"Letting in other people’s art can change you as an artist and help you to grow as a person.”
Sleep Waker's new album 'Alias' is out now right now via UNFD.
A monolithic take on modern metalcore, the band take a look at the intrigue and intensity of sleep and dreams and how it affects our identity through a dystopian lens. It's a record that is as thoughtful as it is thrashing and sets the band out as one of the most forward-thinking and ferocious beasts currently making their way through the scene ranks.
To find out a bit about how they forged this new chapter in their ever-expanding legacy, we chatted to drummer Frankie Mish all about building things from the ground up and channelling the lessons learned in the everyday into your art....
Where did the first pieces of this album start to fall into place for you?
"It was actually in the middle of tracking [Debut album] ‘Don’t Look At The Moon’. I had done a couple of sessions and ended up at home and decided to write a couple of things here and there. I wrote ‘Skin’ as an instrumental at that time. I thought it was cool but left it for a bit because I wasn’t sure if it fitted the vibe of the record we were working on or a record we would do in the future. ‘Melatonin’ came in the same way, but a couple of months after ‘Don’t Look At The Moon’ came out. At that time, it was more a case of me wanting to get ready for whatever the next record would be. So we kept on coming up with lyrics and ideas and meanings. We set out and decided on what the next chapter of Sleep Waker would be straight away.
"That’s when we decided that we wanted this to be a bit more of an identity-defining record than anything we had done before. That thought process, and thinking of it in that way, made us focus more so in on what identity is. We were trying to expand on who we were and who we wanted to be, and we felt like it already had too much weight and density to make it a self-titled album. So that’s where ‘Alias’ came from. Us wanting to talk about what it means to be you. The thing is that even now that this is done, we don’t want to stop searching. We want to keep on going and building and pushing further."
It must be interesting to focus on those subjects in the band and then step away and try to make your way through the day-to-day with the attitude you’re basically dissecting with your art…
“Absolutely. When we started the band, we thought Sleep Waker would just be a cool thing to name ourselves. But as the band has developed, I’ve found myself saying, ‘No, let’s really talk about our dreams and sleep and everything around that’. It makes it so much easier for you. Once there are rules and colours and assets to work around, we know how to build things for ourselves. We aren’t just working with a blank canvas anymore. There are things on there helping and guiding us. And the exciting thing about being in a metal band is that you can even throw away those guidelines if you really want to. You can create whatever you want whenever you want.”
So as you weaved your way through the creation of these songs, what sort of conclusions did you start to come to around the word identity?
“It definitely expanded what I had originally thought of. This process made me sit down and go, ‘We wrote all these songs about personal change, so how do we relay that back into the core of what we are?’ Personal growth is all about who you are before and after. It’s the moment of personal reflection you have before something and the moment you have after it as well. So being able to quantify identity somehow and then sit back and evaluate everything that has happened and where we fit into it. That has helped me to realise that your identity isn’t based on what you’re doing right now or right then. It’s based on where you are after you have had that experience. It’s when you’re laying in bed at night, and you think, ‘How have I changed as a person?’ It’s something to be evaluated when you’re in that meditative state.”
Using those moments of pure humanity to expand your art is something very unique as well. It’s things that we all go through, but it takes another step to act upon them…
“I feel like most of what we write and what we’re doing is based on the experiences we have had from trying to fill in the cracks in our lives. Most people don’t go, ‘I need some inspiration, so I’m going to go to sleep’. But we are focusing on those things and how they affect us to serve as part of the fun that comes from being in Sleep Waker. Things like keeping a dream journal, which could potentially turn into our next record. At some point, we will be able to look back and see how I released some of the thoughts and anxieties and dreams to the public. That’s a pretty crazy thing to consider.
“Most of the songs that I had a big hand in writing the lyrics for on this record are about pieces of art or movies that I watched and said, ‘This changed my perspective’. That theme or story triggered a personal change in my life. Things like Blade Runner or Ghost In The Shell have given more new perspectives on parts of who I am. Letting in other people’s art can change you as an artist and help you to grow as a person.”
With an album made during a period where it would be incredibly easy to feel uninspired and unfulfilled, it feels a lot like by questioning so many aspects of what Sleep Waker should be. You’ve been able to feel constantly inspired and excited…
"Absolutely. I wouldn’t change absolutely anything about what we went through in terms of the way that we made this record. Being able to have an almost on and off feeling throughout, where we could move away and then return again, really helped. You go and do something and spend a lot of time on it, but it was two weeks at a time in the case of this. Then afterwards, I would go to lay down in bed, process everything and think, ‘What did I just do? What changed?’ And then you go again."
Do you feel as though your own personal understanding and appreciation of what Sleep Waker is has intensified because of this process? Is there more clarity in terms of what you wanted this band to feel like?
"Oh, absolutely. This record in every way has come together to a point where we all know what Sleep Waker is now. It’s not up for debate what the next record will be and how we will approach it. Everything is about making this such a strong brand and concept that we can do whatever we want and want people to attach themselves to it because they understand it. This isn’t an open-ended big glob of something. This is a conceivable thing that you can connect with. That has definitely grown because of this record, and I’m looking forward to expanding on it even more in the future.”