Sleepy Sun is an American psychedelic rock band from San Francisco, CA consisting of vocalist Bret Constantino, guitarists Matt Holliman and Evan Reiss, bassist Jack Allen, and drummer Brian Tice. The band released their fourth LP, Maui Tears, in January 2014 on Dine Alone Records. Our friend Ryan Muldoon at Revolt of the Apes has compiled a list of 10 questions for Sleepy Sun in anticipation of their APF 2014 performance.
What element of Sleepy Sun that has faded since your earliest days seems most foreign to you now â€“meaning, what is it that you can hardly believe you once found important about the band, or perhaps, what is it that you ignored about the band for too long, in your opinion?
The early days during the span between our first two records there was a certain naivety about what we were doing. our approach to writing records and to live performance did not draw influence from industry success or critical response systems. our responsibilities were limited. our world was the band; nothing could distract us from our artistic vision. but of course, any upwards swing must come down, and then all of sudden everything becomes complex. its not as simple as a group of friends playing music together and touring the world. so i think what has faded, naturally, is the fresh perspective of playing music for no other reason than enjoyment. but what has evolved is a deeper sense of purpose, and a greater courage and discipline to keep making music together.
Is there a single musical experience â€“ first time hearing a certain band, your first live performance, etc. â€“ that you consider to be central to your personal musical evolution? What was it about that experience that was so compelling to you? How have your thoughts about it changed over the years? How do you think it continues to inform the music of Sleepy Sun today?
We were in the studio, having written about half of the material that would appear on our debut album Embrace. One of those songs, “White Dove,” we’d performed live many times before. I always sang it as hard as i could without ever thinking about form or tone; the energy was far more important to me. Then when it came to record the vocals for the album, my belted delivery simply refused to translate on record. It sounded far too urgent and strained. As we played back the takes, Colin (the producer) and I both knew that it just wasn’t fitting the vibe of the song. We spent nearly an entire day playing around with different vocal tones, exchanging equipment, but mostly working with the physical delivery. it was on this day, i learned to view the voice as an instrument that could be manipulated according to the song and
the tones of the other instruments. i realized it was possible for me to have multiple voices in my repertoire, I could have different tones like a guitar or keyboard. This has continued to inspire me with each record and after 5 years of touring I’ve been able to work this approach into the live setting, which as allowed me to concentrate more on being a singer than anything else.
How do you think the other members of Sleepy Sun have you your musical interests to shift and or expand over the years? Can you think of an album or an artist that you have an insanely high appreciation
for today that you may have just ignored even a few years ago?
Playing guitar music every day definitely causes you to listen to a lot of music outside your genre. Our van playlists tend to lean more towards jazz, weird soundtracks, rap etc. while we don’t really consciously mine any of that music, it still tends to make it’s way into the songs somehow. As far as our tastes changing, we’ve always been pretty open minded and diverse in our listening habits. I’d say the new War On Drugs is getting the most collective airplay on tour. We’re stoked to see them at the fest.
Thereâ€™s very little music that cannot ultimately be connected to the sun in some way, shape or form â€“ from Pink Floyd setting the controls for the heart of the sun to Sunn O))) completely melting the controls. What has the name Sleepy Sun come to represent to you, as it relates to music? What misconceptions, if any, have ever come from the band name? Whatâ€™s the chief difference between performing in a dark club verses outside in the bright sun, and do you appreciate one more than the other?
Unfortunately, a bands name is important. It’s been general band consensus to believe we chose poorly, but to be honest we don’t think about it much anymore. As far as our band names relation to the music, you might tie in the dichotomy of a tired yet bright sun and compare it with the up-and-down nature of some of our tempos and velocities within a given song (day). We do get a lot of twitter non-fan reviews who say something along the lines of: â€œSleepy sun lived up to their name, so sleepy right nowâ€. In general though light plays a huge role in a live music show. A dark club forces the band to be the focal point, the only bright spot in the room. However, in a sunny outdoor festival setting, where some of our better shows have taken place, the band is just part of the day, a textured ray threaded through
something bigger that itself.
At the risk of damning the extraordinary back catalog of Sleepy Sun albums that preceded it, weâ€™re prepared to declare â€œMaui Tearsâ€ as your most vibrant, visceral album thus far. What reaction to the album
has been most satisfying to you? Were there any musical barometers (for lack of a better word) that the band kept front of mind in order to achieve such a full, dynamic sound?
So far the reaction to Maui Tears has been generally positive, our engineer/producer hinted that he liked it which personally made me feel good about what we were doing. We recorded Maui Tears at louder studios in the sierra foothills in California with Tim Green. It was a ‘lock our selves into a cabin and BBQ’ type situation, so to hear that Tim didn’t hate it after two weeks was enough for me. Also, it is satisfying to see reviews from long time fans saying they are once again enjoying our songs. As far as shaping a certain sound, it is hard to say. Five contributors make it almost impossible to nail down a certain sound. The dynamic sound may have been due to recording this entire record to tape and rolling with our imperfections out on the open.
What is the origin of the title â€œMaui Tears,â€ both as the song and the album title? As the albumâ€™s title track, we believe â€œMaui Tearsâ€ to be the longest song released on a Sleepy Sun album thus far, preceded by one of the shortest in â€œGalaxy Punk.â€ A happy accident or highly considered track ordering?
The meaning of the title will remain a secret. A big part of the title is that it conjures different imagery for everyone. I will say it was a term coined by producer Tim Green that kept coming up during the sessions. Tim also sequenced the album, and knowing him, the decision to put the shortest track before the longest was probably very intentional.
What music have you been listening to lately? If push come to shove, whatâ€™s your favorite Neil Young album and why?
I’ve been listening to quite a few instrumental compositions. Synth based pieces by Jean Michel Jarre, John Carpenter, Edgar Froese are favorites, as well as Bo Hansson and modern composers like Cliff Martinez who put together the soundtrack for Only God Forgives. In terms of soundtracks, Neil Young’s playing on Dead Man is also fantastic. It’s tough to say which Neil album would be my favorite, but I’ve probably listened to Everybody Knows this is Nowhere the most. I was lucky enough to catch them a couple years back in SF while they were touring Psychedelic Pill, and the heaviness was clearly frightening many folks that were expecting to hear classic Crazy Horse tunes. Those dudes have more energy than most bands a third of their age.
What memories do you have of your visits to Austin Psych Fest in 2011? Are there any bands in particular that you are hoping to see perform while at the Fest this year?
Hearing that Primal Scream had to drop off the bill really bummed me out. I’ve been fans of theirs for awhile, but have not had the opportunity to see them live. I will definitely be catching The Zombies, The Horrors, Earthless, and The War on Drugs. The year that we played the power plant also had a great lineup, and I particularly remember Spectrum and Soft Moon putting on excellent sets. The actual grounds were also remarkable, and we’ve yet to play anything with such a peculiar location; the ATP Butlin’s a close 2nd for sheer quirkiness.
Mark Twain experienced Maui tears only when having to return home, writing: â€œI went to Maui to stay a week and remained five. I never spent so pleasant a month before, or bade any place goodbye so regretfully. I have not once thought of business, or care or human toil or trouble or sorrow or weariness, and the memory of it will remain with me always.â€
It’s nice to disconnect and be in the moment. I guess that’s what I look for in all of my musical experiences…to get out of my head and enjoy myself. Like Mark is saying, the hardest part is reverting back to reality. Have fun. Swim in the ocean.
Whatâ€™s next for Sleepy Sun?
We’re hittin’ the road this year supporting our fourth album. Come on out and catch us if you can. Merle said it best, “I’m on the run…the highway is my home.”
Catch Sleepy Sun at APF 2014 May 2 – 4. Tickets and camping passes are available for purchase HERE.