When you’re the youngest child, you typically absorb the interests of your older siblings. For me, my favorite bands were my older brother’s favorite bands. Being the five-year older brother provided him with joyous opportunity (responsibility) to take me to school with him everyday. Bands like Blink-182, Taking Back Sunday, The Postal Service, Yellowcard, Audioslave, The All American Rejects, etc. were etched into my brain. We even had monthly music quizzes where I had to name each song along with the artist. Over the years, my genre has migrated into more electronic music but I miss the days of music where lyrics were packed with these either dreamy love lyrics (queue “Brand New Colony”) or awful post-breakup-feels packed in with baggage you bring into the next relationship (queue “Swing, Swing”).
(Nate and Noah of Sleeping Lion)
The first time I heard “Stop It” by Sleeping Lion it struck a chord in me, really hard. It would be most ideal to listen to it first before I relate everything:
That song (along with their other songs) hits several areas for me musically: First, it seems like the emotional lyricism of the early 00s that I mentioned above decided to be real and raw rather than poppy and general. Like a remastered version of music that I was raised on. Secondly, the vocals are ridiculous. That voice is so slow and quiet that it embodies the pain of everything, the sincerity, of what he is going through. You’re not hearing someone sing, it’s much more of a conversational tone. Thirdly, the song’s background and creation fits so well with the track (read it in our interview below, question 4). Fourthly, I was singing along with the chorus after the first iteration
Other tracks/details to checkout:
That piano in the breakdown of “You Made Me,” all into that.
The intro to “Morning Coffee” blows my mind (read how it was created in the interview below, question 5).
I could go on and on about each song. Every lyric is spoken with such conviction that I can feel the pain, the confusion, the doubts that Sleeping Lion conveys perfectly in their songwriting. Their EP, Patient Creature, is like a fine whiskey; take it slowly, sip by sip/song by song or else you might end up a little too emotionally inebriated.
If you reside or find yourself in the Boston area on these dates then go out and show some love for this talented duo:
Friday, June 23, 2017 – Sleeping Lion with Soul Cannon and Cascading Elephants at Out of the Blue Art Gallery, Cambridge, MA
Friday, July 7, 2017 – Sleeping Lion with Vesperteen at Red Room, Café 939, Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA
Check out my interview with Sleeping Lion’s members Nate and Noah below:
NF is me (Nate Flaks) and NLM is Noah.
1. Where exactly are you guys from/originate? And what are you guys’ names?
NF: My name is Nate Flaks and I grew up in Westchester, New York. Noah (Longworth McGuire) was born in Washington DC, but grew up in Zimbabwe (Africa) & Rome (Italy). We both met in Boston at Berklee College of Music.
2. How long have you guys been making beats and what got you into producing?
NF: We’ve been producing and “making beats” for about two years, but before that we were in a folk band together & made folk music for years.
NLM: I only started making electronic music after I got to college and only really took it seriously after Sleeping Lion started. I think the thing that drew me to producing was the level of control you have over sound. Once I figured out that it was possible to make professional quality music almost entirely in your bedroom I started dedicating a lot of time towards figuring out how to do that.
3. What hardware/software do you guys use the most?
NLM: I produce in Logic. iZotope’s Nectar and Vocalsynth are the cornerstones of our vocal processing and we’ll use Vocalsynth on pretty much any kind of source as a way of creating new and interesting synth textures and counterpoints in our arrangements. iZotope’s Ozone and Neutron are also essential to my mixing process. The Soundtoys bundle is key to providing character and dimension to sounds. ValhallaRoom is my go-to reverb for basically everything. I don’t use any hardware but I use a lot of pretty accurate emulations of real instruments and synths. A large portion of my sounds come from these sources.
NF: For our live show we rely on our Roland SPD-SX and Noah uses an Arturia’s KeyLab 88.
4. I’m going to be honest, I felt a little bit of an uncontrollable emotional outburst coming on when I first heard “Stop It”. I’ve been trying to figure out the exact story behind it for hours. Could you guys give a little background into the making of that song on both a lyrical and musical aspect?
NF: I’m really glad you felt that way. A lot went into this song, emotionally, and we really hoped when all was said and done that it would get under peoples’ skin a little bit. The story of the song happens in real-time. Noah sent me a demo of the track that used voice memos that we had a personal connection with. This was during the winter and I was in the middle of a slow & difficult break-up with my girlfriend, Abby Carey. We met through songwriting & we had been co-writing together before we broke up. We started co-writing over the demo & it became this way of talking about the break-up indirectly. Certain lyrics (down to the use of “I” “you” and “we”) reflect how we were both thinking about things at the time. I’m glad you get a visceral reaction to the song because it’s very raw & real. There are even samples of voice memos from our final writing sessions hidden in the song. With all that said, I think it’s also something anyone can relate to. People are in cyclical relationships all the time or feel like certain things, like getting together or falling apart, are nearly inevitable either because of chemistry or circumstance. As much as it’s a personal story, I like that the majority of this song’s listeners won’t know what it’s about and can relate to it in their own way.
NLM: “Stop It” really all started with that vocal sample: “Ok, how do we do this now? Do we stop it?” I was playing around with the sample and looped the “Stop It”. My first pass at the track was groovy and aggressive but I had a sense that this one had to feel emotional and personal so I scrapped everything and started again from scratch, leaving only the vocal sample. After defining the verse as extremely sparse and building the chorus to be a bigger section with that big Juno chord patch, the rest of the production process was going back and forth with Nate and experimenting while focusing on staying true to the emotional core of the song. Similar to how we made our first EP, we worked on most of this via Skype while I was in Rome (Italy) and Nate was in New York for the winter holidays.
5. “Morning Coffee” is one of my favorite songs, how was that intro sound created or was it sampled?
NLM: I am so happy someone asked about this. I’ve been waiting to explain this in an interview pretty much since I first started this song. I was singing alone in my bedroom in Rome and trying to sing some intricate vocal run but I couldn’t quite get the notes clear and precise. I thought to myself “Why don’t I just sing a sustained note and play the vocal run out on a vocoder and see what that sounds like!” As I was experimenting with that, I sung one note and just went crazy on the keyboard playing this minor scale with no real sense of direction but the result was this really cool fluttering sound. It was about 1 in the morning at this point but I was off to the races. I played those electric piano chords underneath the sample and built the verse arrangement. Nate and I had a Google doc where he would deposit lyrics and I opened it to find something to sing over the verse. I gravitated towards what is now the explicit 2nd Verse of Morning Coffee and sang it approximately how it ended up appearing on the record. After finishing a first draft of the drop I sent it to Nate and we Skyped at 4 in the morning my time and both got excited about the future of the song.
6. What artists have impacted/influenced you the most for creating music?
NF: The 1975, Lido, and Bon Iver majorly influence us in all aspects.
NLM: When I first started out producing electronic music I was really influenced by artists like Jack Garratt, James Blake and Lido because they brought this very organic energy and musicality to their use of technology. Recently artists like Jon Bellion, Blackbear and The 1975 have been inspiring in bringing an authenticity to pop writing and production. Bon Iver and Jeff Buckley are and will always be musically important to me.
7. I see you guys are playing several shows around the Boston area, are there any cities/venues that you guys dream of playing in?
NF: I’ve always wanted to visit/play in London, Paris, or Dublin or play a show at Red Rocks in Colorado or be a part of Electric Forest (and other awesome electronic festivals). As a native New Yorker it’d be awesome to play at Webster Hall or Terminal 5 (where I saw my first live show by myself as a kid), though if we’re aiming high it’d be awesome to play the Barclay Center or MSG one day.
NLM: I’d like to wind up playing some or all of the Boston venues that I’ve seen great shows in. Places like Brighton music hall all the way up to the Sinclair and Royale. Other than huge goals like MSG I would personally love to play at the Atlantico in Rome. That was always a dream of mine as a kid. Either that or play the Rock in Roma summer festival. That would be perhaps the most emotional venue I could play.
8. Lastly, when can we expect some more new music?
NF: This summer there will be a lot of remixes- both our remixes of other artists as well as other artists remixing us. But we’re writing a lot too, so there might be a new single or two on the horizon. We’re also embracing the idea of covering other songs & doing stripped versions of our songs, so that’s in the works as well.