Sleepy Sun have been one of the most important psychedelic bands to come out of the last decade. Hailing from the hotbed of music that is San Francisco, their sound is drenched in ’60s West-coast blues and psychedelia. We had the chance to interview the band at this year’s Austin Psych Fest. Their fourth full-length album, Maui Tears, was released this past January and the band is sounding better than ever. Here is Sleepy Sun: The Midwest Action Interview.
MWA: Well, first off, how’d you get involved in Austin Psych Fest?
We had known Rob Fitzpatrick (The Black Angels), he used to do posters for our shows when we’d come through Austin and stuff like that, and they asked us to do it a few years ago. Yeah, this is our second – we did the kick off party one year. We’re all just friends, so we just stay in touch.
MWA: You toured with the Black Angels for a while..
– yeah, couple years ago –
MWA: ..and the Arctic Monkeys too, right?
Yeah, maybe four years ago at this point..
MWA: Was there a big difference in those crowds? With the Arctic monkeys being a mainstream Brit Pop band and the Black Angels are more of a niche, psychedelic market, were you guys well-received both crowds?
Yeah definitely – it was obviously a little more surprising with the Arctic Monkeys tour. It went really well. It’s just a lot of young kids – you know – who are sometimes even more receptive than music nerds.
MWA: The Black Angels crowd is always a little.. there are guys dressed like cowboys, there are hipster-looking guys.. Seems like a wide range of people getting into the Black Angels.
MWA: So you guys are from San Francisco, right?
MWA: Is it hard starting a psychedelic band in San Francisco? Is it over-saturated there?
No, it’s nice because there are a lot of great bands just starting out so it’s actually kind of easy because there’s a lot of cool stuff going on, like these guys right here… And we were actually kind of young at the time we started touring; it’s kind of like a coat tails thing. people were like mining in San Francisco at the time, so it kind of worked to our advantage.
MWA: Your previous singer was named Rachel, right? She left the band in 2010?
I can’t even remember.
It may have been 2010, yeah.
MWA: Was there a big shift when that happened? Did it change the way you guys wrote songs or played live?
I mean, she’d been with us since we started touring and we shared all those experiences together so it’s definitely super weird to not have her around. She’s a really great cherry on top of our band, she brought a lot to the table. She didn’t write with us, though – we always kind of wrote with her in mind, she was always busy writing her own songs when we’d be at home writing. She has a band now called Only You that she works on in LA.
So it was and it wasn’t, you know.
MWA: So, she was more or less just the singer, and you guys fed her what to sing?
Yes, mostly Brett’s lyrics. She was a songwriter doing her own thing before she joined with us, and it was just kind of a “Hey, want to come on tour with us?” type thing, and it went well, and now she’s back to doing her thing.
MWA: You guys have a lot of blues influence I hear, a lot of blues psych sound. What kind of stuff did you listen to – where does that come from?
I grew up listening to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones –
MWA: – standard stuff –
Yeah, and then started getting into more blues stuff as I started getting older. It was all there early on.
MWA: Did you get into any of the 60’s psychedelic stuff?
Yeah totally. I dunno, maybe you won’t catch any of that stuff in our van for the past few years, but we all got Nuggets when we were 19 or so.
MWA: That seems to be what brought psychedelic music back into the mainstream.
We write music together and everyone listens to a lot of different stuff. It’s not a real conscious thing, it’s just kind of what happens when these five people write songs together. We didn’t, like, get into psych together or have some sort of psychedelic vision, we just kinda want to play pedals that sound good and all play music.
MWA: Who are you excited for this year at APF? Who are you looking forward to and who might you recommend?
We’ve been touring for a while, so like, those guys that just walked by, the Fresh & Onlys, we’ve seen them play a million times in SF but it’s always fun to see your friends at the big festivals. Otherwise, there are just so many good bands playing. We just saw The War on Drugs in San Francisco and they were great.
MWA: It’s even hard for us to set our schedules up because there are just so many good bands that we’re trying to see, and there’s not any downtime. Really – we want to see every band. As far as the festival goes, how does it differ from playing a club show? Is there a big difference in the crowd and how you’re received?
Yeah totally, it’s kind of laid back in a way even though your playing to a way larger audience, because it’s a little less personal. Like, you do your best and hope they have a good time watching your set. Club shows are more about a connection and you feel a little bit more of a responsibility to do a good job because if you don’t that dude, right there, is gonna be bummed if we play poorly. So a crowded festival is kind of a good thing.
MWA: Did you approach that album any differently from your other albums? It’s the second one you did without Rachel, correct?
Not really – this one was very smooth, it felt kind of like how we used to write songs early on. We worked with a new producer, Tim Green, he was a huge fan of records. If we’re talking about bands that influenced us, he worked on ____7:38. So, it was a treat to work with him, he’s a good friend. So that probably the biggest factor in how this one was different just working with a different guy.
MWA: It can make a big difference.
Yeah, he was very heavy-handed in a really good way. It really helped shape the album.
MWA: It’s kind of nice that a different engineer per album could force a change you wouldn’t have thought of or bring up an idea you might not have otherwise broached.
Definitely – we did it all on tape too, which he hadn’t done before, and that just kind of started things different.
MWA: Psychedelic music sometimes needs that analog element to it – you can’t replicate it digitally.
It sounded great but it also, yeah, forces you to play a bit differently.
MWA: Anything new or exciting on the horizon?
Our record’s still pretty new, and we don’t have any videos in the works – we previously released three from Maui Tears. That come out at the end of January, and we’re going to be touring on that for a while. We’ve actually got the summer off, and we’ll see what happens after that.
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