In the UK, our lives have become saturated with American politics since the results of the election, and it’s easy for our own personal outrage to cloud the experiences of people actually living under President Trump’s administration. When something happens that shakes up the political world to such extreme levels, art takes on new meaning – what may not have been construed as political previously is suddenly disruptive. It’s a sad state of affairs when even daring to put art out into the public sphere as a woman can be subversive, and it’s important not to discredit the work of women by gendering everything they do – yet equally when the person who holds the highest public office in the world is a hardcore misogynist, it’s crucial that we make even more effort to recognise the output of women in art. I spoke to alternative New York band and perpetual sleepyheads Slumbers about art, pyjamas, and life since the election:
KM: Tell me about how you met and started writing music together.
S: We all met in middle school. After going to different colleges for a semester we all shyly started showing each other things we wrote or were writing. We would jam on those songs and some covers for the rest of that winter break. Eventually we started adding to each others songs and constantly sending each other demos over the internet.
KM: You’re all studying some form of visual art at college. Do you think the disciplines ever cross over into your music?
S: Music and visual art have similar processes and connections to the inner and outer world. We all make audio-visual art too that encompasses sound and visuals together. We bring visual art into the releases, online presence, and stage presence of Slumbers, which is very fun for us! Since we are at school for visual arts we tend to have more structure in those processes (for now!) and with music perhaps we all write and create more freely.
KM: From what I hear, Stephen (drummer) came into the band a little after you three started writing together. Did that change the dynamic of the band at all?
S: Stephen meshes well with Slumbers – musically and with his lovely personality. He likes our music, is very talented, communicates well with us, and has become a good friend to us all. The dynamic didn’t really change. Steve, we call him, is very easy going and could probably get along with anyone!
KM: Steve sounds like a good guy. You recently released your debut EP ‘Come Over’. What was the songwriting process like? Is there an overriding theme to the EP?
S: We come up with the lyrics and basic melodies for a song on our own, then send these ideas to each other. We are all pretty similar and know each other well, so it is easy for us to contribute instruments and vocals to create fuller songs based on each others ideas. The theme of the EP probably just reflects what was going on at the time we wrote these. We were all moving forward with our lives after high school and kind of reflecting on ourselves, all while missing each other and friends and things we did when we were younger. The name ‘Come Over’ is just the text or message or phone call we are so used to getting from each other.
KM: The reason I started listening to your music is because I really identified with a lot of your lyrics, particularly in ‘ Stay Hidden’ – they seem to speak to that socially anxious weird side that I’m sure most of us possess. Is honesty in your songwriting important to you as musicians?
S: We are quite personal with our lyrics. It is what we know best. Mulling over thoughts and experiences are the easiest way for us to digest them and communicate. A sense of needing to make and communicate with making is a big reason why we write music. Honesty is important to us because it makes the songs feel more real, and we wouldn’t like or relate to what we make otherwise.
KM: The EP seems to tackle feelings of introversion and trying to force yourself to go out, meet people, go to parties etc. Would you describe yourselves as introverts?
S: At times all of us are probably introverts. The pressures of society seem to be at odds with introverted tendencies. Because of this tension, when we do feel introverted that’s when we do a lot of writing. Playing music helps us feel better and more comfortable with ourselves when we are too tired to talk or just avoiding people.
KM: With the current political climate, it’s really refreshing to hear music that’s just about – I guess, just being a girl. It’s kind of subversive in that way despite how sweet your music sounds. Do you ever feel there’s a gap in the market for that kind of thing?
S: Obviously our feelings, experiences, and thoughts have been affected by our public lives and political climate. This is where our lyrics tend to come from. Whatever ideologies people hold, it seems they connect to a sense of isolation and desire to be better that our minds and lyrics tend to fixate on. Maybe anything put into the public sphere becomes political. We just try to be honest and let people come to their own conclusions and connections. As for the market, it is hard to tell! We don’t really pay attention to that sort of thing but from what we listen to it seems like a lot of artists connect their emotions directly to politics, while maybe for most of our songs the connection to less personal topics is up to the listener?
KM: You’re Rochester NY natives. How has the election affected you – as individuals and as musicians?
S: We are upset and worried about the results of the election. We’ve been attending protests and making more angry and dynamic art. Daily dialogue has changed. Even Claire, who is abroad right now, doesn’t go a day without hearing someone upset about U.S. politics. The effect on our lives has mostly been more discussion, which is really not enough. The music community, local and worldwide, has been coming together well to stand against the changes brought about by the election, and we’re happy to be part of that, but frustrated that this has to be a thing. As far as affecting our music, we are still in the process of finding out! Most of our personal lyrics reflect our social lives and mental health. These things have for sure been stirred up due to recent events.
KM: My favourite track on the EP is ‘Doboom Soom’. Can you shed any light on what the title means?
S: Sabrina, who the song originated from, likes to think Doboom Soom is when it’s storming really bad out, but you kind of like it. The name was just something random she typed into the file name of the first demo she sent to Emma and Claire to listen to. It developed this meaning as more people asked about the title and by thinking about the writing experience.
KM: Something that is particularly striking is the relentlessly strummed guitar which sort of throws off the other rhythmic elements and makes everything sound syncopated. Is it ever difficult to play the song live because of that?
S: Sometimes it’s a little confusing to stay together on songs with a lot of strumming, but we kind of enjoy confusing things. Normally it works out well live though, because we’ve been playing these songs for a while now. We also look at each other a lot when we play so we will shift the songs based on weird eye contact and facial expressions.
KM: Speaking of your live show, I’ve seen images of you playing in full sleepwear – that must feel pretty liberating – and it actually looks really elegant in a weird way! What made you choose those outfits?
S: We really like wearing the pyjamas when we play, especially silky ones. At first we thought it was funny because of our name, but we found that it makes for a more comfortable and intimate show. We always encourage people to wear pyjamas and bring blankets to shows so they can share in that experience too, and we all feel like better friends that way.
KM: What’s on the horizon for Slumbers?
S: This summer we are planning to travel around and play a lot shows. We are also planning to record something new… and as always we are excited to see what surprising turns the love triangle between us will take!
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