With their forthcoming album on Spacebomb Records, Richmond’s Sleepwalkers demonstrate their mastery over many eras of musical evolution.
Having established themselves as leaders of Richmond’s retro-inspired indie rock scene on their 2014 debut album, Greenwood Shade, the river city’s own Sleepwalkers are back with a new album that confirms their status as a band that shouldn’t be ignored.
On Ages, set to be released on July 19 via Spacebomb Records, Sleepwalkers revive the best sounds of the 70s and 80s, keeping their music original with a tasteful modern flair added to the mix. A pop record at its core, Ages wouldn’t be complete without fuzzed-out melodies and lush instrumentation that allows for plenty of repeat listens without ever failing to capture the listener’s attention.
Sleepwalkers’ retro sound is influenced by “all the greats,” according to Austin York, who plays bass and sings in the band. The band cited Prince, The Beatles, and Genesis as having played a part in inspiring the sound that came out on the record.
“We take inspiration from people like Quincy Jones,” said Michael York, brother of Austin, who plays guitar and sings in the band. Jones is a legendary producer who has worked with Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald. That the band draws inspiration from a producer is telling; Ages was produced by the band all by themselves, allowing for complete creative control.
“I think the thing we are most proud of is the fact that we are a self-contained production group,” said Alex DeJong, who drums and engineers sound for the band. “We tried to push ourselves using the studio as a tool more than we did with the first record.”
Whereas Sleepwalkers’ booked the release show for Greenwood Shade before the album was even complete, forcing them to finish by a certain date, the band decided to give Ages the proper studio treatment. “This one was more taking our time, figuring out what sort of tones we wanted, which vibe we wanted,” said Austin.
Chock full of various melodies and rhythms that stack on top of each other, Ages is a maximalist record, one that allows space for the sounds of different time periods to shine through.
“We are doing these different time periods of music and the production changes with each one. It’s kind of like moving through different time periods,” Austin said. “It’s the Ages concept — moving through time.”
The band’s debut album, Greenwood Shade, was self-released, but for Ages, they’ve hooked up with Spacebomb, a Richmond-based record label co-founded by well-known local musician Matthew E. White. With Spacebomb’s track record of releasing music by not only White but Natalie Prass, Andy Jenkins, and Bedouine, some might feel that Sleepwalkers’ time-traveling sound has found the perfect home. But for Sleepwalkers, the Spacebomb connection is really about friendship.
“Matt White brought us on tour a few years ago, and we just became good buds,” DeJong said. “It’s kind of a neat thing having a label in town.”
“Live shows are different,” Austin said, explaining that it’s difficult to replicate the complex sounds of the studio live on stage. DeJong mentioned that the band will stack a variety of keyboard tones onto a single keyboard, allowing for one instrument to sound like multiple synths.
“It’s kind of hard to replicate a lot of the stuff, but we do make up for it with theatricality, or heavier vocals,” Michael added.
Forging a new, unique sound by blending the music of the past with modern pop sensibilities, Sleepwalkers are notable for their ability to pay homage to the musical greats of earlier decades while maintaining a sound that is distinctively their own.
This is a big challenge for any band, but it seems to come naturally to Sleepwalkers. The band is correct to be proud of the feat: “We did it all ourselves,” Austin said.
Photos via Sleepwalkers/Facebook
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