The most frustrating thing about presenting Sydney’s sleepmakeswaves to a new audience is the vexing and predictable discussion about the fact that they’re an instrumental rock band. It seems strange that despite their slow – but seemingly unstoppable – rise to the top of the post-rock scene (support slots for the likes of Karnivool and Boris were only the start of their success both here and abroad), the fact that they have no vocals seems to confuse people.
It’s certainly not a hindrance for the band, as people seem to be turning on to the four-piece in droves, but it begs the question – why are people so jarred by instrumental rock music?
“We listen to a lot of electronic music and use it in our sound a lot and it is strange how once there are guitars and a drum kit, people expect the vocals,” bassist and all round nice guy Alex Wilson says. “I think people are taking a chance to check out our music, despite any preconceptions they might have about instrumental rock. I think the way we play a live show and the influences we incorporate into our music are different to the standard we get put within.”
An ARIA nomination is a sure fire way to confirm mainstream acceptance, and sleepmakeswaves were awarded that tick of approval in 2012 in the ‘Best Hard Rock/Metal Album’ category. “We were absolutely blown away, to the point of finding everything ridiculous because it was never, ever on the cards for us that that would happen, it was never part of the game plan,” Wilson says.
“We had a great time being there but it’s a strange experience, and in a way it was lovely to get the feeling of being involved in Australian music on that level, but also on some other level, not in a horrible way, but it reinforced how weird it was in the first place. Compared to the other bands we seemed to be coming from such a different place, not a better place, but we felt like the noticeable oddity there.”
The game plan for sleepmakeswaves has changed a lot over their time together, but they aren’t falling into the trap of complacency or, conversely, constant frustration. “It’s better to be satisfied with what you have achieved while being cautiously optimistic about what might be around the corner than to feel dissatisfied because you’re not at the level of the next band above you,” Wilson says. Very recently, the game changed yet again, with the band joining the roster of UK label Monotreme; the first order of business will be the UK release of …And So We Destroyed Everything on vinyl and as a double CD featuring remix disc …And Then They Remixed Everything.
But for now, the focus is on writing new music and embarking on their headline tour, taking in most cities and a generous amount of regional centres (Wilson made special mention of his excitement about playing in Port Macquarie, where there is “a real hospitality and they treat you well.”) This tour is a chance for the group to step out of the support band formula of short sets designed to make a maximum impact.
“There’s some stuff from the back catalogue that we’ve never played before so we’ll get that out,” he says. “We want to play those tracks for the people who’ve been with us since the last album, which is going on two years now. We’re also writing a bunch of new music as well so a significant amount of those sets will be stuff that people have never heard before or maybe only at one or two shows. That’s something you get to do on your own headline shows – to pace yourself and create a vibe and an atmosphere and you can get an ebb and flow between different parts of your sound.”
BY KRISSI WEISS