Agony and ecstasy

Sleepy Kitty bring grimy garage pop sounds to Blind Bob’s

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Evan Sult and Paige Brubeck of Sleepy Kitty will perform Feb. 6 at Blind Bob’s

It seems within the past decade, two person bands have become hip with American indie rock fans. Bands like The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Japandroids and Death From Above 1979 have all seen great success with a stripped down lineup and sound. Another two-piece band who is quickly paving a similar road for success is St. Louis-based duo Sleepy Kitty. Formed in Chicago in 2007, the pairing of Paige Brubeck on guitar and vocals and Evan Sult on drums and backing vocals began in earnest as a just-for-fun side project.

“Basically, Evan and I started playing together for fun while we were both in other bands and it just gradually became our main project,” Brubeck explained.

“We both bonded really hard over bands like The Fall and Pavement and composers like Steve Reich. We would get together in the practice space and just try a bunch of things we weren’t doing in our other bands – a lot of the early stuff included tape recordings of city sounds, weird time signatures and heavy vocal distortion. Nowadays, some of those elements are still there but it’s a lot more in moderation. We started pulling more of my ‘songy’ songs into the mix, and the current Sleepy Kitty is a good mix of melody and hook but just enough grime to keep it interesting.”

Upon listening to their 2014 full-length album, Projection Room, Brubeck’s assessment of Sleepy Kitty’s music is simple but apt. Much like the duos mentioned above, Sleepy Kitty hones an often distorted, stripped-down rock sound heavily influenced by ’60’s pop and garage rock that is sometimes edgy and gritty, and other times wooing and lilting with lots of girl/boy harmonies, with a light layer of artiness that keeps the album engaging from song to song. And much like the album’s title insists, the songs on Projection Room take on a somewhat cinematic feel upon deeper listens that precludes any preconceived musical or artistic references the band often seems to make – and the band claims a wide range of influences.

“I’d say it sounds like Judy Garland hanging out at CBGB,” Brubeck said. “The music of George Gershwin and the great film musicals of the ’40s and ’50s have really been a big influence on us as well. We also love Guided By Voices, and last time we were in Dayton we covered a GBV song as a kind of ‘salty salute.’”

As for the Sleepy Kitty’s lyrics, Brubeck also said they take inspiration from a wide variety of sources.

“We write about anything and everything – lots of songs about basic human drama, but it turns out inspiration comes from the weirdest places,” Brubeck said. “We have a song that we wrote after going on a Jean-Luc Godard film binge. We have a song about an amusement park roller coaster, which goes into great detail about my anticipation to get on this ride in sixth grade. We also have a song about Bigfoot hunters. Turns out that’s a whole huge scene, and a fascinating one! It takes a lot of perseverance and dedication to look for Bigfoot.”

And speaking of perseverance, Sleepy Kitty has developed a healthy work ethic, regularly writing and working on material and touring often, becoming a tight, well-rehearsed and well-praised live act. And while the vibe of their live show is a little different than how they sound on record, it’s one Brubeck and Sult have worked hard to replicate in a live setting.

“It’s just the two of us, so I use a loop pedal to loop guitars and vocals live to account for the many layers on the record,” Brubeck said. “Our album has a really wide dynamic range of moods; our live show tends to skew towards the hyperactive and fun. It’s a high energy vibe for sure.”

Sleepy Kitty’s performance this coming Friday at Blind Bob’s in Dayton will be the second time the band has played in the Gem City and they fully expect to have another great experience rocking out for the enthusiastic music supporters.

“We had a fantastic time in Dayton and at Blind Bob’s last time,” Brubeck said. “We played with some great Ohio bands that we’ve kept in touch with. The crowd was super cool and really engaged and not afraid to move and dance, which I love. It really felt like a party. And we’ve thought fondly of the fried pineapple rings at Blind Bob’s many times.”

And while Sleepy Kitty continues to be a hit with fans and critics including some high praise from high profile sources such as NPR, The Boston Globe and Entertainment Weekly, the band plans to keep busy, continuing to do whatever they see fit and any positive feedback is just there to help fuel the creative fire.

“So far this year has been jam-packed with music,” Brubeck said. “We’re starting to write a third album, touring, and we’re also working on music for a stage adaptation of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ to be performed in the spring. As much as you start a project by making music for yourself, it’s really nice to have something big like Entertainment Weekly or NPR recognize the work and throw some weight behind it. It’s encouraging.”

Sleepy Kitty will perform Friday, Feb. 6 at Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth St. Good English, Jamaican Queens and Manray are also on the bill. Admission is $5 at the door for patrons 21 and up. Doors open at 9 p.m. For more information please visit sleepykitty.bandcamp.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer
Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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