Life of Sin: Meet London's country lovers Sleep Eaters
London’s Shacklewell arms is a happenin’ place to be. Day two of Saxon Zine / Clockwork’s three-day love child ‘Another Fest’ and there are mullets everywhere. Like, truly everywhere, and plenty of silver hooped lobes to match. It’s a tough time to be a cowboy in this heat-wave but, tucked up comfortably in a shaded corner of the pub’s garden, we spoke to Country/Garage babes Sleep Eaters just before they took stage. Please, let’s not mention South London.
So, when you’re not rock stars of the night what do you guys do for day jobs?
Glenn: I’m a full-time archivist at the British Library.
Danny: I work as a talent agent for cinematographers and set designers.
Will: I’m a restaurant manager where we make Kombucha. It’s slightly alcoholic and we do natural wine as well. Natty wine!
Danny: Will is actually a Kombucha dealer…
You’ve got some singles out already that have been circling around cool kid playlists. But, more excitingly you guys have an EP coming out soon. Did any of those tracks make the cut or is it all fresh material?
Will: Everything is on the EP. There were two singles we released a while ago; ‘Bad Love’ and ‘Don’t Sell Your Soul’, and then we’ve got two more that will come out with the EP.
Why an EP and not a full album?
Danny: EP’s are a great introduction to a band. We’re still a new band, it’s only been a year and a bit so releasing a full album when you haven’t developed a fan base is difficult. We’ll always aim high but it’s also just about having fun. We’ve been writing loads.
And they’ve been released on different labels?
Danny: Yeah. We recorded the EP a year ago and didn’t really know what to do with it. We were on a bedroom label called ‘Strong Island’ who’s a really sweet guy in Portsmouth that supports a load of the bands that he likes. I sent him our music a while ago and he said he’d love to release it. He’s super cool and has a festival called ‘Dials’ where he put us on the bill and it was fucking rammed.
Will: We’ve actually got a really good fan base in Portsmouth which is quite bizarre. Portsmouth, Leeds and London. It’s nice that we can go there a couple of times a year. The fish ‘n’ chips is always good.
Danny: There’s a label we’ve always liked called ‘Punk Slime’ and we managed to get in touch with them. They didn’t want to release anyone else but then they heard our stuff and were like ‘ah you fuckers we have to sign you guys’.
Glenn: We’re also the last to be signed to them for the next two years. They’d just been to SXSW so I think being in Texas might have influenced them in signing us.
You guys do have that Western sound. ‘Cowpunk’ is a term that seems to have stuck around.
Glenn: Yeah ‘Cowpunk’ was coined in the 90’s but if you look into some of the bands associated it doesn’t really sound like us.
Will: But, if the Meatpuppets are a banner for it I’m happy for that.
Glenn: We’re more country/garage. We just like “old” music! America certainly has a different vision and manner to their culture and sound even though we speak the same language. Where the two influence each other is very important and always has been. In an Americana / Garage sense The Byrds were put together to be modelled as the American Beatles until The Rolling Stones basically kidnapped Gram Parsons to teach them the way of the ‘Country’ sound. That was a British / American clash of influence which I think was quite nice. If you wanna get in to the grit of why we’re inspired by Country it’s like a slight escapism. Everyone wants to ride around the desert on a horse and as soon as you get the lap-steel involved it changes everything.
How does someone learn to play the lap steel?
Glenn: It’s a really hard thing to play! It took me months to hunt one down and the one I bought is from the ‘20s. So I just took a chance and asked Declan, a friend of mine, to learn it. He literally dedicated his life to the lap steel and picked it up like a real steel man.
Will: He completely makes the band. Without him at practise we just sound like any other group but with him we’ve get a whole desert thing going on.
Is that a vibe that you all shared initially and band together because of or did some of you fall into it more as you went along?
Danny: We’re kinda like a ven-diagram of music where we’ve got this nucleus of stuff we’re into and we influence each other. I introduced Will to Flat Worms the other day…
Will: They were really cool. A mixture of Drahla, Crows -all the bands we’re into at the moment. The LA music scene at the moment is one of the best. We played with Drahla in Leeds and then they asked us to come on tour with them which was amazing. That was my first time up North as well. I cried.
Without wanting to fall into the “South London Scene” stereotype trap, you are essentially a band that’s from South London. How do find your reception is once you’re outside of that scene or even the capital?
Will: It’s pretty interesting. It’s nice to see a very specific side to the country that you don’t get to see day to day living in London. There’s really dedicated people in all these different areas. Birmingham we thought would be a washout and the people there were so supportive. They bought us rounds immediately after and all of our merch.
Glenn: There were two people who sent us their band’s records, we’ve got a pen-pal thing going on now. It’s not as stagnant, they seem to appreciate things more. Leeds to me was striking in terms of age groups. There would be older people and then 18-year olds all turning up in cabs to the Brudnell Social Club but everyone was having a good time. There was no “scene”.
Will: I think people have more expectations in London. When I was in Tunbridge Wells I would go to the local venue and there was usually something crap on, just one gig every now and again, but you would go and have a great night anyway. All the people from the surrounding areas will come specifically to these cities to see any live music. It’s the same with the New York mentality; you’re in a big bubble of music and it’s good to get out of it.
Glenn: A lot of the good London venues are being stamped out. The Montague Arms in Newcross was a really good South London venue that got shut down and same with The Macbeth in Hoxton which was where we first met. It was a really good pond for new music.
Will: We are trying to play as much as we can in London so it’s a 50/50 balance. We’ve got a 9294-gig coming up which is the biggest show to date that we’re responsible for and we’re really excited.
There’s a lush balance of macabre and more traditional romance in your lyrics. “I’ll never touch her skin again, now I have reached my bitter end”. Are these themes drawn from reality or is there a fictional narrative you embody during the song writing process?
Glenn: I can only really write about certain things which, is cheesy as fuck, but it’s life and love. I’ve tried my best to write a ‘nothing’ song (a pop song) but I’m trying to write reality and everyone has the same experiences in life no matter your background. It’s a universal feeling that for me only gets encompassed in life and love. And death.
Danny: At least you know we’re consistent.
Will: It’s a very, dare I say trendy, thing to rally against the big man and go down the political route but it’s not really something the band is particularly interested in. We have political opinions but we’re not trying to put a voice out there that represents the youth, it’s more abstract. We’re not gonna start shouting.
Glenn: I think if you’re going to start embarking on an artistic journey you want it to be about the art, about the music. Obviously, these things can be inspired by concepts but we don’t want to be pigeon holed as a “political band”. We want people to make up their own minds about us.
Where can we stalk you next?
Danny: We’ve got some fun things planned. We’re playing Rough Trade East on the 7th of August just before the EP comes out on the 9th and then we are going on tour with Froth in September.
Will: And then we go to Sweden for our labels 6th birthday and make lots of Swedish friends.
Sleep Eaters’ debut E.PHoly Days is out 9th August. Keep up to date with the band on Facebook here. The band play London’s Studio 9294 in September. Stream Sleep Eaters’ new single Life of Sin on Spotify here.
Interviewed by Al Mills.