Music | Opening Up with Sleepwalkers | Red Rocks 6/7 & 6/8 w/ The Lumineers

 Image: Joey Wharton

Image: Joey Wharton

Hailing from Richmond VA, Sleepwalkers is on a month long tour with the Lumineers and probably on your Spotify’s Discovery Weekly playlist this week. The band has experienced a surge of popularity since their album Greenwood Shade dropped in 2014, and they’re riding the wave with their L.A. psychedelic surf-pop vibe. Their track Cocaine is bumping; a perfect intro song on any summer playlist. A perfect pairing with anything from Tame Impala’s Lonerism or STRFKR’s Heaven’s Youth. Their harmonies are on point, rivaling Shaun Flemings of Diane Coffee’s vocals on My Friend Fish. We’ve been listening to their entire album on repeat in this Denver heat. It’s got us dreaming of California, road trips, and seriously ready for the weekend.

We got in contact with Sleepwalkers yesterday before they opened for the Lumineers’ sold out show at Red Rocks. We got to talking about their latest record, their long, sleepy drives through middle America while on tour and the greatness of short shorts. We learned that good people still exist in today’s music industry, a little about the story behind Greenwood Shade (2014) and to always stop for a selfie with any of America’s landmarks whilst touring.

Band Members: Michael York, Mike Bryan, Alex De Jong Drummer: Beard.

Q: Your most recent album, Greenwood Shade, (2014) incorporates a wide range of influences; bright, indie pop on Cocaine to the Unknown Mortal Orchestra-esque psychedelic vibes on Thinking About the Road. What is it like to play such a multifaceted album live?

A: It’s invigorating. Our reasoning for conducting Sleepwalkers was to play a bunch of different styles, to draw from all different genres-- that way we don’t get bored. We started that way, and it’s all come together since our conception. It’s fun to play. We love it, and people seem to like it too. 

Q: Going into production, what was the preliminary concept of Greenwood Shade?

A: Well, we weren’t trying to conceptualize anything. I think we had a batch of songs that in the end, the way we sequenced them, made things move kind of slowly like a concept album. It just happened really naturally, and really quickly.

Q: After recording the album, which I read you completed in an astonishing two week stint- did the album’s concept shift?

A: People interpret it in a lot of different ways.We have some songs that are in different movements; some are about childhood, others about love and heartbreak. It just kind of organically came about. There wasn’t really a concept that we discussed. We just had a lot of well written songs that we happened to place on the same record. It could have been any other number of songs, but it happened to be these ones. It was all really experimental. The record came about while we were just hanging out, trying new drum parts or guitar parts. We incorporated a really wide range of genres. It really came together because of Alex, our engineer. We put tons of influences in and he made it all cohesive. After a week’s worth of recording, we had the idea to call the record Greenwood Shade-- that’s the street that we were living on at the time. We were getting out of a period of a creative depression by making something new.

Q: Greenwood Shade, despite its unpredictable swings into various genre influence, is consistently upbeat and bright. Your sound juxtaposed with your band name, Sleepwalkers, breeds some tension. What’s the relationship between your bright, awake sound and your name?

A: You have to conceptualize it. Band names like the Beatles or the Kinks don’t really make sense, but it’s the music that makes sense. That allows you to interpret it in a lot of different ways. I think Sleepwalkers fits well while we’re on tour-- lots of late nights and early mornings. We feel like Sleepwalkers in that way. Greenwood Shade was also recorded in the time between midnight and 2 A.M., so.

Q: You’re in the middle of a month long tour with the Lumineers. What has your experience as a band looked like thus far? I mean, holy shit, you’re playing at the most iconic music venue in the US (we’re slightly biased).  

A: We were expecting to be where we are now in two to five years. We’re just really thankful. We feel honored to have the opportunity to play with such a great band like the Lumineers, to have them want to take us on the road and have us play every night. It’s an incredible opportunity at this point in our career. It’s very humbling. We couldn’t be more grateful for it. I think we’re ready for it, though. Not to headline, but to open.

Q: Has touring altered your perspective of the music world and music making?

A: It’s easy to feel jaded in the music industry, but when you’re around guys like The Lumineers, they’re putting out constant professionalism. It’s unparalleled. We learn so much just watching them on stage. Watching the way Wes Schultz of the Lumineers interacts with the crowd every night makes us better performers. We work to make our audience reciprocate our energy. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. When you’re working with professionals like this and they’re really nice, it just goes to show you that you don’t have to be a bad person, you can still make good music and be good to people too. It’s been a great tour for that reason.

Q: Who would be the most likely to make your tour bus stop and check out the world’s largest rocking chair in Fanning, Missouri?

A: All of us have that kind of adventurous attitude. Any huge landmark we passed we pulled over to take pictures. We have that road trip psychology. We recently renamed the band Desert Dad’s because we’ve all been wearing short shorts.

Q: Really?

A: No. Not really.

Q: Which band member has the best beard right now? Tips for our readers who are willing to go to great lengths for great beardom?

A: Well what’s brilliant is the drummer’s last name is Beard. Alex also has got a great beard, it’s pretty sexy. Our tip would be to moisturize. Conditioner. Were like really timid, scrawny guys but we dress like lumberjacks. We also just don’t have time to shave.

Q: Coming off of the tour high in July, what do you expect will be your next move?

A: A new record. Some shows on the east coast, hopefully in the UK., but mostly a new record.

Sleepwalkers is opening for the Lumineers tonight at Red Rocks, but good luck getting in because the show’s sold out. Keep your eye out for them, though, because they’re sure to come through Denver again, hopefully touring their new record.