In Depth: Sleep Thieves
Dublin three-piece Sleep Thieves have been making slow but steady waves on the local scene since their EP ‘Only A Satellite’ landed two years ago. At last year’s Hard Working Class Heroes Festival, though, the band took an impressive left turn, unveiling a new sound that abandoned their delicate DIY styling in favor of new full-length album ‘Heart Waves’ beat-driven, danceable set up. AU took the chance to catch up with the rising stars over coffee at Tower Records, where they waxed lyrical about listeners in Russia and Chile, aiming for that second album and the difficulties in getting the new style out there…
It’s quite a step up, from EP to a full-length album. How did the production differ?
Well, when we made the EP, Derek recorded the entire thing in a crouching position! We love the EP, but it does sound like it was recorded in our bedrooms, which is very much where the band was at that time. We like it that way, but it’s not for everyone. It was very DIY, so much so that the vocals ended up being the vocals from the first demo we produced. We just preferred them to the EP version. Making the album, Ciaran (Bradshaw, producer) made us feel confident about the songs, but also challenged us, and that’s why we approached him to do it. There was a lot of mixing and moving around of the tracks; he’d just set his studio up, so it was exciting for both of us. Kieran gets the best of you; he knows how to say ‘that wasn’t a great take’ without deflating you.
How does the album sounds compared to your pre-studio expectations?
Better. There are one or two cases where it was ‘majority rule’, but there comes a point where you have to forget it and move on. We’re very much about democracy. We had a set number of days to work with, as we really didn’t want to get a loan, so everything was paid off. You could spend months in the studio if you had the money, but it was good to have a deadline, and any money we make from it can go into the next album. It really helped that it was pretty much one block of recording time, too. You lose the consistency of the sound if you spread it over too great a period. We recorded it way back in July, and basically didn’t listen to it until we got the first mixes in August and didn’t mix it properly until December, as we just didn’t have the money. By that point, of course, we had a good idea of what we wanted!
You’ve been off the live scene for sometime. Are you excited about coming back?
Yeah, apart from a tour in September and October, it’s been the best part of a year. We’ve been writing a lot. We’re hoping to do a lot of gigs, and we’re really excited about it. At the same time, we don’t really know what to expect. We’ve done everything ourselves, which is draining, but great in terms of having total control over what’s done. We’ve nothing against PR companies, and if we had €2000, we’d probably hire one, but it’s nice to have everything personalized. A lot of people have been brilliant helping us out. But yeah, we’re hoping to do lots of gigs, and festivals. The new album’s a much better representation of us as a live band than the EP, which is more than two years old. Hopefully that’ll help.
You were really into the way The Cast Of Cheers promoted their album. Are you planning anything similar?
We have quite a clever idea for our tour t-shirts, but we’ll keep that quiet until we’ve done it, we don’t want someone else doing it first! But we’re not looking to merchandise our arses off, people having our songs is the most important thing. We wouldn’t mind giving it out for free, except it’s hard to go forward then, what do you do with your next album? People start expecting you to have everything free. Even as an unknown band from Dublin, within a week of the EP coming out it was on all the file sharing websites, so you can’t completely avoid it. But we know people have listened to it in Russia, Chile, Brazil… our Last FM listenership is really international, so it’s not without its positives.
Is becoming a full time band and heading out on tour one of your main ambitions?
Of course. Getting a tour van and cruising across America, that’d be amazing. It’s not totally pie in the sky, if the album sells well we’d love to do a few shows across Europe. We have a long-term plan, we set down our aspirations last January. We could have just bed down gigging in Dublin, playing support to every band that asked us, and doing nothing else. We’re a bit more ambitious than that. We know that the majority of musicians are ‘work a day’ types; they don’t really make any real money. That’s cool. We’d love to be really famous, but just being full time gigging musicians would be a great start. Things like radio play really matter, familiarity matters. People like to say ‘that’s the one I really like’. It’s often not even that they like it more than the others, just that they know it. We’ve all been there with support acts. Getting out there, through advertizing, radio play, stuff like that, it’s really important. If Vodafone came with an offer we’d think about it!
What have been the best moments of the last year?
Being in the Irish Times was great. We got an email with us on the same page in the newspaper as Snoop Dogg. They gave us top night of the year, which was great, especially as we were the only Irish band on that list. That was the most exciting thing.
Let’s say you were off to play in the US. How would you sell yourselves?
I think it’s kind of dancey electro pop. Or rock. I guess we’re kind of like Metric. But there aren’t enough women in music to really make an easy comparison. We listen to a lot of diverse stuff. We’d like to think we’re a bit like Jape on Ritual, too, though not so much his newer, softer stuff.
As published in AU Magazine, October 2011.