Rock The Summer – The Sleepovers
The Sleepovers are Toronto born and bred, and aren’t afraid to shake things up. From their views on touring, to the way they chose to record their music, I have to say I appreciate and respect the time and effort put into the music they created for me to enjoy. After talking with lead vocalist and song-writer Jeremy MacFarlane I even learned quite a bit about what goes into recording. The beauty of rock music is how it comes off so seamless and feels effortless when in reality it’s quite the opposite. It’s tedious, meticulous even but worth every minute. Just take a listen to The Sleepovers and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
The Sleepovers EP is 4 songs filled with some fantastic drum fills and rolls, catchy guitar licks and thumping bass lines. The EP is actually just a part of what later will be a full album, hopefully to be released by the end of the year. As I mentioned earlier, I had the chance to ask MacFarlane a few questions about their music, the process of recording and their stance on touring and the use of crowd-sourcing campaigns. What follows is the interview, take a moment to read and see how The Sleepovers are Rocking the Summer!
KC: Congratulations on being a finalist in our Rock The Summer competition! What made you want to submit your music to us for this?
JM: We invite criticism of all kinds. It keeps us in line.
KC: Tell us the history behind The Sleepovers:
JM: It began as an idea for a party. I had been mulling over the notion of getting another band going for a couple of years, writing, demoing and even having small rehearsals with Scott (our drummer) if only just to pound out some ideas and let things get a little louder than headphones or stereo speakers. It was around Christmas time when I thought I could take some songs I had been working on, set up a little rock show in my basement and let it rip for 45 minutes to an audience of friends and family. We needed another player, a bass player in particular and my brother Chris having always been musical was up for the challenge. I think maybe 20 people showed up. Which was fine, I had no idea how it was going to come off. How many people would just cover their ears and leave, or stand in a sea of my kids toys clapping. For all intents and purposes it went really well and we had a blast. I was nervous and letting all of that residual energy out on my house guests felt like the right thing to do at the time.
We were all pretty jacked after the party and decided we should get some songs done whenever we had time to. We recorded our first record in early 2012 in the same basement we played that debut concert but it took me months to mix it. We actually released it in February 2013. We’ve written a ton of music since then.
KC: Your self-titled EP was released this year. Walk us through the process of recording it. Were the any obstacles you had to overcome that you will be ready to handle for the next album or EP?
JM: As a kid I spent a lot of time screwing around with tape machines, overdubs, and mic’ing of various instruments but it was all done without instruction and it became pretty evident, making our first record that I had a shit load to learn. I actually developed mild tinnitus mixing and remixing our first record. Spending hours on headphones at dangerous volumes. I wanted to get it to sound the best I could but the learning curve was steep. I would spend all day with earplugs in just to feel the difference when I pulled them out and could hear detail in various frequencies. I would then mix for a while, a long while, and then put the earplugs back in. Did this help? I doubt it but I needed to get through it. This EP is one of 3 EP’s we will be releasing over the next few months. We did bed tracks for twelve songs some time ago and decided we should release the songs in groups of 3 with the odd extra bonus track thrown in here and there. We plan on compiling them onto one full length record and press it on vinyl. Releasing songs in smaller chunks allows me to complete songs inside a year and seems to match the attention span of our fans.
The recording approach was a little different than “This is not a human remains”. The environment was the same. The biggest change was going with an old drum recording method from the 60’s and 70’s called the Glynn Johns method. In a nut shell it’s a simple but precise way of mic’ing drums by using 3 or 4 microphones instead of the usual 10 to 12 microphones. After spending so much time playing with microphones on the first record it seemed like a good idea. The whole “less is more” approach was attractive to us. We also did away with click tracks which we felt really helped the songs emotionally shift, forcing us to pick a solid take and resist the urge to comp songs together. For us it feels like the natural way to record these songs and more like the bands we are trying to emulate; bands like The Police, The Zombies, The Who, and Unkown Mortal Orchestra.
Songs happen kind of like this for us: I sing and strum or key into my phone, the song haunts me for days and I continue to sketch out melodies, vocal parts, road maps and rough bass and drum parts. We bash it out for an afternoon arranging as a band and adjusting parts to taste. When it feels good we get it down on a video camera so we can see as well as hear what we are playing. We post it on Youtube as an “unlisted” video and pretty much let it sit. This lets us capture it with first impressions still intact. We visit it later with fresh ears to screw around with it if need be. I write lyrics. Being such a new and unknown band means we basically play what we want live so we always throw 1 or 2 brand new tracks in a set and see how they feel in front of people. Then we track them in my basement onto my laptop. I mix them and Nick Rawson masters them. With every recording I think we get a little better at getting sounds. Mixing is much easier for me than the first record. You begin to trust yourself and what you’re hearing. We like to trap within the recordings that feeling we captured the first afternoon we played the song.
KC:I love the idea of releasing songs in smaller chunks now and releasing a full record later on vinyl.
While listening to The Sleepovers EP, that care and consideration really comes through each track so I would say you guys are really onto something here. What can you tell us about the next batch of songs and when do you plan on releasing them?
JM: The next batch is almost done. I’m laying some vocal overdubs and mixing as I go. It will have 4 tracks on it, one previously unreleased track called “stars” and three other brand new tracks. “Lullaby” “bomb” and “catch and release”. We placed a low fi video of us playing “bomb” live in the basement some time ago. It’s really just us hacking around, trying to paste together the song like the demo vids I mentioned earlier. In that video I’m quite static because the day before I went down stairs in the dark and broke my toe against the vacuum cleaner. I wish I could tell you it was something more exciting and dangerous like stage diving or kicking over the drum kit but it was just a vacuum. So I stand there like a dork in oversized shoes and too much Tylenol. Very pedestrian.
The EP’s graphics have been designed by our bass player Chris. Each graphic element on each EP will ultimately piece together and be combined on the final record when all 12 songs are pressed on vinyl. The graphic design is inspired by this old wooden teaching model of the solar system. It sits in the background of the “bomb” rehearsal video. Depending on where we put it, it just ends up on Scott’s head while we are pounding away. It made sense to us to make it aesthetically part of the next set of recordings.
KC: For those who can’t see you live, how would you describe a typical Sleepovers show? Any fun pre-show rituals?
JM: Before we play live I basically dream of failing. Screwing up lyrics, mashing guitar chords, tripping on my keyboard stand or the threat of something similar run like clumsy loops through my head. I guess it’s some kind of defense mechanism, like picturing yourself falling of a steep ledge when your merely just examining from a safe distance, not that our shows are massive or have a lot riding on them, it’s just the way I feel before we hit the stage. Both Scott and Chris are pretty much in control and calm before hand. Live we give it everything we have. It’s much more important to us that the people that have been kind enough to watch us experience something honest and altogether raw. Perfect is never the goal but I’d say interesting is. For me, all of that residual worry turns into energy and I pretty much just unleash it. We try to bring it on somewhat gradually to pace ourselves and last to the end of the set but ultimately we get pretty worked up.
Like many musicians and enthusiasts I’ve seen lots of live music over the years. One really stuck with me. It was a band from Toronto playing a punk show upstairs at the El Macombo. Everyone could play their instruments and the energy was incredible. It seemed like at any moment the band might lose control. I felt like I had witnessed something human. There was nothing contrived or staged. I like to think we do the same thing.
KC: Any plans tour the US or even do a world-tour one day in the future?
JM:I think we would want to tour in a somewhat unorthodox way. As opposed to hitting the road for months, we would like to break it down into several smaller segments with breaks in-between. A two week something in the US, or maybe the UK, festivals etc. We absolutely love playing live and we want to keep it that way.
KC: With the birth of crowd-sourcing campaign sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo independent bands have more opportunities they may not have had previously. How do you feel about sites like those and would you ever consider using them to help fund a tour, album or the like?
JM: They are incredibly helpful. I have friends that have produced films, videos, and records by raising money with those sorts of campaign sites. While playing a small showcase at The Bovine in Toronto for Canadian Music Week this year we were awarded some studio time in L.A. That showcase was sponsored by The Musebox and they said if we could make it down there the time was ours. We plan on raising some funds to get down there through using Kickstarter and do some recording in a pro studio maybe even meet some interesting people.
Artist Name: The Sleepovers
Location: Toronto, Canada
Members: Jeremy MacFarlane – Vocals/Guitars/Keyboards, Chris MacFarlane – Bass, Scott Lucas – Drums