Saint Slumber: Creating Something Special In An Ever-Changing Industry

Small town bands rarely go much further than the town next door to play gigs and acquire new fans. On occasion, due to the tremendous dedication and evident passion in their hearts for their craft, small town bands make it to the next state over, and then the one next to that, and so on. You could call it a miracle, but I call it well deserved success. Saint Slumber is an alternative rock meets indie pop band made up of three homegrown talents from small, farmland New Jersey towns. They are gearing up for their widespread, breakthrough moments in the industry, because with a sound as precise as theirs, a keen, artistic eye, and vehement drive to bring their music to the masses, that moment is bound to come soon.

They have already released three “bite sized,” as front man Joshua Perna called them, albums, a multitude of singles – a few of which that have done fantastically well on streaming platforms, thanks to their sharp observation of how both their fans and the masses consume music. Not to mention that they have played with and opened for the likes of 30 Seconds to Mars, the Struts, Young Rising Sons, and Walk the Moon… all of which happened within their first two years as a real band. With momentum like that, it’s easy to say that Saint Slumber with leave the scene as quickly as they came, but I don’t predict that such a driven, talented band like them will fizzle out anytime soon. They are truly too good at what they do and fiercely eager to create something meaningful for both themselves and the world.

Being an artist or a band these days isn’t easy, because there is just so much music and so much content everywhere. It’s not as simple as being played on the radio or just having a cool music video anymore. It is about utilizing streaming, multimedia, going on tour, and so many of these different aspects. How did you guys get yourselves out there when starting out and leading into now?

Hmm, that’s a good question. You know, we’ve been making music for the better part of 10 years and the answer to that question changes like every two to three years. You know, because when we were in high school, it was 2007/2008, and being a band looked different back then. One thing was being on Myspace, and the local scene was bigger, too. So when Saint Slumber started, we had to kind of reevaluate where things were and really look at how people listened to music, how people were consuming media. That’s really the main reason why we decided to release our are “debut record” in three different installations. We basically made the decision, and while we love full-length records – that’s how we have been listening to music growing up – that isn’t how people consume music anymore. You know, streaming is where things are at. With streaming comes singles. Sometimes you’ll just listen to one song by an artist. You can love it and you’ll never look into anything else regardless of what is out there, so we made the decision to try to follow our ideals and our music but tried to twist them into the current mold of how things are done nowadays. That means that we created bite-sized records, so that we can release them more frequently; which can take advantage of people who stream and use social media to basically shepherd people towards the records on streaming. It really is just us trying to be as observant as possible to how things are done nowadays. And that just means constantly changing and constantly evolving. You know, we grew up playing a bunch of shows and that’s not how bands get broken anymore. It kind of means compromising and adapting and evolving as best as you can.

Absolutely. I love the idea of being aware and truly observing how music is being consumed because I think that’s a big part of being a successful musician; to not just be able to play well or have skill. It’s being aware of the surroundings of the industry.

100 percent. People ask, “How did you get started and should I get started?” I basically tell them that making the music is only about 50% of the journey. It’s not less. You spend much more time learning how to market. That is what being in a band is nowadays. It’s learning how to market yourself, learning how to be smart and, as you said, to be observant as to what’s going on. The music obviously matters, but it matters just as much as making sure that you get that music in front of people. Otherwise you’re just somebody who is releasing records blindly into the storm. You know, Spotify, I think the latest number is 40,000 songs get uploaded there every day. You’re just screaming into the void unless you market yourself correctly.

That’s absolutely correct. And I know that you guys do a lot of that yourself when it comes to music, production, marketing, and art. That’s really special, especially when it comes to creativity, but it’s also just impressive, again, in the industry as a whole. Why did you guys choose to go that route rather than maybe work with people in the field and build a team?

Right. We really did it out of necessity. Making music is really expensive. You know, it’s thousands of dollars if you want to go to a studio and work with a producer just to get the music tracked and then it’s thousands of dollars to get the music mixed and mastered professionally. Then you have to start paying for marketing. You have to start paying before just to have opportunities to get the music out there. So it really came down to the fact that like, if we wanted to be able to sustainably do this, we have to figure out ways to get it done ourselves. When we were younger we would basically write three songs and then would save up money for eight to 12 months, then you go to a studio and you record those three songs for like eight hours and then whatever you did there you’re stuck with and then you have to put out until you can wait, you know, another year to record again. And that just wasn’t like a, a feasible way for us to make good music because you need the trial and error. You need to, you need to have time for things to work things out. You know, our favorite artists, the big artists, you know, sometimes spend months in the studio kind of tweaking and perfecting things and we realize like we’re not even that good then we’re giving ourselves a fraction of the time. So it really came from the desire to, to get better at stuff and to have an opportunity to, you know, to experiment and try and fail. So that started with recording cause I built a studio in my bedroom and that went well. So we realized that the same thing was, you know, for music videos, very expensive to make. We were rushing to get them made. We’re saving up a long time and we weren’t really happy with the end results that we were getting from other people. So we invested the money in getting our own photo and video gear and then we just started, you know, experimenting. So yeah, that the reason we do this stuff is because we’re perfectionist and we want to have the time and space to, to get things right. You know, we would rather try and fail on our own merit than be very disappointed with something that somebody else did.

That makes a lot of sense. And I think it’s working really well for your gut, for you guys. I think your music and your videos have all been quite stellar.

Thank you very much. Appreciate that.

You’re welcome. Now, you have these three, broken up pieces of music, so I was wondering, did you write and record them in one shot and are just releasing it in three installments or were they three separate times of your life with separate writing and recording processes?

It’s kind of a nebulous process since it’s all done at my house. We just never stopped writing. During that first batch of music, we probably wrote and recorded 20 songs and then we whittled it down to the five that are on YOUTH//1. Maybe one or two of them made it onto YOUTH//2. The fun thing about the trilogy is that, you know, it’s taken two years to release and we got to adapt in real time to what was working and what wasn’t working. The three records are supposed to be this bigger piece of music that talks about youth and growing out of youth. But we would see what things worked live and what things didn’t work live, which songs did people respond to, which songs people did not respond to, and then we would evolve and change as we put out the next record. It’s been a learning experience for everybody, because our fans got to watch the evolution of the sound of the band in real time. People got to watch us grow. People who’ve been around since the first record. And for new fans, if they’re just getting into us as the trilogy is completing, it’s cool to watch. You can listen in real time through them all and see the band kind of take shape on that first record and become what we are today.

Right, and I think that hearing that evolution is vital for both you and your listeners.

Yeah, it’s like a time capsule. I’ll be able to look back at this and remember what it was like trying to figure things out. Because like I said, the recording and writing process mirror where we were at in our journey, that very first record was written before we were a band and really before we played any shows. So it’s just us in my bedroom experimenting. And then as we started to get more developed, you can sort of hear that, because by YOUTH//3, we’re a real band, and it doesn’t sound like a collection of random sounds anymore. You can hear what we sound like and we sound like that live through a cohesive piece of music.

Absolutely. That’s unique and so special.  With the titles being the same, YOUTH//1, YOUTH//2, and YOUTH//3, you can really look at it as a whole and not just three albums from a band.

Exactly. We were starting to listen to music just before streaming was actually a thing. I’m 25 and we grew up when we would just download a bunch of stuff on like Limewire and Rhapsody. You would download, but you still would get full records. The records that I listened to when I was like eight or nine, I would just have 15 songs in order, and I would listen through them all the way and then I would listen to them again. That is how I fell in love with music. That is what I knew I wanted to do with the first batch of songs. I didn’t want it to just be a bunch of random, disparate singles. I wanted it to sound like a record. I wanted it to sound like one cohesive piece of music that you get multiple chances to try and explain the same thing. We really wanted the opportunity to make a full length record, you know, and try to really nail what it means to do something. We wrote the record over two years, and, if I’m being honest, it was probably over five years because we did a lot of writing before we were a band. So that means that I’m writing about youth and the first couple of songs I had written when I was 19, the next batch I was 22, and the final batch at about 25. Therefore this record talks about youth from three different angles, three different periods of my life through different perspectives. So I think it, it really is like a nice time capsule. 

There’s a strong relate-ability to that. Like people of different ages can hear different things and each point of your life and each point of the albums.

Yeah, absolutely.

That’s really awesome. And I think it’s working out really well as someone who is an avid music listener. I really appreciate that.

That’s great. Happy to hear that.

We were talking a little bit about your history with live shows and really wanting interpreting that in music. You guys have experienced packed venue ,stadium style shows, but you’ve also experienced local, house style shows. Is there something you prefer, or do you take away something different from each of them?

You definitely take away something different. The most important thing, and this is what I always say to people, it’s like if I could decide between a packed club and a half filled arena, I would take the club. We’ve learned that you need a density in a crowd for some sort of special, transcendent moment, and that is what matters most. I’m sure you’ve been to shows that were like a little sparsely packed, and if there’s more than a foot between you and the person next to you in a crowd, you’re very aware of yourself. You’re very aware of the people around you. It’s sort of uncomfortable, like the band is playing at you. But when you’re in like an actual crowd and you are all kind of stuffed in the same place, you kind of transcend and become one with the crowd. You’re all one cohesive batch of people and that’s when we have the most special interactions with crowds. Whether we’re in a really massive room and we’re playing through a $2 million sound system or ,you know, we’re throwing a house show, the thing that really matters to us is human interaction. We want to create a special moment. I often talk about it from the stage, but like, the odds of us, all 10, or a hundred, or a thousand people, being here in the same room or same show, there’s no way that this could have happened again. We’re all here, we’re never going to be in the same room ever again, so let’s celebrate that and let’s try to create a moment that we can’t replicate because we know that this collection of people is special for right now. This is the one time only thing. So we try to really lean into that, and we want to try to create irreplicable moments. That’s what live music is for us.

Definitely. It is about celebrating that moment and celebrating the energy in that area and feeding off the energy between the crowd, the people around you, the band itself and everyone involved.

100 percent. We definitely want to lean into that. It’s like the one opportunity we have to do something that’s not streamed or watched on a computer or watched through a phone. A lot of what the idea is about right now is a lot of what technology does: it splits us apart and creates comfortability when we’re on our own. But I feel like live music is really one of the few things in 2019 that’s telling people like, “Hey, let’s all congregate in one space and experience one thing together in real time!” That’s just not what most entertainment does to us anymore. Netflix, or even live streaming, is splitting people apart to consume something. So the fact that we’re part of an entertainment style that is beckoning people to all be in one place at one time, it feels really special. We don’t want that to be lost on us. So that’s why we really do lean towards our live shows. It’s very important to us.

That’s a lovely thing to find important, because concerts, like you said, are not simply about live music, it’s about the experience. It’s a moment in your life. 

Yeah, and you can see it, because… you know when your friends go to a show and they’re like, “Alright, I’ll put it all on my Instagram story?” You’ll open it and watch it, but you don’t experience it at all. Nothing is more boring than watching someone else’s concert through their Instagram or Snapchat story because you just need to be there. It’s irreplicable. Even seeing it in HD, like on YouTube, that’s cool, but it’s not the same as being in a room and feeling the air being moved, the energy, and the excitement. The way that you have to be there to experience it means something to everyone involved and everyone living fully in that environment.

Yeah, you lose that connection through these different outlets of media if you’re not actually going out and truly being there, living in the moment.

Yep, and we are really all about making connections with our listeners, through our music, and at live shows.