Sleeper Agent Talk "Celabrasion"
Thu, 09 Jun 2011 09:23:59
Sleeper Agent are about to sneak up on rock 'n' roll and take it over.
Their debut album, Celabrasion due out August 16th, is a dreamy, deep collection of tunes that are as hypnotic as they are hook-y. Harmonies from singer Alex Kandel and guitarist, vocalist Tony Smith careen with a sunny stomp that exudes indie grit and attitude at just the right moments. They've got boundlessness a la The Pixies with a modern panache that makes for one of the best debuts of 2011. It's unforgettable alternative…
Sleeper Agent's Tony Smith and Alex Kandel spoke to ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino in this exclusive interview about Celabrasion, getting spacey, books, and so much more.
Did you have one vision for the album or did it come together song by song in the studio?
Tony Smith: We definitely didn't have a vision. I wish I could've had the time to craft a record. It was done at this pace where any idea that I had would be the one recorded. We had four days to get something together, and we had seven days to record it. The mentality was "Anything goes", and I'm glad it turned out okay [Laughs].
In terms of that "Anything goes" approach, did you get to try everything that you wanted to musically?
Tony Smith: I trust my band mates and their ideas, and they trust me and my ideas. When it comes to that, the record has its own cohesive identity while exploring different genres.
Alex Kandel: The songs were written at different time periods. Some of them were written before we had Scott [Gardner, Keys and Synths], Lee [Williams, Bass], and Josh [Martin, Lead Guitar]. They were written when it was mostly just Tony and Justin [Wilson, Drums] doing the writing. They all come from different places.
What's the story behind "Far and Wide"?
Tony Smith: We did the first ten songs back in July. We didn't have a label, a manger, or anything. We just had Jay Joyce [Producer] who was really interested in our band for some weird reason. He wanted to record the music. When we had the chance to do some more songs, I wrote "Far and Wide" as a short little insight into what I felt Alex had been through over the five or six months prior. It's our send-off. We finally achieved what we wanted to do, and we're letting go of what we once knew.
Alex Kandel: I went from being a junior in high school to being thrown into this environment. There were a lot of sacrifices and drama behind that decision trying to convince my family. This was supposed to be my senior year.
Celabrasion is a rather incredible "Senior Project"?
Alex Kandel: [Laughs] I think so!
Did you know that "Far and Wide" would conclude the album?
Tony Smith: I write a lot of music myself, and this song was really a homegrown acoustic song. I decided to give it a Sleeper Agent spin, and it worked out perfectly. That song came together in about 45 minutes with the whole band. I knew it had to be the conclusion.
Is it important for you to paint visual pictures with the songs when you write music?
Tony Smith: I would say so. When I was 14 or 15, I really wanted to be a novelist. Alex has a history of being a book nerd as well. Growing up, I found out it was a lot easier to tie your characters, stories, and settings together in a two-and-a-half- or three-minute song than it is to write a two-hundred page novel. I feel like I've always been very visual. I graduated with a degree in graphic design a year and a half ago. Bobby Darren said it best, "People hear what they see". You can tell them a story about the most boring thing in the world as long as you make it exciting. If you give them a reason to be interested, they'll really get your message or point.
Alex Kandel: I really like hearing other people's interpretations of the songs, because they make a personal story based on what they've heard. It's like reading a novel because everyone has his or her own spin on it.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Alex Kandel: I'm obsessed with William Yates! I think I have two of his "Completed Works".
Tony Smith: Mine are a little less sophisticated, like Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert. I'm ingrained in science fiction culture.
Do you feel like the music has a spacey side?
Tony Smith: I've always been a sci-fi nerd so that might just come out that way. I also listen to The Pixies, and they did a couple of science fiction concept records like Bossa Nova and Trompe le Monde.
Which artists do you always come back to?
Tony Smith: As a child, it was anything Motown-inspired. My mom was really into the Motown records. These days it's hard because there are so many great musicians coming out that you almost don't have the chance to take it all in at once and sit on it. Since the blog culture happened, it's ridiculous.
Alex Kandel: I grew up on grunge music. In middle school and high school, I liked to find bands that none of my friends knew so I could claim them and mark my territory that way. It's really fleeting though because there are some bands I like for one week and then discard for a new one the next week.
Tony Smith: Jay Reatard had a new record out before he died that we were really into. Girls' record was phenomenal. I was really into The xx.
Alex Kandel: We both listened to that record nonstop at the coffee shop we worked at together.
Tony Smith: We were also really into Wavves last summer.
Tony Smith: It sounds like Sixteen Candles to me [Laughs]. I don't know why. It's very youthful and energized.
Alex Kandel: I think of any string of good '80s movies!
Have you heard Sleeper Agent yet?