Recorded Music | 13.05.2021
Sleep Waker — comprising guitarists Jake Impellizzeri and Jason Caudill, vocalist Hunter Courtright, drummer Frankie Mish, and bassist Aaron Lutas — are the latest act to sign with UNFD. The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based band will release their second album Alias, serving as a label debut, on Friday July 23. Pre-save it here.
Today’s announcement sees Sleep Waker have also share the video for the album’s first single ‘Distance‘. Watch it here.
“’Distance’ is about loss — more specifically, losing someone very close to you,” says Courtright. “For me, it’s about witnessing my grandfather struggle with dementia. His passing really hit me and it was a very hard and emotional experience. I immediately knew I needed an outlet for that feeling and started working on the lyrics that eventually turned into ‘Distance’.”
Mish furthers, “When writing ‘Distance,’ we realised this was the perfect song to round off this album. We had most of the songs finished and this demo just sat there as a lead and a chorus, and the further we got into the process, the more we realised we really needed something to stick out as a major emotional point in the album. Once that clicked, the song just easily flowed out.”
Overall, Alias is the sort of album that asks listeners to examine who we are, how we quantify our reality, and what it means to be alive. Although rooted in many of the same conceptual themes and ideas that gave the band their successful start in 2017, this time they’re diving even deeper. This time, it’s not just conceptual exploration. This time it’s personal.
“When I had the idea to start the band, I had insomnia and sleep paralysis,” says Mish. “It was a big thing in my life. I had the name Sleep Waker, I was playing around with logos and stuff like that. And then Hunter mentioned he had insomnia as a kid. So we bonded over that connection.
“Each release has had a theme built around experiences we’ve had in dreams, or concepts based around sleep,” he continues. “[2017 debut EP] ‘Lost In Dreams’ established that, and [2018’s debut album] ‘Don’t Look At The Moon ‘was all about sleep paralysis. But we tag-teamed the lyrics this time. I write from a lot of my personal experiences of nightmares and dreams. Overall, our overarching theme has always been the band name itself.”
“I’ve had hallucinations,” Courtright reveals. “I’ve had the feeling of someone sitting on my chest, and monolithic figures staring at me from the corner of my bedroom. That stuff’s definitely still interwoven throughout the album. But things really took a shift this time. On this record, my lyrics are quite literal and personal. Everything I wrote was either situational to my life, or about how a person can be changed by a life event or circumstance, thus creating an alias.”
CLICK BELOW TO WATCH THE MUSIC VIDEO FOR ‘DISTANCE’
Part of the problem in trying to tie the Sleep Waker story up in neat bows is that the band’s constituent parts are still in the middle of it, working on where it goes. Alias represents but one chapter, albeit a significant one.
To stretch the metaphor, think instead, of the five-piece as lightly restful before, while this record sees them drop deep into the REM-phase of sleep. It’s fitting then, that its songs keep coming back to the questions of who we are, what we are, what is real, and if we can even trust our own judgement to answer those conundrums.
Influences range from Philip K. Dick to Twin Peaks, The Matrix and Blade Runner, to Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bebop.
In a world of synthetic reality, AR, VR and simulation theory, questioning whether we’re really awake or just experiencing a construct of reality can no longer be dismissed as a crackpot notion. We don’t yet know enough about the wider universe to definitively answer many of life’s biggest questions. So as the lines between life, art, and experience become ever more blurred, why shouldn’t Sleep Waker blend pop culture with their own personal realities? And yet, in amongst all of these otherworldly sci-fi settings and lofty ideas, you have incredibly heavy, very real, and hard-hitting sentiments.
Sleep Waker is: Hunter Courtright (vocals), Jake Impellizerri (guitar), Jason Caudill (guitar), Frankie Mish (drums) and Aaron Lutas (bass). Alias is out in full July 23 via UNFD.