On April 8th, Sleeper Agent kicked off their first Headlining tour with Holychild and Pagiins and I’m so glad that they’ll be making a stop in Seattle on Tuesday for an All-Ages Show at Showbox Market to promote their newly released album, About Last Night. Doors are at 7 PM and you can still purchase tickets at the doors for $14.
Sleeper Agent has been riding the hype of their Celabrasion album, which was a collection of youthful Garage Pop anthems about growing up, pushing boundaries, self-expression, new love, breakups, sexual tension, and my favorite “Get It Daddy“, about testing the waters of rebellion with lyrics like, “I’m not your baby no more”.
Being a lover of Garage Rock, I loved the wild child aspect of Celabrasion. It reminded me of being young, breaking rules, coming home late, over-packing a car with friends, drinking my first beer, and everything that keeps a parent waiting and worrying at night.
But as much as I liked Celabrasion, a band can’t stay stuck writing tween anthems forever. Their experiences and ideals have shifted and the best music comes from a place of honesty and that’s exactly what Sleeper Agent’s newest release, About Last Night, delivers.
I caught up with Tony Smith (guitars/vocals) and the primary writer while on tour to talk about the new album and their recent announcement about killer dates with Fitz and The Tantrums June 6-13th, and Warped Tour July 11-29th.
GC: Tony, thanks for taking time to chat with me while on tour. Love the new album and I’m really looking forward to your show in Seattle.
GC: With Celabrasion being full of teen anthems and a bit fuzzier, distorted Garage Rock, how did you approach writing, About Last Night?
SA: We were pretty free from design while writing About Last Night. We knew we wanted to expand, ease back and not remake Celabrasion. Other than that there wasn’t really a “plan” per se. I really wanted to showcase each of the band members’ skill. This time around, I mainly stuck to writing and let the other guys go wild with their parts. A lot of the fuzziness and walls of guitars from the first record came from a lack of confidence. This time around we didn’t want to hide behind anything.
GC: It’s obvious from Celabrasion to the new album, you’ve matured and so has your sound and lyric content. Does it worry you that those angst-ridden, sexually frustrated teens feel you’ve moved on without them?
SA: Yes and no. There’s still plenty of angst and sexual frustration. But, it comes from a deeper, less obvious place. Into my late 20s, I’ve understood that nothing in this world is black or white. These songs are more about the little nuances in life. The shades of gray. I’m sure there are the fans who wanted another half-hour of garage-y power-pop. But, that would’ve been insincere and unfair to ourselves and our fans.
GC: What’s the writing approach? Tony, do you come up with lyrics first or do you put down a melody and flush out the music and then write lyrics?
SA: Melody is king. Melodies are constantly streaming through my head to point of annoyance. I feel like most everyone responds to melody first and then the more invested listeners dig into the lyrics to feel a deeper connection with the melody. Lyrics usually come last for me. I’ll have a theme or a few key lines. I know will show up in the song and then once we’ve tracked everything, I’ll take home a rough demo and listen it to on repeat for hours until I feel like the lyrics compliment the song.
GC: Tony, I read where you stated that since your debut album, you’ve become more cognizant of Alex’s feeling and views which is how you approached writing the new album which is more equal female/male relationship based. So tell me, how does a guy step inside her head?
SA: She’s incredibly blunt. If her stomach hurts, I know it hurts, because she tells me. When she’s upset or hurt, happy or elated, we open up and talk about it. She’s always put a lot of trust into me and that open-forum-relationship developed very quickly. However, we’ve lived together so long that we’re almost like two hemispheres of the same brain.
GC: I saw on Twitter that About Last Night was originally called Albatrossity. I have to agree, with that renaming decision. How many titles did you go through before settling on About Last Night, and what were some of the worst title submissions and which member suggested it?
SA: One night, after a long day tracking demos in a secluded cabin, we all sat around a fire outside and drank a few beers. We started suggesting titles to each other and eventually filled up a whiteboard with ideas. Most of them were inside jokes or totally ridiculous (“Life Is My Bitchin’ Servant” or L.I.M.B.S.) but all silliness aside, it really only came down to About Last Night or self-titling.
GC: What’s your process for titling songs?
SA: When I was in high school, it was en vogue to give your songs long, poetry-like titles that hardly had anything to do with the song. I hated that trend. So, I just ask myself: “what’s the hook? Does that sound stupid? Okay, well what’s the next closest phrase to the hook? Does that sound stupid?” If all else fails, I’ll choose a phrase or name that embodies the theme (i.e., Get it Daddy, Lorena).
GC: If I looked at your club rider, what would I find on it?
SA: Case of bottled water, case of light beer, tea kettle, veggie tray, six towels, bottle of red wine, cereal bars, six Red Bulls.
GC: What’s your tour eating habits? There is usually one band member who eats healthy. Band favorite food?
SA: Let’s face it: Fast food sucks but it’s a necessary evil on the road. I ate so many fast food grilled chicken salads on our last tour that I cringe looking back. Everyone usually eats the hotel continental breakfast in morning, whatever fast food for lunch and we’ll seek out the most recommended local spot for dinner after the show. Most of the band is really into In-N-Out Burger.
GC: Favorite road story?
SA: Going to “boat jail” when I was having a little too much fun on the Weezer Cruise with Nathan from Wavves. (I’ll let your mind fill in the details). However, the morning after was stereotypically sort of like, “The Hangover”.
GC: You’re joining Fitz and The Tantrums June 6-13th on tour. How did you hear about it and who was the 1st person you each called when you got the news?
SA: We actually got word that it was a possibility back in December. I quickly shot an email to our Manager with a video clip from the Bill Murray classic What About Bob? It’s a scene where he’s having a nervous breakdown and pleading with Richard Dreyfus’ character for therapy. Down on his knees, he begs: “Gimme, gimme, gimme, I want! I need!” Ha Ha. But, we didn’t hear back until recently that we got the shows. Very exciting. They’re such a cool, fun band to watch.
GC: You recently received news you got on Warped Tour. How did you react? A.) Happy Dance, B.) Jump on the bed, C.) Open a window and yell, “Hey we just got picked for Warped Tour”, or D.) In your own words.
SA: Half of us were extremely excited and the other half were very intimidated. We’re all documentary junkies and have seen No Room for Rockstars. It’s going to be a helluva lot of fun but we all understand the amount of hard-work it’s going to be as well. But, we’re a hardworking band and this will just be another amazing experience to cross off the list.
GC: This is your first Headlining tour. Are you feeling more pressure rather than being a support act? How are you dealing with it’s now a business and keep it fresh night to night for yourselves so it’s still fun?
SA: Yes. It’s easy to jump on the bill with a band like Fun or Weezer because you have a built in crowd every night no matter what. While that’s great, it’s fairly obvious that those people didn’t exactly show up to see your band. But, you get on stage and play your 25-30 minute set, load up the trailer, sell merch and head to the next city where you’ll play another short set to another band’s audience. It’s a life that we’ve become accustomed to over the years. However, it’s also one we’ve grown weary of. We really wanted to see if our little band could stand on its own 12 feet. We’re nervous about attendance but we know we have to go out and get our own. Every night’s a mystery and that makes it fun enough all by itself.
GC: Have you ever stopped in a town on an off night and performed a “secret” show under an assumed name?
SA: Sort of. In college, one of the bands that I was in spread a rumor that we had broken up. We had a show scheduled but we listed it as cancelled and told everybody that a band we were close with was going to fill the spot for us. That band, Happy Holidays and the Fun Time Friends, of course was just us dressed in different holiday costumes. We even made elaborate fliers. It gets awfully boring in small towns.
GC: So what’s next for Sleeper Agent?
SA: Tour, tour, tour. Promo here, festival there, and a lot of little creative projects. When all is said and done, we’ll prepare for another album.
GC: What would you like Seattle to know about you?
SA: We love Seattle!
GC: They say you can tell a lot about a person by the coffee they order at Starbucks. Since Seattle is the land of coffee and the home of Starbucks, what would each of you order and what does it say about you?
Tony – Iced coffee, soy milk, no-sugar. Says: “I’m impatient when it comes to the cool down”.
Alex – Soy chai latte w/ a shot of espresso. Says: “She likes nice things that are a little rough around the edges”.
Lee – Black coffee. Says: “He’s a man, with a beard”.
Justin – Black coffee. Says: “He’s also a man with a beard”.
Scott – Diet Mountain Dew from the gas station next to the Starbucks. Says: “He likes what he likes”.
Josh: Coffee with cream and sugar. Says: “He’s a man, too. But, without a beard”.
Thanks Tony, best of luck to you on tour and to all of their Seattle fans, the band is hooking you up with their personal “Post Show Playlist” to rock out to. Check it out on Spotify: http://bit.ly/QrEhjT