Two months back, we premiered a standout track from an unsigned upstart L.A. band that completely caught us by surprise, and now we’re happy to report Sleeplust has delivered on that promise with an excellent new EP.
“Flood Gates,” that alluring synth-rock single that first piqued our interest, serves as a jumping off point for Sleeplust’s brand new Missing Pieces EP, which flexes its songwriting dexterity well beyond the opening track. There’s the synchronized new-wave precision of “Organized Mess,” the sunny Postal Service riffage of “Tiny Raindrops” and the soaring rock balladry of “Lights,” recalling Paramore’s anthemic pick-me-ups. It’s capped off with a two-minute acoustic bow on it all called “Forever and Always,” and the lingering sense these guys pass a lot of tests, and do a lot of things extremely well.
Missing Pieces hits streaming services Aug. 3, but we’ve got the exclusive first listen below, along with a Q&A with the band. Here are vocalist Amber Ruthe, drummer Sarah Luffred, and twin brothers Mike and Joseph Pepe (guitar and bass, respectively) discussing the new EP.
Did “Flood Gates” serve as a springboard for the rest of these songs? Or did they all come together in a different way?
Mike Pepe: That’s an interesting question. We’ve been writing material for this EP for over a year now. “Flood Gates” was only done in the last few months, but it definitely was a big turning point for the band. We finally harnessed all the elements we’ve been chasing on that song. Rock, electronic, ambient, pop. So once we felt that it steered us down a path where we revisited some older songs we had written for the record and revised them in ways we found while exploring “Flood Gates.” We also wrote “Organized Mess” from scratch after “Flood Gates” was completed.
Amber Ruthe: We had been continuously writing songs, and each one was much different than the one before it. All of the songs on the EP tell a personal narrative about struggle and human emotion. In that respect, I think they all connect. I tend to gravitate towards writing from an honest place, and most of the time that honesty has melancholy undertones lyrically.
Joseph Pepe: We had other songs in the works but I think after we hit upon that song and the sound of it we started to rethink how to flesh out the ones we already had written. We brought in our friend Paul Gutierrez, who co-produced “Flood Gates,” for a couple of more songs and redid a lot of the production on a few others as well. It definitely defined what this EP was about sonically.
How does it feel to have this EP finally out? Was there anything particularly taxing about bringing it to fruition?
AR: We are so excited to finally be able to release Missing Pieces. It’s always a relief when you don’t have to keep a secret anymore. When you’re really proud of something, it’s hard to keep it hidden. There’s only one song that comes to mind that was a bit difficult, but truthfully when you’re working with people who leave their ego out of it, it makes for a much more uplifting experience. We did a few revisions of the song “Break Into Me” and everyone just kept molding the clay until it presented itself in a shining way.
MP: I think any time a band finishes a body of work it feels great. It’s very hard to finish a record. I think it’s not as difficult to write and record; exercising that creativity is fun and often times fairly easy. The finality of it though, and saying “this is finished” 00 that can definitely freak artists out sometimes. The most taxing part to me was simply finishing the mixes. I feel because we do incorporate so many different genres into the band, each song has elements that, if favored, can make it a rock song, a pop song, an electronic song, etc. Also making it so the record when mixed and finished feels cohesive so it’s not a mash-up of genres. That was without a doubt the hardest part for me when mixing this record to completion.
JP: First of all it feels incredible. We’ve been working so hard on these songs. Writing them, playing them out, seeing what connects, re-writing — it was a tedious process and I think we all really enjoyed seeing how the songs took on a life of their own. The most taxing part was cutting some songs and sifting through all the material we had to make sure we were putting out something we really believed in.
Were there any particular artists or songs that inspired you through the creation of these songs?
AR: I listen to a lot of different female vocalists, like Bjork, Hayley Williams, Halsey, Brody Dalle, and Janis Joplin, to name an entire handful. I’m inspired by unique vocal timbres more than particular songs or genres.
JP: This band has so many inspirations between the four of us. One day we’re referencing a song by the Cure, the next day we’re bringing up a Kanye West song. Which is something that I think is unique about us, that we pull from so many different places and try and make them fit into something that is us. In particular though, Jack Antonoff and his band Bleachers really inspired me a lot through the process. His songwriting is just at the top of its game right now, and there’s no limits to what he does. I love how honest his art is and how it connects to so many people.
MP: I think that’s a loaded question, because that kind of inspiration comes from so many avenues. That’s the beautiful part about creating, right? Taking different pieces of things we encounter and turning them into our own somehow, funneling them through our brains and using it for purposes of creation. I’m constantly inspired by The Cure; the new Bleachers album is so good; I really like the new JAY-Z record and that inspired some of the heavier low end mixes; after recording the last Taking Back Sunday album they taught me so much while being in that process with them that I had a fresh outlook on as well.
I also was reading a lot during a lot of the writing process, so Bukowski and Kerouac found their way into the inspiration. I also went to the LACMA [Los Angeles County Museum of Art] a couple of times and their modern art exhibit there was fantastic and I already came back to my studio feeling inspired afterwards. So, yeah there were a lot of artists and songs that helped move along the creative process!
Is a label something you’re interested i,n or would you prefer to keep releasing independently? What’s your thinking for the future?
JP: A label is absolutely something we are interested in. All the bands we look up to have made that leap. There’s still something to be said about a major label or a large indie and their power to push an artist, get them on great tours and fund their art. With that being said, the most important thing is to have the right team around the music you’re creating. In this fast-paced music industry it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, and having people you trust to help make your career choices with you are essential to success.
AR: We are definitely interested in working with a label that can help us grow and allow us to expand our vision for Sleeplust.
MP: I think any band would be foolish to at least not consider a label. They’re powerful and can do great things for bands and artists. If given the right opportunity with anyone we would surely jump at that!
Sarah Luffred: 10 years ago I would be all about the label. Nowadays the music world works a little different; [I’m] never saying no to a label, but want whoever [labels, management, etc] picks us up to believe in us. I’ve worked too hard my whole life to throw it away to someone who doesn’t have my best interest [in mind].