Sleep Parade: Dancing With The Enemy
It’s been five years since Sleep Parade’s last album. Now the lads are back with their follow-up to the heavy Nine Inch Nails-inspired Things Can Always Change, entitled Inside/Out. In those five years, the band has matured and found new sounds, new influences and new ways to interpret the life events that inspire their music. The result? A rock/electro infused album that’s not quite as heavy as the first, but at the same time no less engaging. Drummer Dan Teng explained how they came to reach this point in their musical evolution and where Sleep Parade are hoping to go with their next release.
You can also check out the Pozible campaign the guys are running HERE. Help an independent Australian band out on the touring front! They’ve smashed the halfway mark and only have until 22nd August to reach their $5,500 goal – and your support could make all the difference.
First off, congratulations on the new album Inside/Out. How are you feeling now that it’s finally out?
Really good man, it’s been a long journey, but a fun one. We’re excited for people to finally be able to hear it and enjoy it, and for us to finally be able to play it in front of people on tour. It’s been really enjoyable, that’s pretty much it [laughs].
It’s been a while between albums for Sleep Parade, with the last one released in 2008. Why the large gap?
We just wanted to get the music right, and we were touring a lot so we were finding it was difficult to write good material while we were worried about getting from town to town. We wanted to give the songs time to evolve and breathe and just draw a bit of inspiration instead of trying to rush things. We just kind of took the attitude that we wanted to get it right and obviously, because we’re an independent band, we don’t have local backing as well so we had to produce something of a standard that we were happy with and were proud to show people. You kind of have to spend time and money to try and achieve that.
So even though you weren’t writing on the road, were you always writing in some form over the past five years?
Yeah we’re always writing, there’s probably a few songs on there that were quite old, probably right back to the period just after we’d put the first record out. We write in blocks, maybe four or five songs in one go. We actually wrote thirty-ish songs for the record but some of them fell away over time; they didn’t really become something amazing so we just whittled it down to the stuff that we were really vibing on. Only a handful of the songs on the album are quite recent, like from the last year or so. There was always stuff on the go, but it’s a long process. You write a song then you sit on it for a few months, come back to it, so you’ve got some new inspiration instead of trying to bash your head against the wall to try and force it, if that makes sense.
It makes perfect sense, and because you’re an independent band you have this freedom to work over a long period. Hypothetically if you were signed and held down to a tighter time frame, do you think the record would have turned out as well as it did?
I think what it is, is the time factor as well, being able to invest time. Say you’re a signed band and you’ve got X amount of money to spend on an album, then you don’t have that “I have to work X amount of hours this week to fulfil my financial obligations.” If the money to live is coming from the band, then you’ve got that freedom to just work on the music sort of 24/7. Then again your day job or, for want of a better word, the daily grind, you draw inspiration from that. I reckon if we could do it full-time then definitely the process would be sped up for sure. But I think something the public aren’t quite aware of a lot of the time is, even if you’re a band whose kind of doing big tours and you’re prolific, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re making money off it or you’re going to be able to put another album out in a year’s time or whatever.
So at the moment then, do you feel that Sleep Parade work better as an independent band?
I’m open to the signed scenario but at the same time being independent, from a business perspective, gives you complete creative control of the project. You don’t have to answer to anybody, you don’t have someone telling you “it’s not enough like this,” or “it needs to be more like that.” You have the freedom to be creative, not just in the music, but in the way that you present your band. It’s a more empowering thing and with the internet now, like from our first album to now, how different the music industry is and how much more it’s focused on digital, it’s definitely put the power back in the hands of the artists as opposed to the record labels. Those parts of the music industry definitely don’t have the say that they used to. But I mean, if I could do this full-time and not have to work a day job then I’d do it, no question. We’re open to the idea of being a signed band, but it’s more about being happy with the music that you make and sharing it with people. That’s the main aim for us and we’re definitely not doing it for the money. It’s a lot of fun and it’s good to have something out now that we’re really proud of and that’s different to the first album we did because we didn’t want to repeat ourselves. We’ve already started writing for the next one actually and the aim is to be a little bit more prolific and maybe focus on putting out songs more frequently than maybe trying together. It feels like that’s the way the industry’s going now, more towards a song or a vibe as opposed to a whole body of work like an album.
You’ve mentioned previously that Inside/Out is a product of the natural evolution of your sound. What do you mean by that and how do you think your sound has evolved?
I think the evolution is mainly in the song writing and the ability to play and write for the song. I’m very proud of the first album, but I felt like it was more an indication of… I guess it was more focused on the music than the vocals, whereas this new album’s more about the evolution of the voice within the songs. Lee was focusing on really presenting his emotion, lyrics and vocals, exploring his middle register, his low register and also his falsetto, all those high notes as well. I guess just the evolution of streamlining ideas and, it’s such a wank, but more mature in the writing of the songs. It wasn’t like, “Did you hear that really cool time signature we put in there?” we were trying to be more subtle with those sorts of ideas. I guess more of a grower sort of thing, get people intrigued the first time while new things reveal themselves every time you listen to it. I mean having different inspiration as well, you’re not the product of your environment, but you kind of get inspired by different bands. We’ve been listening to a lot less heavy music, more song based stuff. Obviously we all love Radiohead and we always have, they’re kind of a really good example of a band that just tries something different every time, but it’s always based on a song, and a vibe, and a tone or sort of a sonic space. It’s more about a feeling, I guess it’s a heart over head argument, and just not wanting to repeat ourselves. Not consciously thinking, “That sounds too much like this,” obviously it’s still going to sound like us, it’s still Lee singing it and playing guitar and it’s still me playing drums, but we’re just not repeating ourselves, we’re moving forward and just trying different things.
The album itself kind of evolves too. At the start it feels a bit more classic rock or pop oriented like Echo And The Bunnymen, then it goes all Radiohead until it feels like Boards Of Canada when the electro stuff comes in. Was this progression of sound across the album intentional?
Yeah, there’s some songs that are a bridge between our last album and this album, and obviously the Radiohead connection is very strong, and maybe in the middle there’s some softer song based ideas. We love Boards Of Canada and I’ve been listening to a lot of Flying Lotus, Four Tet, those sort of guys, we love doing the electronic stuff and we wanted to give an indication towards the new stuff that we’re writing, because I think that’s where we’re heading. We were trying to sort of mix all those together, be a little bit eclectic and keep it interesting. “Inside/Out” was actually the last song that was written for that album, and it was written in a different process, more in the computer software as opposed to jamming. It was a different perspective and you can hear that because it’s a different kind of song compared to what we’ve written previously. It’s funny you mention that though because we were just listening to the new Boards Of Canada album in the car like five minutes ago [laughs].
Do you think the new Boards Of Canada will influence the next album?
Yeah or at least that kind of vibe, but that was always an influence even on the first album but it’s come out a bit more on this album. The first one was more Nine Inch Nails, but there’s definitely going to be more electronic influences on the next one.
Now I know you said one of your earlier answers was a wank, but that’s okay because this question is a bit of a wank too. What’s the atmosphere that you’re trying to create with Inside/Out?
I think it’s about trying to convey an emotion and trying to connect, that’s basically it, that’s the crux of it and everything’s written, composed and arranged to serve that purpose. Trying to convey the emotion of valuing something, having pride in the material. We were having a conversation yesterday about your right brain versus your left brain, about trying to be a little bit more right brained.
Your lyric writing feels like it’s evolved on this album as well.
Well that kind of comes with age and wisdom, actually that’s bit of a wank, but like that kind of thing. You get older, you grow, you learn new things and you become more adept at expressing yourself in a way. Also not being afraid to say certain things. It’ll probably evolve again as we start to do the new stuff.
Do you see a marked difference between the younger Sleep Parade on the first album and the band that’s on Inside/Out?
Definitely yeah, you can hear it as soon as you put it on. The first album was really raw, there were a lot of instances where we threw things at the wall and hoped that they stuck. They did, to a point, but with this one we were more focused and wanted to present something that was cohesive and mature. That was a natural thing, and I think the layering is more intelligent, we weren’t just heaping things on top of other things. Then there’s the song writing approach, like trying different things, writing on the computer from a keyboard or a piano as opposed to the guitar. It gives a different vibe and you draw a different inspiration from that.
So what are some of the themes running through Inside/Out?
There’s a lot about how society has things the wrong way around, like how I was talking about the left brain, right brain thing, Lee summed it up when he said, “The right brain’s all about being at one with your surroundings and being connected to something bigger than yourself, whereas the left brain’s calculated and worries about the past and the future.” The right brain’s more in the present, in the moment, you know trying to live in the moment and just appreciate where you’re at. To not be so focused, I guess on yourself, and to not try to calculate everything, trying to think more with your heart than your head. The inside out theme is that we’ve got an inside out, but it should be the other way around. I guess there’s a lot of spiritual undertones with that, which ties into how you get older and sort of question things. You look at your life and sort of wonder where you’re heading and what you value. That’s really what the album’s about.
One thing I also noticed is that while conceptually and lyrically it can get quite emotionally heavy, the music kind of juxtaposes that with a very uplifting sound and vibe. What draws you to that style of song writing?
That was a purposeful thing that we did, you know our first album was very angry. I think that ties into when you’re a bit younger, you’re a little bit less settled as well. So we were feeling more positive and happy this time, and that came out in the music. It does help to juxtapose, to bring out the duality, but the music is happier because it is a positive message at the end of the day. It’s not like “things are shit and they should be this way,” we’re not trying to tell people things, we’re just trying to express how we feel about how the world works. Just not in a preachy way.
So even though it’s got your message in there, what do you want the listener to get out of your music?
I just want them to feel something and connect with it. I think the themes are universal, things that everyone can relate to and go, “I can see what they’re trying to say.” Hopefully it takes them to a place where they can feel something, we want to convey that emotion and connect.
Sleep Parade will be taking to the road with Dead Letter Circus and Closure In Moscow next month!
Dead Letter Circus / Closure In Moscow / Sleep Parade Tour Dates
Thu Aug 29th – HQ, Adelaide (18+)
Fri Aug 30th – The Wool Exchange, Geelong (18+)
Sat Aug 31st – The Hi-Fi, Melbourne (18+)
Thu Sep 4th – Zierholz @ UC, Canberra (18+)
Fri Sep 5th – The Metro, Sydney (18+)
Sat Sep 6th – Waves, Wollongong (18+)
Sun Sep 7th – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle (18+)
Fri Sep 12th – Kings Beach Tavern, Caloundra (18+)
Sat Sep 13th – The Spotted Cow, Toowoomba (18+)
Sun Sep 14th – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane (18+)
Fri Sep 19th – Prince Of Wales, Bunbury (18+)
Sat Sep 20th – Metropolis, Fremantle (18+)