Sleepwalker Breaks the Indie Mold


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Photo Courtesy of Sleepwalker

Play a few songs on Sleepwalker’s debut EP The Dark One and you might be tempted to lump Morgantown-based Sleepwalker into the same category as a lot of other dark indie or post-hardcore bands from college towns—raging about disconnection from a suburban, consumerist culture with gritty lyrics and intense vocals. But that wouldn’t be quite right. “The last few songs we’ve been writing are in a pretty stereotypically pop style. It’s hard to recognize with the atmosphere of having three guitars, so it comes across as something a little more disconnected from pop, but at the same time, that’s essentially the types of songs we’re writing,” says lead singer and guitarist Tyler Grady. “In a lot of ways, you see that throughout music in every genre. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel; we’re just trying to write decent songs.”

Sleepwalker has been filling an often-overlooked niche in the region, stemming from the desire to reach younger or more mainstream audiences who might not venture far from MTV’s most popular list. Coaxing audiences into the realm of darker, edgier lyrics and experimental sounds isn’t easy, but it’s a challenge this band seems to enjoy. “We have a straight-up early emo song that we wrote in 20 minutes that, in a way, possesses some kind of irony, but at the same time it definitely doesn’t because we loved that music when we were kids. We play it and giggle to ourselves and the people in the crowd that get it, get it, and the people who aren’t paying attention don’t.”

Although most of the band members hail from West Virginia, their varied tastes in music—from Elliott Smith to Pentagram—and writing style, gives them an experimental sound that’s hard to define as pop. “Ask the five of us for our favorite type of music and you’ll get five very different answers,” says guitar player Jason McCarty. “But if you put a Beach Boys record on, we’re singing it.” It is precisely this contrasting mesh of personalities and quirks that create songs like “Dirty As Hell” that defy categorization but are as catchy and accessible as pop. Tyler describes this as a result of the writing, which has become more collective as the band matures. “I’ve been coming to practices with less and less because we’re trying to work toward all of us writing the songs together, which is difficult when you have five people,” Tyler says. “I have the skeletons that turn into songs. Then we spend the next couple hours trying to write. We can play a song for three weeks and decide together that it’s completely wrong.”

Bravado—the kind that lets these guys get away with writing clever songs in 20 minutes, waiting until two weeks before their first show to come up with a name for their band, or defining themselves proudly as pop in an otherwise indie landscape—gives them an edge and a brilliance that’s already capturing audiences. Since forming in May 2011, they’ve been bouncing around the region, playing everywhere from Ohio to Pittsburgh to Charleston. They even plan to start recording again in November. Don’t miss the band’s show at 123 Pleasant Street on November 10, 2012, as they open for Fang Island.

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