INTERVIEW WITH SLEEP WAKER
Waking Your Senses With New Album “ALIAS”
By Stephanie Stevens
Michigan’s heavy metal outlet SLEEP WAKER is destroying the confinements of being a new band trying to find their way. These guys are pulling walls down and making other bands take notes on how to do it. Guitarists Jake Embellishers and Jason Caudill, vocalist Hunter Courtright, drummer Frankie Mish, and bassist Aaron Lutas, who have signed to UNFD for the release of their second full-length, which was released on July 23, entitled “ALIAS”; have made huge leaps forward these since their formation back in 2017. If you enjoy heavy, intricate, intensity in your music then this band is the pot of gold you have been looking for.
“ALIAS” applies so much brutal soundscape but also layers it with solitude, sereneness and conceptual themes and ideas that will blow your mind. The story they have embedded into their music is intriguing, sometimes confusing and maybe too intricate for some, but GOD DAMN these guys can put a package together that is nearly perfection
Songs like ‘110 MINUTES’, ‘SKIN’, ‘ALIAS’ and ‘DISTANCE’ had me salivating and on the edge of my seat while I was listening for the first time. Buckle in for the best ride of your life on the heavy train with SLEEP WAKER because “ALIAS” is going to define what talent is.
I had a chance to speak with drummer/songwriter Frankie Mish to find out the story behind SLEEP WAKER, who he considers his most influential band and how Philip K. Dick impacted the writing for “ALIAS”.
Q: Your band is so much more than just amazing music! Can you explain, in your words as people and artists, what this band has given you the opportunity to create and the vision you are releasing?
A: Thank you! Since the beginning, this band has always been a sort of outlet for creative development and ideas composed of all the members. We’ve had several members that started photography businesses, videography, graphic design, and other things, and I love that the overall feeling of this band is creative and collaborative. It’s also been great for me when it comes to getting dream and sleep-focused concepts out. It’s something I think of a lot, and feel a lot of people could connect to. That and being able to treat SW like a mini clothing brand is fun haha.
Q: Your brand new album “ALIAS” came out on July 23rd. How did the words of Philip K. Dick impact the writing and your vision for this record and songs?
A: I love the way he tries to capture what it means to be human, and the way he makes you question your reality and perception of the world around you. That’s honestly a very large recurring concept through this album, and it’s explored through so many different themes, but his story and the movies inspired by DADOES were some of the biggest inspirations for me.
Q: From your first album” DON’T LOOK AT THE MOON” to this album ALIAS, you have seemed to really take a leap forward in writing. Do you feel, that while writing, you guys were breaking through to a new level and how does that impact you as people on an emotional level?
A: I don’t think we can really say how it’s impacted us as people because it’s been a long writing process for this album, and the growth was kind of slow since some of this was written during the DLATM process, but the pride of creating an album that shows our maturity is awesome, and I’m so excited for this to come out and have people experience the new styles we’re working on.
Q: Lyrically this time you said these were literal and very personal words you got out. Do you feel this is a quicker process in writing or do you think it’s a harder process when writing and what do you feel off this new album is, probably, your favourite lyrical moment from a song and why?
A: Honestly, I don’t think these songs are very literal at all, at least from my personal view of writing. When Hunter writes lyrics he tends to come from a more personal place, which I definitely think can be hard on him to really plan out and convey his feelings lyrically, but for me, I always try to take lyrics he writes or concepts I’ve had in mind and apply them to a piece of media or theme I feel fits the style or mood of the song best. I actually prefer to be much more abstract in my lyrics, so the listener can take them however they like, and I also really enjoy borrowing things from movies, books, and other things to hide easter eggs that only some people may get. It just helps add that little bit of extra depth.
Q: Since your inception your music has been personal from dreams and concepts based round sleep and also a friendship that has seen a common bond. Can you tell the readers how this all happened and how it made SLEEP WAKER what it is today?
A: Once we had the name Sleep Waker, Hunter and I both sat and talked about our personal experiences with dreams and sleep. Having both experienced insomnia and sleep paralysis, we thought it would be a really interesting way to inspire ourselves to write and conceptualize the band as a whole. That way you’re almost paving the way for future ideas and content. Rather than starting with a blank canvas each time, now we have a base that we can pull from, and it’s something we both have experience with.
Q: One of the songs off “ALIAS” is a track called ‘COLD MOON’. How does this song coincide with the movie the Matrix and is this the bands favourite movie to agree on?
A: Cold Moon was absolutely inspired by The Matrix, specifically the scene when Neo is given the choice to leave or stay. I felt this song was showing our evolution as a band and was sort of the tipping point for us to say, “Don’t look at the moon is in the past, it’s cold, this is the new Sleep Waker.” Not to say we’re ashamed or turning our backs on it, but we just wanted it to be a very poignant turn, from a heavy focused band, into more matured and experienced songwriters that want to explore more than just the heavy side of music.
Q: Your music has been so heavy and dark; do you feel that musically it became even heavier due to the lyrical tones or have you guys always been a bunch of musicians into the heavier metal scene?
A: In the past, we’ve all been into the heavier scene, and some of us definitely still love the heaviest stuff we can find, but I’ve definitely started to turn away from metal music and started exploring more outside of the genre. Sort of like researching what else is out there, and trying to take breaks to help me feel fresh and excited when coming back to metal. I think when you start to dive too deep into one specific thing you can sometimes lose sight of the big picture. I also think that lyrically we try to pack references and themes in, which allows us to push the songs into a place that feels heavier than the track itself, which is always nice, since like I mentioned, it allows us to get some breathing room, and explore what else is out there, while still holding on to the darker, heavier, themes.
Q: Who would you consider the most influential band for you and if you could choose one of their albums to have sat in on while they made it, what one would it have been and why?
A: Deftones is absolutely a huge inspiration for me, and I would love to see how they made Koi no Yokan. The guitar writing, melody choices, and overall feeling of that record is so unique and I’m obsessed with it. It would be so incredible if I could pick their brains during the process.
Q: ‘SKIN’ is my favourite off the new album. How would you describe the writing process for that and what three words would sum up the identity of that track?
A: Ethereal, Searching, and Experimental. Experimental, at least for us. It was the first song I wrote for this album, and a really big push from me to add singing and more melody to our songs. We wrote it during the DLATM recording process, and tracked it a few months after, roughly around the time we tracked ‘Melatonin’. So, the song had a lot of time to evolve and grow up until we released it last year, and we waited to record the lyrics on it to fit the style we were looking for on the album. We had the chorus almost immediately, but the rest came a little slower, and we tried to be very intentional during that song.
Q: I read that you guys aren’t big on the whole social media platform. Is it a feeling of not being genuine enough and you like the more ‘in person’ factors of bonding with fans etc?
A: I love playing a character, or just messing around and being myself, but for both of those things, I think you genuinely have to be passionate about it or it can come off cheesy or fake. We aren’t very passionate about being “influencers” or really being in the spotlight, but I know that it comes with the territory of releasing music and art, so I’m accepting of it, but I want to find a way to play a character or use a story I feel passionate about to push that connection with fans and our art. I’m always so excited to meet fans and interact, but I think those are chances where the mask can drop and you can really share an experience rather than “sell” something or act above people. For example, our Facebook interaction, vs. how I run our Twitter haha.
Q: With writing music so personal have you guys, during interviews, ever had an issue with questions being too personal and how do you handle that?
A: I haven’t really experienced that so much, since most of the things I write are more of a mask I put on with a character to express those feelings or ideas I’ve had, but Hunter has experienced some personal questions when it comes to ‘Distance’ and the inspirations behind that song that have been close to home, especially with the topics that song goes into.
Q: Being that your music is so emotional and personal how would you describe a night seeing you in a live presence and what do you hope people walk out of a club feeling after seeing you?
A: I personally hope we can just connect and entertain people. We are talking about heavy things, but my intention is never to make someone leave a venue sad or feel pity, or anything negative. I just always hope they can experience the show and leave feeling like they’ve experienced something new. Whether that be a conversation with the members, the reactions from the crowd, our music, anything. I know we’re just a younger metalcore act right now, but I always want to try and push ourselves past just that, and really attempt to prove ourselves as creative artists and people.
Q: What are your Tour plans for the rest of 2021?
A: At the moment, nothing we can really discuss, although I hope to be back on the road as soon as possible with these new songs!
Q: Will we see any concept videos for the songs off “ALIAS” and if so, how do you guys take making the words that are so personal fit into a video format? Is it something you value for your music or would you rather leave your music up for interpretation without putting a visual to it?
A: I would rather the latter, although we do have an external story, we’ve been playing out for the past 4 years with some tie-in to how the songs we choose are structured. There will be more, and I’m excited to make them all come together at some point and add some more direction to this story.
Q: Lastly, do you think in this day and age and the world we live in, we can truly trust our own judgement?
A: I think that’s an incredibly loaded question I don’t have enough time to answer to its full extent at the moment haha, but I also think reality is whatever you make of it. If you have the ability to change something for the better or cure ignorance, I absolutely encourage that. I also think that includes your perception of reality and how you experience things.
Q: Anything else you want to add or parting words for your fans?
A: I truly appreciate anyone and everyone that has listened to our music, and I’m so excited to share more of it with you, both digital and live. And, if you haven’t heard of us yet, then it’s time to wake up.
CONNECT WITH THE BAND:
‘Distance’ (Official Video)
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