SHN Interview: SLEEP WALKING ANIMALS
Sleep Walking Animals
by Claire Silverman
Sleep Walking Animals, comprised of Tom, Jack, Joe, Alex, and Nuwan, are an indie folk/rock band from Manchester, England. They are releasing their debut single "Aengus' Fool" on February 14th. Their expansive and layered sound paired with their poetic lyrics will leave you hungry for more, but don’t worry: it’s coming.
CS: First off, I just want to say congratulations on releasing your debut single "Aengus’ Fool." How are you all feeling?
Tom: It’s all really exciting, it’s been a long time coming. We’ve had this song for maybe a year and a half now, going through quite a laborious process to get it made, get it recorded and mixed and mastered, but we’re here now, and it seems like a good time to be releasing music. It seems like people kind of need it at this point, so, yeah, it’s come at a good time.
CS: So how did you guys choose this as your first song to release, what was that process?
Jack: I think it was the first song we all wrote as a new band. Tom and Joe had written stuff together, and then I came aboard, Alex and Nuwan came aboad and we kind of all wrote this together. It’s got that weight to it, and we love playing it, so it was kind of a no-brainer. It encapsulates our sound quite nicely.
CS: What was the process of writing this song, did you start with the melody or the lyrics?
Tom: This one started with lyrics. I’d had this idea for this song for a little while and I was trying to find a way to encapsulate all these ideas that I had and to condense them into one song. The lyrics came after a couple of months of reading different material and listening to different artists and getting inspiration from different sources. And then once we had the lyrics, we all put our heads together and just started coming up with different motifs and then once we had those we started trying different harmonies, layering different parts. We’re quite lucky in the sense that everyone in this band can sing, so to layer harmonies is really not that difficult. It’s great because everyone can chip in.
CS: I wanted to ask specifically about the line “sifting through poems for phrases to keep.” I love that line, who came up with that?
Tom: Yeah, that was mine, yeah. Glad you like it. It came to me because I have done that. I’ve been that person.
Jack: I think we all have.
CS: Did the pandemic impact the release of this song and what you guys were doing?
Tom: If anything, it helped us. It gave us a bit more time to get things in place. We didn’t want to rush it. We wanted to have the artwork in place, we wanted to have a bit of hype on social media about when it was going to drop and have people anticipate it, and with this added time that we’ve had with the world on pause, it’s allowed us a bit of playing room, and we’ve tried to utilize that as best as possible.
Jack: It’s been our busiest year even though we’ve only seen each other three or four times. We played one gig last year, and then the rest of it has just been on Whatsapp and we’ve managed to record a whole EP.
CS: I wanted to ask about the single cover art because it’s beautiful. I actually recognized it from a photo on your Instagram, Tom.
Tom: It’s a picture that I took on New Year’s Day this year on Hay Bluff, which is part of the Black Mountains. We just loved the picture, the way the light sat on the snow, where the mountain finished and the sky began.
Jack: I made an etching of Tom's epic photo of Hay Bluff and printed it in ink, and my dad did the graphic design. We wanted it to have an element of the surreal so I added this abandoned bed which sits alone in the cold landscape. Kinda Dali-esque.
Tom: We fell in love with that idea. There’s something about a mountain as well, there’s a line in the song “I’ll shout from the mountains like Aengus’ fool” and we just wanted that kind of epic, anthemic feel to the strength of the sound that we’re making, this percussive triumphant feeling, and we thought the mountain did that.
CS: So how did you all come together as a band?
Joe: I’ve known Tom since we were very young, and in about 2017, Tom had been writing on his own, and I’d been sort of trying to on my own, and then I went to see him in New York and we did a bit of writing together. Then when I came back, we were doing it over Whatsapp like we’ve been doing it this past year, sending song ideas and lyrics. I was living with Jack at the time and tried getting him on board once Tom had come back from New York, I wanted Jack because he had just bought a double bass for some reason, so we were like “yeah go on, we’ll get some of that in,” and he didn’t want to at first—
Jack: Now, well, I can’t remember this, you’ve said this a few times, and I can’t remember ever not wanting to be in the band.
Joe [laughing]: You didn’t want to.
Jack: I want it on record now, I’ve always wanted to be in the band. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
Joe: There was some persuading, and then once we had our first rehearsal, you were like “this is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.” So we got Jack on board, and then I’d done a show with Alex—
Alex: Yeah we were in Cilla together, I was George and Joe was Paul.
Joe: So that’s how we met. We were the Beatles and just every night we’d sort of been gigging and it was fun, so I was like “yeah let’s get Alex on board because he can play guitar.” And then I’d known Nuwan for ages, I went to uni, drama school with Nuwan and we used to go busking together on the streets of Guildford trying to get some extra cash and we needed a drummer as well so there we go.
Tom: It was just a case of finding what we didn’t have and working towards panning out the sound. For a little while we had Joe on acoustic guitar and kicking the crap out of a bass drum at the same time and it wasn’t ideal.
Joe: Like Dick Van Dyke, innit.
Tom: Yeah, like Dick Van Dyke, one man band. Luckily, we found the dream team.
CS: Do you all have other artists or people that inspire your music?
Tom: Yeah, definitely. I for one wouldn’t be a songwriter without a number of artists who’ve inspired me over the years. Guy Garvey, Hozier, Robin Pecknold, the list goes on. It’s finding different mediums too, not just musicians and songwriters, it’s poets and novelists and painters.
Joe: Damien Rice, his songs were very influential.
Jack: And Paul McCartney is a big one for me, because my dad used to just play his solo stuff over and over.
Nuwan: Billy Joel is one for me, one of many.
Alex: I think that’s a good thing with our band, because we all have collectively such a wide range of influences and the way we all individually bring them in and mix them together, I think the combination of everything just—I feel like we’re starting to really get our sound as well because of the style that everyone’s bringing in when we’re in rehearsals and writing. It’s really nice, especially with all the recording we’ve started to do, it feels like we’re really gauging what what we’re going for, and we’re able to find it easier and we have a clearer path.
CS: Earlier you said that you have an EP in the works, do you know when we can expect more music from you guys?
Tom: Yeah, at the moment the idea is we’re going to release five singles, spread those releases out over weeks and months and then eventually once those are out, we are going to collate them onto one vinyl. That’ll include behind-the-scenes photographs and lyric sheets and little messages from the band, so that’ll be a good way to have a first taste of Sleep Walking Animals and preempt our inevitable album.
CS: Thank you so much for sitting down to chat with me about your debut single, "Aengus’ Fool." I really love the song and I’m excited to see what you guys do in the future!
[This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.]
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YOUTUBE: SLEEP WALKING ANIMALS
Originally published on Instagram @shnradio on February 14, 2021