Sleep Now

... or forever hold your peace

Photo by Ray Dukes

You play in a band called Sleep Now, so could you tell me a little bit about them?
Yeah, we started in 2008 and we have had 17 member changes since.

Oh, wow.
I’m the only original band member that was in it back then. We were originally called “Sleep Now, Sivylla,” but after all the member changes and style changes, we decided to cut off the last word because nobody knew how to spell it or say it, anyway. Now we’re just called “Sleep Now,” and we play melodic metalcore. We’re about to put out a new record here in November. Hopefully everyone digs it.

So you said that you guys have tried a couple different genres over the past five years. What are some of the different styles you guys have explored?
When we first began, we played alternative rock – we were 16 at the time. That’s what we listened to. We grew up listening to (bands) like AFI and hardcore punk music, so we wanted to play something a little more raw. But as time progressed, metalcore was cool back then and that’s what we started playing around 2009, 2010. And lately, after all the member changes, we began to develop a more raw sound that has a little bit of a hardcore influence, but also speaks to our metalcore roots. We kind of mix it together and make our own little sound out of that.

Who were some of the main metalcore and hardcore bands that influenced you?
On this new record, we have Chad with Hundredth on it. They’ve definitely been a huge influence on me. I saw them at Cornerstone up in Bushnell, IL in ’09. That was pretty musically changing for me because … I hadn’t heard anything like melodic hardcore or like them my whole life. … Bands like Counterparts and Comeback Kid, they influenced us. Take it Back! … (With) metalcore, of course, you’ve got Gideon or a couple of our local bands around here (in Dallas) like Kublai Khan, Mouth of the South, 2X4, old-school Parables. I grew up listening to the Deftones, and that’s probably going to come out in this new record we’re putting out.

I missed that, who’d you grow up listening to?
The Deftones. Really heavy, raw music, but with pretty undertones.

Right. You mentioned that you saw Hundredth at Cornerstone a while back in ’09 and it was a hugely influential show. Did you ever get the opportunity to play Cornerstone?
Oh yeah! We played it two years in a row. We didn’t play the last year that Cornerstone existed, but we played in 2009 and 2010. We had a great time at Cornerstone. It was very hot the last year we went, and I think that might be what kept us from going back (laughs). There was a heat wave that hit the Midwest the last time we were there.

That’s coming from someone from Texas, too!
Yeah, well it was crap sleeping out that last week. It was like 100 degrees at nighttime! You know, it’s really hard to sleep.

Yep, that’s it. The next year, the last year of Cornerstone was actually the hottest they ever had. The heat index got up to, like, 120.
That’s ridiculous (laughs)! I don’t know how you guys survived that year.

It was terrific, but so hot. Going back to the metalcore genre, when you guys came together in about 2009 or so, you started to change styles. What led you guys to metalcore?
Well, honestly, we listened to what the locals were doing. We had A Bullet for the Pretty Boy was around. We went to high school with those guys. And we were pretty good friends with the Fit for a King guys at the time; they’re from Tyler. And they were all playing that genre that was being brought to popularity by like The Devil Wears Prada and Underoath, so we started heading in that direction. I mean, it worked for us for a little while. We were pretty terrible, but it was fun. We just did it for fun.

Very cool. Could you give me some pros and cons of playing in a metalcore band today?
I think the worst part of playing in a metalcore band is that everyone seems to think we claim to be a hardcore band. We play melodic metalcore; we don’t claim to be hardcore in anyway, but you get all these hardcore music Nazis that get on there and (say), “Yeah, this band isn’t hardcore.” We’re not even trying to be hardcore! We’ve never been a hardcore band; we have that in the sound, though. It’s hidden. I think that gives us a more raw feel. I like to be able to cater to all different types of fans of music, you know. Whether it’s metalcore fans or hardcore fans, I like to be available to all of them. I don’t want to single one out, you know what I mean?

Yeah, definitely. What’s one of the positive aspects of metalcore right now?
I think the positive is that it’s so fun to play live. There’s not any time in metalcore that we write where on stage it’s boring. It’s so much fun to play. It’s aggressive and it’s a good way to release all of your stress, whether it’s on stage or just writing it. It’s a very, very therapeutic. I know we all enjoy playing it. I’m sure in the next few years, you’re going to hear us lean more towards the melodic hardcore sound, but right now we’re really enjoying playing metalcore.

Metalcore, especially in the latter 2000s, exploded. Like you said, bands like Underoath and The Devil Wears Prada brought the genre everywhere. When you played at Cornerstone you saw a lot of metalcore bands, too. What makes Sleep Now standout?
I think our lyrics, our vocals and some of our weird instrumental parts make us standout. A lot of people won’t like our vocals because they’re definitely more raw. They’re not really screamed vocals; they’re almost yelled. That’s what the hardcore bands are doing. We like to mix it with our metalcore and produce a different sound.

Also, I said our music is a little different. Some of the parts we write are just more aggressive than what most metalcore bands do today. It’s almost a nu-metal sound in some of our riffs that allows us to stand out a bit from what most of the metalcore acts are doing. We don’t lean on our breakdowns – a lot of metalcore bands just try to write really solid breakdowns that are different from other people. We try to not do too many breakdowns and rely on our riffs and our instrumentals and leads to produce sounds that separate us from everyone else.

What do you want to see your band do in the scene right now?
In the scene right now? I’d like us to be able to start a new movement, basically. I know everybody is trying to kick out the hardcore music and make that take over the scene, but that’s always been in the scene. A lot of people don’t realize that hardcore has always been around. It’s just being made popular right now. And I think with this new record, at least at the local level around east-Texas and Dallas/Fort Worth, that the new sound we’re working on could influence other bands. We’re mixing (a) nu-metal feel with hardcore and metalcore. It’s going to make a sound people are going to like, I think. It’s different from anything I’ve heard.

You mentioned that hardcore is being popularized. One of the movements has been really big lately has been the new-wave of spirit-filled hardcore, led by bands like For Today, The Great Commission and Sleeping Giant. How do you feel about that?
I think they’re great. I listen to Sleeping Giant. I’m not really into The Great Commission, but I can definitely respect their talent and what they’re doing for hardcore and spiritual-based bands. I really respect Sleeping Giant’s lyrics and what they do onstage. I’ve actually met their vocalist, Tommy, a few times and can vouch for him that he’s a really awesome guy. They’re making awesome music.

With all the success you guys have being having, is there are reason why you guys have been staying independent?
Well, we’ve had a few label offers, but we don’t want to sign anything that we’re going to regret. We want to be able to push ourselves to a point where we can’t push any further, and at that point, we’ll hopefully have something that will help get us even further in our careers.

It’s not that we don’t want to sell out; it’s just that we don’t want to sell ourselves short. We’ve seen so many bands we’re friends with sign deals that are just not good deals, and then they’re not successful in the end. We really want to try our best to make good business decisions. At the same time, we don’t want to sell out. We don’t want a label that’s going to make us change our sound a whole lot, and we don’t want a label that’s going to make us stop writing lyrics about our faith. We don’t push our faith on people, but when it comes to our lyrics, I really want to convey the message that we convey. Sometimes I just want to write about life, something I’m going through right now. It’s not always about God, but a lot of my songs that I write are about my faith. That’s huge for us.

Are you the main songwriter for the band right now?
Yeah, I’ve been writing the lyrics since 2012.

Is there a reason you guys have put out quite a few EPs, but no full-lengths?
Mainly it’s just because we never kept our sound. If you go back and listen to our first EP and then the second EP, it doesn’t even sound like the same band. We never really found our sound until recently. This lineup, these five guys that we’re sticking with right now, this is going to be the lineup that you’re going to see for a long time. This is the hardest working group of guys I’ve seen since the original members. The reason that there have been EPs but no full-lengths is because there hasn’t been the commitment level since the beginning to produce something as hard as a full-length. I think a full-length takes a lot of work, you know?

I agree with that. Can you tell me a little more about the EP coming out in November?
Brian Hood out in Nashville, Tennessee produced it. Dave Quiggle did the artwork. He does (the artwork for) a lot of Facedown (Records) bands, and I know he’s worked with like Michael Jackson and people that are even bigger than bands like us.

Joey Ramone!
Yeah, he’s a fantastic artist. I’m a graphic designer, so his art has always inspired me, and I wanted to get him to make something for us. I think he did a great job. But this EP definitely has a more raw sound and it’s very aggressive from what we’ve done in years past.
It’s way less generic; the most generic song on the album is the first one we put out, “Choke.” We wanted to put that one out because it had Chad from Hundredth on it, and we thought it would build some hype for this EP. The other four songs have a more developed sound. I think people are really going to appreciate it.

You have a song on the EP called “Misled.” I listened to it a few times and it sounds great. Can you explain the lyrics to that one a little bit?
Yeah, “Misled” is a single we put out six months ago and the song is about apathy. It’s about how we as human beings see things in our daily lives that bother us, but not enough to do something about it. I wrote that song when I was at a time in my life where whenever I saw these things in life, it upset me, but I never had the willpower to stand up and try to change those things. You know, whether it’s a homeless man in the street that doesn’t have any food and you feel terrible about it, but not enough to go buy him a burger. Or if it’s a kid getting made fun of at school and you don’t step up for him and say, “Hey, don’t mess with this kid.” That’s what that song is about, trying to actually do something about something that nobody will.

Lyrically, what have been some of the most personal songs you have on this release?
Lyrically? I think the most personal, passionate song on that EP is called “Defeated Faith.” It’s about how nowadays it has become cool to hate on God and hate on Christians. It’s this movement that has been bothering me lately, you know, whenever a Christian kid stands up for his faith, everyone makes fun of him and hates on him for having any kind of faith in anything. “Defeated Faith” is a call out to Christians that have become like those people who think it’s cool to just hate on somebody for what they stand up for. You’ll have to read (the lyrics).

“Choke” is about failure in life, about not living up to expectations. “Expel” is about confronting the failure and getting it out of your life. You know, growing from failure. What’s the word I’m looking for? It’s really redeeming. It’s a redemptive song. At the end of it, you feel like everything’s going to be OK.  “Choke” is very negative; there’s nothing happy about the song.

Well, it’s called “Choke.”
Right. It’s not a very happy song; definitely the most negative.

What are you most excited about in the band’s near future?
I’m excited to see the reaction to this record. It’s totally different than anything anybody has heard from us. I’m excited for tours that are coming up. After we put out this record, we’re going to try and do some extensive touring. That’s something that the band has never done. We’ve toured two times in the history of the band, and that’s probably why we haven’t done as much as we probably could have. (It’s) because we haven’t gotten out to the people and seeing our fans. That’s what I’m really excited about, for people to hear this and hear what we’re doing, and then be able to go to them and show (it to them live). We’ll be able to talk to everybody.

What are some of the hardest parts about touring as an independent artist?
Definitely money (laughs).

A lot of the times, signed artists, they have jobs at home, and they’re also touring as a job. We all have full-time jobs, so it’s really hard to get time off to go tour. I know two of us are in college. It’s just really difficult, because as an independent artist, you need to rely on your merchandise, and I know merch is really hard to get developed if you don’t have a label helping you push that kind of stuff.

It’s also hard to get kids to shows because you don’t have a huge headlining band on there that’s going to bring kids out every night. You’ve got to rely on your presence and the local bands from wherever you’re playing that night to pull kids out. Sometimes, there will be nights when you’re playing for 100 people and other nights where you’re playing for 25 kids. It’s difficult for an independent artist to stay focused and keep positive about these kinds of things. It can be so inconsistent. I think that’s the word to define what it’s like to tour as an independent artist: “Inconsistent.”

Even when you guys might get down a little bit, if you have a low turnout or anything like that, what are the things that keep you excited about playing in this band?
Well, like I said, it’s awesome to play live whether we’re playing in front of a small crowd and it’s more intimate, or if we’re playing in front of a huge crowd and we’re just really nervous. It’s so much fun playing live. We’re all really good friends, and all five of us hang out even outside of shows, (so) of course it’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re going to look forward to playing on a stage together every night, hanging out in a van for months at a time.

What is one thing you want all of the readers to walk away with from this?
Get ready for this new record, because it’s definitely nothing that you’ve heard from us. It’s a completely revised, completely developed sound we’ve been working on for a year and a half now. We’re really looking forward to showing everybody, and I think it’s going to change a lot of things for us.

Sleep Now was posted on November 6, 2013 for HM Magazine and authored by .