Florida band Sandman Sleeps was originally formed by sisters Alex (bass) and Christina (vocals/guitar) Peck as teens, with their friend Gavin McAlexander on drums. Being young, they ended up moving around and focusing on other things for a while before moving back to Florida in 2018. It was at this time that the sisters happened to play together again at an open mic night and had so much fun that they decided to reform Sandman Sleeps. In 2020, Karsten Andersen (drums) and Zack Jones (guitar) joined the band to round out the line up. Having just released their debut album Crisis Actor on March 26th, they released two singles ahead of the release. The first single was the hypnotic track “Portrait of Jennie”, written by Cristina in June of 2020 amidst the “oddly liberating claustrophobia” of being co-quarantined on Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway with her then-partner, a time in which she says she was “physically trapped yet increasingly spiritually free.” The second single they released was the post-punk track “Fellini”. “Musically, I was heavy into Joy Division during this time and wanted to make something in that New Wave/Punk vein,” said Cristina, who went onto say that ““Fellini” is in one part about personal experiences, but is also an ode to our mom’s love of iconic film director Federico Fellini whose monumental film La Dolce Vita (1960) was particularly an influence for this single”. Not playing to one specific genre, they rather blend various genres with ease. Crisis Actor sees influences from the likes of Pixies, Kate Bush, Talking Heads, and Tori Amos, but with the band’s own sound driving the album.
Referring to the album as a “best of”, with songs culled from a decade of crafting songs, the album contains a mix of newer and older songs. As to the recording process, “We’ve recorded this damn album, like, three times now,” laughed Alex, referencing Sandman Sleeps’ perfectionism before discovering Thunder House Studio in Fort Pierce, Florida, where Crisis Actor was co-produced with engineer Nick Diiorio in early 2021. They had previously recorded the drums at the Hit Box studio in Port St. Lucie before moving over to Thunder House Studio to finish recording the album. With plans to tour and head back to the studio to record more songs, the band plans to keep their momentum going! Make sure to connect with Sandman Sleeps to stay up-to-date with all upcoming band, music, and tour news and to check out/purchase their debut album! Crisis Actor was independently released on March 26th. Photo credit – Parisa Farbakhsh.
Christina and Alex- You formed Sandman Sleeps as teenagers and reconvened in 2019 with a renewed passion. What can you tell me about forming the band as teens and its original incarnation? What led you to stop doing the band for a while and then to reconnect to play together again?
Christina– The O.G. Sandman began around 2009 as a trio – Alex on bass, myself on the guitar and vocals, and our good friend Gavin McAlexander on drums. We all loved the cartoon Courage the Cowardly Dog and got the name of the band from one of the episodes. Music wise it was one of the most exciting projects I had ever been a part of. We would jam a lot together and very naively which really helped us in hindsight come up with some weird/interesting stuff we did at the time. No one was worried about criticizing the writing or trying to achieve a certain sound as much as just being creative together, jamming, getting better at our instruments and seeing what happens. Most of all, it was just a lot of fun for us. This version of Sandman Sleeps never saw the light of day as we never played a live show. Since we were all pretty young at the time we diverted for a while and moved around. I played solo and in various bands while my sister continued to practice bass, write on the keyboards and make beats. Things got going again once Alex and I both moved back to Florida in 2018 and I had just gotten out of a long relationship with my then partner whom I was in the band Tina & the Goose with for three years. On a whim, Alex and I played a few of our old songs at an open mic in West Palm Beach in 2019 and we had such a great time it wasn’t even a question if we should play together again.
Karsten and Zack- In 2020, the two of you joined the band. How did you meet Christina and Alex and come to join the band? Did the four of you click right away or did it take a few practices to find your groove together?
Zack – I met Cris and Alex at open mic night and then asked Karsten to join.
Karsten – It took some time but overall it was really quick with these two because they were very nice and their songs were really good.
Christina- You have talked about how you like to “create some sort of metaphorical dreamland and to leave something to one’s imagination.” Could you talk a bit about this approach to making music?
Cristina – This is all speaking lyrically, the ‘metaphorical dreamland’ part is really just for myself versus a message to be clearly communicated to listeners. This may be where I do like to keep things somewhat vague lyrically sometimes because with a lot of the things I like to write about I find it difficult to wrap my head around how to accurately communicate the experience. So sometimes being more vague or metaphorical is closer to the truth than even something spelled out literally. Songwriting wise I pay most attention to the way the words sound with the melody and music overall and less attention on conveying a particular message. Frequently, I write lyrics that conform to the sound of improvisational melodies. But then there are some songs on the album too that I think are pretty much straight forward in their subject matter. I think it just depends on what the song calls for and finding what is the simplest/most powerful way to say something.
Christina- You wrote “Portrait of Jennie”, the first single, while in quarantine with Covid. What can you tell me about that experience, of being sick in quarantine and of writing a song at that time, as well?
Cristina – It was a trip being sick, quarantining with a friend/relatively new lover and trying out our romantic relationship. The fear of being sick, dealing with the illness itself, mixed in with experiencing a new romance and having to take care of each other in this way so early on in a relationship was all very unusual and surreal. The melody of what I had for Portrait of Jennie was already circling around my head at the time and so it kind of became the theme of this time in my life. Being quarantined so long too was a perfect time to finish it.
What can you tell me about your process of creating music together, for which you don’t have a concrete mapped out sound beforehand. With “Portrait of Jennie,” you all contributed your parts separately. Was that due to Covid or is that your preferred method of writing songs?
Cristina – Usually I will have a song started/or an idea, etc. and then I will show it to my sister, Alex, and then if she likes it we go from there and show it to the band. Sometimes we also come up with songs just from jamming together as well (there will be more of this on the next record). With “Portrait of Jennie,” Alex and I didn’t introduce the song to the band until about a year after it was written. Everyone writes their own parts to all the songs (meaning everyone has their own creative freedom versus being a back up band to songs which are already written.)
Your upcoming debut album Crisis Actor is due to be released on March 26th and is a mix of songs culled from the past decade. What was the recording process like for this album? How did you come to record at Thunder House Studio in Fort Pierce, FL with co-producer and engineer Nick Diiorio last year?
Cristina – We recorded the drums at the Hit Box studio in Port St. Lucie and then moved to Thunder House Sound to record the rest of the album with Nick. It was really easy to work with Nick as he is very proactive and a very creative and thorough person. His approach was very methodical and careful. We spent a lot of time trying to get the right tones we wanted and try out different ideas. Nick was also really open to experimenting and taking the time with us to see what worked best. He was a really great person for me to work with vocally too. I learned a lot from him in the studio. He’s a fantastic coach and critical in the most helpful way.
What is the mix of old songs vs new songs on the album? With regards to the older songs, did you end up changing them at all in the studio?
Cristina – The ratio of older to newer songs is about half and half on the album. One song on there, “Fellini,” is 12 years old and surprisingly didn’t go through that much of a transformation since my sister and I had originally written it. Spiral is about 10 years old and has been through the wringer. Originally written with old collaborator/partner, Manning Burns, it was more of an electronic Depeche Mode sounding song and was half as long. We played it in our band Tina & the Goose back in 2015-2017 and then I brought the song to my sister in 2019 and we wrote the second half of the song. Not much changed while in the studio for any of the songs I’d say. Just some minimal production which does make a big difference. Our friend, Greg Quadagno (8 Path) also played keyboards on some of the songs, like “Spiral,” which added so much.
Your album artwork was done by an artist by the name of Richard Vergez, who also did the gatefold artwork for the vinyl to be released later this year. How did you meet him and have him do the artwork? What can you tell me about the design?
Karsten – I met him at college and kept up with him throughout the years. I’ve always loved his work. He also made artwork for the band Torche which I really like. Rich has his own record label called Noir Age. We all feel really grateful and proud to have his work be the face of our debut album, and we are ecstatic with how it came out.
Cristina – As far as the design goes, Richard gave us quite a few different ideas to choose from (our album cover art being one option in the batch). We loved the aesthetic and composition of that particular design as well as the concept of having the face split in half- goes along well with the idea of an actor and a dichotomy for the title ‘Crisis Actor.’ Also, there is a real string in there. It’s yellow and it’s pretty awesome.
“Fellini” and “Portrait of Jennie” are both inspired by films. What other influences inspired the songs on the album?
Cristina – The influences are a bit all over the place but as a sort of synopsis I’d say outer space, particularly black holes, a defective soldier escaping North Korea, health issues and phobias, romance/break ups, and feelings of depression and dissociation.
You will soon be releasing your first music video! What was the filming process like? What can you tell me about the video?
Cristina – Yesss we will…eventually! Honestly the filming process for this one was a lot of fun due to the fact that the concept of the music video is essentially just a big party. Our good friend, Dan Hodgson, filmed and is now editing- it’s looking awesome. The music video and song is partially inspired by Fellini films- La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2.
What do you like to do for fun outside of music? Who are you listening to right now?
Cristina – Outside of music I like to draw, eat, run, and dance. I’m obsessed with Big Thief right now as well as XTC.
Karsten – Outside of music I like comedy, weed, and kayaking. Right now I’ve been listening to Diiv, Turnstile, Dab Majesty, and Revocation.
Zack – Outside of music I like smoking meat, organizing things, working out and all things sci fi…and prank phone calls. Been listening to Cass Elliot and Manchester Orchestra.
Alex – Outside of music I like to eat, workout, get drunk and dance. I’ve been listening to R.E.M and Depeche Mode.
What’s next for you?
Planning a tour is in the works. Other than that we really want to get back into the studio and record about four or five more songs, some of which just didn’t make it on the record and some newer ones.