Posted On 08 Aug 2019
Last month on July 19th, the Richmond, VA rock band Sleepwalkers released their highly anticipated sophomore album “Ages” via Spacebomb Records.
Rock Cellar premiered the title track and said, “Featuring a sound that calls to mind the music of decades long gone — thanks to their use of vocal harmonies and lush orchestration — the group seamlessly blends eras and genres into a style all their own.” Listen here!
Behind this maximalist pop masterpiece are two brothers, Michael and Austin York, and Alex DeJong. Sleepwalkers are an astonishing live band possessing a sound both stadium-filling and soul-nourishing, proven over tours supporting J. Roddy Walston & The Business, The Lumineers, and The Shins. Fantastic natural songwriting, personal experience amplified to a broad lyricism, uncompromising sincerity and uncompromising commitment to ‘having a fine evening,’ all of it steeped in the vernacular culture of Richmond, Virginia.
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Learn more about Sleepwalkers in the following All Access interview:
I always like to ask bands if you all hang out socially apart from the music? In other words, when you aren’t working on music, do you guys enjoy hanging out for fun?
Alex: We do! Whether it’s getting together for some drinks, or meeting up to watch soccer on weekend mornings. We’re always around each other. Living in a smaller city it’s sometimes easy to take the close proximity to one another for granted.
Michael: Absolutely. Sometimes it can be a hinderance because we like hanging out with each other so much! The most important thing is that we feel like a family and I think that’s a rare gift that isn’t very normal these days, especially with interpersonal relationships in the band. It’s essentially a marriage between five people.
How do you feel that this band has grown through the years? What has remained the same?
Alex: The band started really with no intention of being a touring act, much less playing many shows at all. It began as a production project of myself, Austin, and Michael, and it wasn’t until ‘Greenwood Shade’ was released and people began responding did we decide to move to the next level. Soon after we began playing lots of shows, Mike and Jake joined the group.
Generally, how do you guys go about writing your music? Do you write together or separately?
Alex: For the most part, some form of a song is brought to the group by an individual and the production and arrangement is the collaborative part. There are definitely exceptions there, but Michael and Austin serve as the main songwriters.
Michael: The ideas should come naturally to you and I think you have to be in a relaxed setting to have a special outcome. There almost has to be a couple ingredients of sensory deprivation involved to write freely in the studio. Listening to a lot of different types of music can help you consolidate all of your crazy ideas into one movement, and most times you just sit down with an acoustic guitar or piano and ideas come – but you truly have to have that compulsion and true joy of picking up that instrument like it was the first time to make a writing session worthwhile.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
Alex: We all find so much joy in the studio setting. It’s a place of endless possibilities and we each continually find new ways to express the music.
Michael: I’d agree with Alex. Coming up with a good idea for a song is probably the happiest you’ll ever see us, even if it’s a ten second part. You can take the rest of the day off when those magic moments happen.
Where can fans see you perform next? What do you think makes for an ideal show? What has been a favorite show of yours in the past? How has your summer US tour been going so far?
Alex: We’re continuing our album release run August 1-4. Raleigh, Asheville, Lexington (KY), and Nashville. More dates to come! We love when we can work together with the crowd to fill the room with a great energy live – cities that really bring it are New York City, our hometown Richmond, Athens (GA), Chicago…there’s too many to name, but we do love our big city shows. To pick one, on sound and landscape alone – Red Rocks years ago with The Lumineers was a special time. We’re very grateful that they took us out.
How has social media impacted this band? How often are you all on your different sites interacting with fans? How have you been able to utilize it through the years?
Michael: Social media has been a crucial tool that’s helped us spread our music out into the world in unimaginable ways. Now it’s easy to talk to fans in Germany and Japan when before they wouldn’t have even known we exist. At the same time, you have to work it and not let it become a crutch. People are inundated with so much material and sometimes it feels like you’re force feeding them your brand, so you have to use technology to your advantage, and make sure it’s not a time waster. Make it count. That’s the name of the game these days.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how you all think being musicians and in this band still gives you the most joy in life today? Do you find that your music is an escape to all the current events?
Michael: Yes – more than ever! Music is something the world never knew it needed, especially today. I think people need to understand the political climate we’re in and help the situation through activism but not let it control their lives. Maybe that concert you go to or some form of entertainment is the solidarity event, when you’re surrounded by different walks of life. It’s funny because it may be the most difficult time ever to be in the music business, but on the other hand it’s the most rewarding knowing that you have a responsibility to serve people and make their lives a little bit better if possible.
What musicians have really been inspiring you since you first started making music?
Alex: We love the greats – Paul McCartney, Whitney Houston, Prince, etc. Not only musicians, but producers have had a huge impact on us as well: Kevin Parker, Mark Ronson, Shawn Everett, Quincy Jones.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
Alex: We try to create music that brings people joy. Spreading positive energy is #1 in both our recordings and our live show.
Now that we are into the 8th month of the year, how would you say that 2019 is treating the band so far? What have been some goals this group has had this year? How close are you to reaching them?
Alex: It’s been an incredibly rewarding year so far. The first sixth months were spent playing shows, including a trip to SXSW, and promoting a string of singles. With the release of our sophomore album this month, our first full length release in 5 years, we’re excited to continue to play shows through the end of the year and continue to promote the record. We’ve had an outstanding response so far from both fans and media. A big goal of ours was to get this record out into the world, and to have achieved this, we now are looking forward to building our fan base and listening community.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Was it hard to think of a name that you could agree on? Has anything surprised you about this musical journey so far?
Michael: My brother, Austin, and I were talking about it for months actually, and we came across a movie in his vhs collection called Sleepwalkers. It all worked out, because we used to have night terrors as children and would sleepwalk quite a bit.
Alex: I had met Michael and Austin at White Star Sound while they were between musical projects and we hit it off, producing songs together and playing together for fun during the week. The most surprising thing is where we are now – in the beginning there was no distinct moment where we all really wanted to be a touring band. It wasn’t until a bit after we released our first record.
How do you think your hometowns have influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group? If not, what do you think does influence this group?
Alex: Richmond has been the perfect home base for this group. There’s an incredible tight knit community of artists and bands that all support one another. The venues, event spaces, and festivals also reach out and provide a perfect launch pad for new bands and local talent. We’re all proud to be living in Richmond and continually spread the good news about our city.
Congrats on recently releasing your brand new album, “Ages” via Spacebomb Records! How did you celebrate this release?
Alex: We had a big album release show in Richmond one week before the official release, during which we sold physical copies of the record. It was nice to be able to give our hometown, who’s supported us so much up until now, the opportunity to get their hands on the record a bit early. On the actual release day we had a small gathering with close friends and family, as well as people that have had a huge impact on us until now, at the Spacebomb offices for a listening party.
What was it like putting this collection together? Did anything surprise you about the overall process? How did it compare to the process of making your debut album?
Alex: Greenwood Shade was a quick process – recorded in a week and mixed the following two weeks, we actually booked the album release show before laying a single track down. As we moved to Ages we wanted to take our time and really use the studio as a tool. Days and weeks were spent tweaking arrangements, dialing in tones, and layering instruments to bring to life ideas that were going through our heads at the time. The process was as much an expression of us in the studio as it was a learning experience in what we were capable of doing. It has prepared us for future records and we all learned a little bit more about each other and ourselves as musicians and producers.
While it’s difficult, can you pick out a few of your favorite songs on “Ages” and talk about their inspiration and how they came
Alex: I love Bride of the Burden, a tune Michael wrote that took many forms in the studio. We’ve been working through this tune for years, but finally settled on a minimal bittersweet vibe, backed by a heavy hip-hop drum beat to keep the energy up. With most of the record filled with maximalist production, this tune takes a deep breath and lets just drums, bass, and piano hold down the instrumentation.