Despite The Sleeping’s relative youth they’re already a prolific band. They’ve released four albums, in addition to being featured on soundtracks for films, video games and they have even played several benefit shows. For a band that’s only eight years old they’ve accomplished a great deal. However, one would never get the impression that they take themselves too seriously. When the record label called and Doug Robinson was put on the phone, our first exchange was somewhat comical.
It was about 2 p.m. on a Monday and he was having breakfast, and that breakfast was ice cream—Blue Bunny ice cream to be exact. His reasoning was solid; he was eating it because he knows that he won’t be able to do it later. I could immediately tell that Doug was a planner and that he is very health conscious as well.
Interesting conversations about New Year’s and growing older ensued. Doug commented that he was nearing 28 years old now, so partying didn’t hold the same promises as it did years ago, he’d rather spend time with his loved ones on holidays, hardly what one might expect from such an accomplished musician and, dare I say, rock star, but sometimes bands are envisioned as beings unto themselves, beyond the musicians that give them life. This time I was the guilty party in this vision of a band and subsequently musician’s life.
Speaking of the New Year and the previous year, I found out, not surprisingly, that The Sleeping had had an exceptional 2010. The release of the new album had been a great experience, and as Doug put it, “our latest album, which I think is our best one; we hit a sound that we really like. We want to be in the studio as much as possible and see where we can take it.” This is certainly reflected by the fact that they’ve released two albums in the last two years; one in 2009 and one in 2010. It’s rare for a band to put out quality efforts so close together. For those who haven’t heard The Big Deep, this sound is a lot closer to rock/experimental as opposed to the more visceral post-hardcore of Believe What We Tell You.
I don’t want to spoil it for you, but there’s even a breakdown or two involving a certain key-based instrument on The Big Deep. When I ask Doug about the fact that the band has been delving more and more into experimentation he sounded rather excited about it all.
“That was our style and it was what we were listening to back then. We never planned to just be a heavy band. On our latest album, we’re more of a rock band and we’re happy with that sound.” The Sleeping is a humble band with big, creative plans for their music.
Diversity is a quality that well-characterizes the band in terms of their approach to both music and the industry in general. For many bands, being on a soundtrack or having their music featured in a video game is definitely a big deal. Doug’s opinion on it was quite unique though, “We have a good relationship with people who are involved with soundtracks, but we’re usually not the ones to approach them about using our music. We’re not the sort of band that is constantly pushing to have our stuff featured on games and movies. We just like to let them know that we’re available and willing if they need us.”
The Sleeping have a unique sound that has endured despite the fact that all around them trends have come and gone and the scene has changed. “I know the scene that you and me are talking about. We tour with many of those bands because they’re friends or we admire them, but we don’t box ourselves into a scene. For example, I’m a really big fan of Fiona Apple, and if I got the opportunity tour with her I would do it.” They put their music before petty genre distinctions and appearances, things that seem to be big, albeit, silly concerns for many bands today.
One could say that being in a band is like having a bunch of girlfriends that are always PMSing and that you’re not always attracted to. This seems to be especially true with a lot of bands with large fan bases, multi-million dollar album deals and enough bells and whistles to make Bollywood jealous.
How many bands have split up due to conflicts between members? The Sleeping are distinctive in that they’ve only had one other member since their inception in 2003. It’s interesting to see a band that has endured for nearly 10 years with almost the same line-up. When I asked Doug about this he, again, provided a unique perspective on the band’s longevity. “We don’t really think about ourselves as the originals of the band or anything like that, we’re all friends and we care about each other.”
The Sleeping’s music reflects this communal attitude. Their songs are always solid, but never overly polished; they breathe and flow in a believable, yet eclectic way that only creative, talented artists could conceive of. Doug stated that their songwriting process is a communal one that involves jamming and playing together.
“Sometimes it’ll take us three days to write a song, other times it’ll take an hour. We’ve never been the sort of band to bite another band’s style and pass it off as our own.” This statement is certainly true given that The Sleeping have a one-of-a-kind style with no parallels. This communal attitude also seeps its way into the band’s interaction with its fans.
Two years ago The Sleeping did a benefit show for the family of a young man that committed suicide. When I brought this up Doug immediately remember the show and the man, Victor. When I asked him if he does these sorts of events regularly he said, “Benefit shows are easy to put together, but you have to careful because some of the promoters are only out to line their pockets. We only do shows for causes that seem legitimate. The Benefit show for Victor was one of them. We received a really heartfelt letter, maybe the most heartfelt email ever. We are actually planning a benefit show, sometime soon, for Haiti and it’s with some friends that are really about throwing benefits.”
In regards to the fans Doug was equally sincere, “Not to sound cheesy or anything but, yeah we do care about our fans. We have really great fans that care about us. We’ve had fans go far out of their way to come see us and talk to us.”
The Sleeping will be performing Jan. 21 at the Crazy Donkey in Farmingdale, NY. Their latest album, The Big Deep, is available now via Victory Records. More info at thesleeping.com.