Artist Spotlight: SleeperSound, Resurrectionists
Experimental rock night occurred at Cactus Club Thursday with “cinematic existential indie” band SleeperSound, “doom country” band Resurrectionists, and NYC-based Wilder Maker. A solid crowd accompanied the bands as multilayered sonic energy filled the Bay View venue’s capacity.
SleeperSound consists of vocalist/guitarist/synth-er David D’Antonio, guitarist/organist Kenny Buesing, bassists Mike Campise, and drummer Dan Niedziejko. Unique among Milwaukee indie bands, they have a live video mixer accompanying their musical arrangements. They have been a band since spring 2016, and their debut full-length album “In Media Res” came out almost a year ago.
“We follow the old-school method of recording live together in the same room,” Niedziejko said. “We’ve got a place – my house – all set up, like the living room is big and great for recording. It’s like an old dairy building with a wood ceiling, so nice and reflective for drums. I’ve experimented with the space a lot so that we get just the right amount of bleed on the mics and everything. It’s an old British way of recording; I’ve studied this for awhile. We record our rehearsals as much as we can and lay our ideas down; having the studio in our practice space really makes for a good thing – we can experiment and not worry about the clock.”
“One of the things we do as SleeperSound, like an experimental indulgence for the band, is what we call SleeperSound cinema,” Campise said. “Stephen – our visual guy – was here tonight and does live video mixing. We’ll play off what he’s putting on the screen and we’ll improv for two hours or so. It’s almost like a live practice so people get to see what we do, but having the practice space wired up is sort of what we’re doing at practice as well.”
“We’re always capturing ideas,” Niedziejko said. “If we have a nugget of a song we’re not losing it. To be honest we have so much crap recorded that we could go back a year and be like “wow, we forgot about that” and pick it back up. I’d recommend any band to figure that out.”
“We’ll go through these spurts where somebody is just super prolific and Dave will be cranking out songs or Kenny will do the same thing, and we’ll just kind of work it through,” Campise said.
“The improvisation tends to inform the actual songwriting,” Buesing added. “It’s liberating to people to kind of break away from regular songwriting and experiment.”
“It’s cool because we’ve kind of developed a form of communication with one another,” Niedziejko said. “I’ve been in a lot of bands and not a ton can read each other in a sensory way so that even when we’re improvising we’re still knowing what each other are gonna do next. When you know a fellow musician you get that ESP going with members of the band. I call it “the cone.” It’s strange but on a good night I’m imagining a cone that comes out of my head and goes out as a wave of energy into the audience.”
The boys are working on their new album, which finds them working with electronic sequencing.
“We’ll probably record it the same way,” Campise said. “In Media Res was released as vinyl-only physical media, so we didn’t do CD’s or anything like that. We just did vinyl because we like the sound quality and I love the tactile-ness of picking up an album and looking at the album art. When we got our first test pressings of our album I pulled it out of the sleeve and it was a real physical manifestation of music that’s so weird; as a musician you don’t get that…like a CD is just a piece of plastic. Vinyl is just so different. You can listen to a record without electricity but can’t do that with a tape or CD or anything else.”
“Our album was mastered by Kramer, who worked with Low and Galaxie 500,” Niedziejko added. “I’ve known him for like fifteen years, and anything I’ve been involved in, he’s mastered it. He’s been like my mentor when I’m stuck on something.”
“We have so many influences in common and a lot that are different,” D’Antonio said. “We’ve got so many stories to share that we want to write music around, so we are truly charged up for something fresh and new.”
The band explains how the cinematic component is incorporated into the set.
“Steve shoots all of his own video so that’s all his own stuff,” Campise explained. “He loves time-lapse video and he does a really cool job working with Wisconsin scenery. A lot of bands do really intricate geometric shapes and things like that but he’s trying to capture a feeling of places he’s been.”
“It’s nice to have our sound grounded in our local scenery,” Buesing added. “(Steve) doesn’t necessarily come to every show and it definitely feels like something’s lacking when he’s not there; it feels like the project should be a multimedia experience.”
“The logistics of the venue play into that,” Niedziejko said. “If we’re playing a really small place that just isn’t set up for it, then it’s difficult.”
“For all of us growing up, music has always taken us somewhere physical,” D’Antonio said. “Music is a very spatial, temporal thing. I don’t have faith that we effectively convey that interpretation of our music just through the music alone all the time. The visuals are our way of connecting with the audience and being in one space together taking everyone on a journey with us. There’s a communal aspect.”
Sleepersound play Reggies in Chicago on the 27th and then Blankfest in Racine in December.
Resurrectionists consist of vocalist/guitarist Joe Cannon, bassist Jeff Brueggeman, drummer Josh Barto, and guitarist/organist Gian Pogliano. They are relatively new; their first show had been at Company Brewing in May.
“Jeff and I used to play in a band called WORK,” Cannon said. “We’re still a band but our drummer moved to Texas…so we’re still together but we don’t play anymore. I wanted to start a new thing with Jeff because I really like the way he plays bass. We went through a couple different attempts with him and this is what we ended up settling on. WORK was kind of a punk rock band and we’d have five tunes on any given record that were fast and three minutes, and two or three songs that were desperately slow and extremely moody – that’s sort of a vice of mine, so I indulged thoroughly into Resurrectionists. It’s a style of songwriting I’ve wanted to do and this is giving me an opportunity to do it. We played two shows with a pedal steel player Gavin Hardy but he also moved…when he moved we decided not to replace a pedal steel player in Milwaukee because that’s a fool’s errand. We ended up replacing that portion of it with my friend Gian playing a combination of weirdly-effective twelve-string guitar and organ sounds. Someone who was not on stage with us tonight but will be shortly – Ben Yela – will be playing cello.”
The band is soon to release an album, which Cannon says will extend their current EP “What Comes In” (on Bandcamp).
“We’ve just finished mixing and mastering nine songs. There’s a three-song EP on Bandcamp, which will shortly become those nine songs. There was something we were submitting too and I needed to get something online quickly, so I did a lickety-split mastering on three songs…but people have liked it. It got played on WMSE, which is cool (thank you Craig!). In the next week or two, I’ll be replacing that with the full album – basically everything we played tonight.”
Cannon talks about why this project excites him so much.
“I had a solo project back when I lived in Chicago in the late 90s-early 2000’s, and it was really moody stuff. I kind of abandoned that for almost twenty years, and I’m going back to it but now I actually have the understanding of how to do it and how to arrange it. Plus I’ve surrounded myself with really good musicians who also have great arranging intellect. Jeff is key to that…it’s a strange situation in the band where I’m the songwriter and lead singer, but Jeff is the bandleader. It’s interesting because it works so well; I can just delegate and bring raw songs. Between his ideas and my ideas it becomes a negotiation and then I end up more frequently than not accepting that his idea is the better one. He’s the one that counts things off. There’s a way of writing and performing songs I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and this is finally the group of musicians I’m able to do it with.”
Resurrectionists play the Pier F Campout in two weeks, and then have a show in Chicago on their way back at D.C. Torium on the 20th.