After several years off, The Big Sleep is back with a brand new album filled layers of catchy riffs, and crunching tones. Danny Barria and Sonya Balchandani are a perfect match. Balchandani's diverse vocals, range from hypnotic to raw, paired with Barria's beautifully floating riffs (and occasional brilliant vocals), makes this album unlike any other. I am currently blown away by their first single, "Ace," which makes me roll the windows down in my car in the coldest of winter's days. It is that good.
Their album, Nature Experiments drops today, January 31st. For more info on the band, check out their site: http://thebigsleep.net/
It's been a little while since your last release, how was the break? Did you guys work on any other projects?
The break was really good, we got to recharge and write new songs at our own pace. We also got to work on different projects, Sonya played bass on tour for Les Savy Fav and I played guitar on tour for Neon Indian, which was definitely one of the funnest experiences of my life. We both did some travelling, I read a lot of books and Sonya got into knitting. It was all a good change from the period before, when our band was all we thought about.
Before approaching Nature Experiments, did you guys have a direction for the album in mind?
We just knew that we had to change things up a bit, we'd been in "power trio" mode for a long time. I became less bossy, Sonya became a lot more involved in the songwriting, and it changed things in a really good way. It wasn't all about guitars and volume and riffs anymore, not to badmouth guitar and volume and riffs, we just got over that part of it (for now).
When did you begin the process for the album?
We finished touring for Sleep Forever and just knew things were going to be different. We didn't do anything band related for a while, but individually we just started having ideas for songs, so when we finally decided to get in a room and play songs again, we had a good amount to work on. I'd say the first bits and pieces started coming together in '09,and we just took our time putting it all together. We ended up recording in January of '11 with Eli Janney, and the whole process was really relaxed, we didn't have firm ideas of everything we wanted, but we had the songs down and the general feeling of the album was firmly in place.
What would you say was the biggest difference in your writing/recording process in comparison to your previous album?
We took so long to record our first record for a lot of different reasons, and we'd built up some momentum when we toured behind it. We'd also written new songs, and knew that we wanted to get them out quickly.We went into the studio for basic tracking with Chris Coady, then he and I went through this really intense period of overdubbing and experimenting and trying things out. It was really great and fun but really pressured, we had a set amount of time to work. The whole process took about a month. This time around we really took our time and just made sure we liked what we were doing, and we'd sit with mixes of songs and let the ideas come to us really organically. Nothing felt rushed.
This album is filled with beautifully constructed hooks paired with crunching, almost hypnotic riffs. How would you say these sounds come to fruition? What does the writing process normally look like for you guys?
Songs rarely came in fully formed, It was different every time, sometimes one of us would have a vocal melody or just a bassline first, but it usually started with me showing Sonya a guitar line with a change or two, and we'd decide if it was something we wanted to work on. Sonya would come back with a vocal line or another change or melody to add to the initial piece, and then we'd kind of edit or add or discard till we thought it felt like a TBS song.
Are you periodic writers, or do you write continually?
We're both always coming up with new bits and pieces, the funniest thing is hearing the melodies we sing into our phones and show each other. Since you are both talented vocalists, how do you decide who will take the lead on a song? Trial and error? We hardly ever have a conflict on this point we normally just know who's going to do what on each song. It's not as simple as "who thought of a vocal melody first" but it seems to be working like that. We've gotten pretty open to suggestions and ideas from each other.
What would you like for listeners to take away from the album, after listening to it of course?
The whole thing is about getting through hard times and adversity by putting your head down and getting into your work (whether that's songwriting or painting or math or anything),and by staying close with the people you love.
I am specifically drawn to "Ace," can you tell me how this song originally came together?
Where did you guys get the idea for the video for "Ace?" Was is really only shot on flip cams?(absolutely beautiful!)
We've always used lights in our live show, specifically all the lights we use in the video. I knew I wanted to try the idea out, so I borrowed my friend Allison's flip cam and shot some stuff with Sonya, and put together the first 40 seconds or so. We knew we liked it so we just kept going with the flip cams. It was pretty fun but took FOREVER, it was my first time doing anything like it, and my iMovie skills aren't that great.
How do you guys feel about social media? Are you fans?
I'm not personally a facebook dude, I barely use it and don't really feel like telling people what happened at the dentist's office or whatever, but I like the idea of a band facebook/twitter/tumblr/etc, people can find out what we're up to and we can do things that give us a bit of an identity beyond the music.
Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?