Sleeping at Last from the beginning. It helps that I went to high school and youth group with SAL's bassist Dan Perdue. Dan always played in the worship band, as you can see from this picture at our youth group Senior Banquet. Something about this makes me want to yell out "DDP." (Sorry, Dan. I couldn't help myself.)
Dan had the kind of talent and dedication where it only made sense that he would be in a band. It was no surprise when I found out about the formation of Sleeping at Last. And it's no surprise now that SAL has a loyal following of listeners.
Sleeping at Last is comprised of Dan, who also plays the piano, and Ryan O'Neal (vocals, guitar, piano). Head here to listen to songs off their 3 albums, as well as pick up a free sampler via NoiseTrade. As Evade the Noise wrote in a review of their last album Storyboards: "Everything they create is beautiful...it’s a sad thing if you haven’t heard them."
When Dan and Ryan announced their latest project Yearbook, I was, in a word, excited! Three songs a month for a whole year. It's ambitious and slightly crazy but I was intrigued by the possibilities. When October released, I knew I needed to share the music love. Then I started thinking about what might make a musical post more interesting. What about an interview with the band themselves? Dan and Ryan kindly agreed to answer my questions.
1) How did Yearbook come about?
DAN: We were kind of thinking about what our favorite thing to do as a band was. And the answer was making music. It sounds funny but a lot of times as a band you don't get to make a lot of music. You record an album and then the next year or two is spent touring and promoting that album with little to no new music being made. So Ryan had the idea for "Yearbook". We felt like it would be really great to really challenge ourselves and get to make a ton of music along the way. Also we thought it would be fun to experiment with how we release music.
2) How far in advance do you write the songs? Do you only write the month before?
DAN: We started really focusing on writing new material in about July or August this year. So we have a few songs in the bag to start with but we are definitely working from month to month on a lot of the material. In the next month or two it will probably become completely from scratch every month.
3) I know you're only two months in to this project, but how has it affected you thus far? Is it stretching you musically, creatively, mentally, etc.
RYAN: it's been a really rewarding experience so far! certainly not without stress and chaos to meet deadlines and such, but just incredibly rewarding as a whole. in typical "band" situations, the gears are always shifting... tour... make an album. tour... make another album a couple years later, and so on. it's been wonderful to not only focus solely on writing music and recording, but we also get the privilege of receiving feedback and response frequently through the process. it's been just great to work hard on something and not have the pressure of "these are the only songs we'll be playing for the next few years"... and creatively, it's been so amazing to be in this environment! so much fun to just explore whatever we want to explore, and to do it everyday.
4) How did you decide to use Geoff Benzing for the artwork?
DAN: He's a brother of one of Ryan's wife's friends. Is that confusing? Ryan was just on his website one day and really just fell in love with his work. He's amazingly talented and we really wanted to work with him. The funny thing is, that he had done two of our album covers before we ever met him or even heard his voice. All communication had been through email up until about a year ago. He's a great guy and an amazing artist.
5) Does each month have a certain theme or is it more whatever inspires you in the moment?
DAN: It is definitely whatever is inspiring at the moment. We really wanted the project to be a document of the year and what was capturing our interests from month to month. I'm sure because of that approach themes will probably materialize from month to month but it's definitely meant to be whatever is going on at the time.
6) My friend Laura entered your handwriting contest but you didn't pick her. What gave the person you (wrongly) chose the upper edge? Why all the involvement from the fans?
DAN: We just loved Brandon's handwriting. It was really a tough choice. We received a lot more submissions than we ever thought we would. So it was really tough to go through all of them and pick a winner. There were so many good ones. I don't know if I could put my finger on it but something about Brandon's writing really caught our attention. We really enjoy getting our listeners involved. When you're just recording and not playing a lot of shows, sometimes you forget that there are actually people out there that are listening to what you're doing. So it's a nice way for us to be reminded that people are interested in what we're doing and also I think people really get a kick out of being able to take part in the process too.
7) How do you decide what to blog about?
DAN: It's really just a day to day thing of what's on our minds. Sometimes it's talking about the recording process or songwriting process and sometimes it's just about our thoughts on the movie we watched the night before. We didn't really set out with a specific goal of what the blog should be about. I guess it's really just another way for us to connect with our listeners. It's always fun to hear from people in the comments section about their reaction to whatever we've written about.
8) How do you think you've grown as musicians from when you first started out?
DAN: That's a tough question. I think probably the biggest thing that's changed since we first started is that we're much more thoughtful about how we write and how we put songs together. When you first start I think you just kind of play stuff because it sounds good and it's fun for you to play. You don't really think about how listeners are experiencing it. Now I think now it's become much more of a craft. We work hard to try and create interesting compositions as opposed to just jamming around. Over the past couple years our writing has become much more recording based. Instead of playing around in a live setting until we find something that works, we start recording and try and figure it out from there.
9) What influence, if any, does faith play in your music?
RYAN: it's always been important to me to make our music as personal and sincere as possible. faith is certainly a large part of my life, so it will inevitably find its way into our songs, but it's always seemed critical to me that faith should only displayed organically. so, i've made a rule in my writing to never tone down or to amplify my beliefs. same rule applies to every aspect of my life in the songs.
10) What do you think about "Christian musicians" vs. "musicians that are Christian"?
RYAN: along the same lines as my answer to how faith is incorporated into our songs, we've just always felt strongly about playing our music wherever anyone is kind enough to listen to it. whoever they are, whatever they believe in, etc. Christian or not. so, i suppose we don't consider ourselves a "Christian band," anymore than we consider ourselves "Christian food enthusiasts." an author by the name of david dark wrote that he doesn't believe there is a single secular molecule in the universe... i've always liked that a lot.
11) What on earth will you do when Yearbook ends?
DAN: I'm really not sure. I think by the end of the year, this way or working will have become the new normal and it will probably feel very strange to not have a deadline looming and not be working on new music constantly. It will be very interesting to see how our way of working has changed by the end. I think we'll definitely deserve a vacation by then.
Here's "Emphasis" off of November:
Want to get on board the Yearbook train? Go here to buy all 12 months (a deal at $30) or buy individually. Each month is available via iTunes about 2 weeks after subscribers get their download links. Plus, they blog about how each song came to be, such as Homesick, which happens to be the first song written for Yearbook.
And can I just say that I am obsessed with "Bright & Early" from November? Love, love, loving it.
Thanks, Dan and Ryan! If you'd like to hear more from Sleeping at Last, check out their blog, follow them on Twitter, or Like them on Facebook.
So tell me...are you a Sleeping at Last listener? What do you think about Yearbook?