroid.

Thanks very much for your time and for making great music.