‘Ride the Wave:’ Members of student band The Sleeps talk album, being student artists

Samuel Albillo/Staff

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“Leash up and ride the wave,” reads the Bandcamp bio of Oakland-based band The Sleeps. “We’re starting a culture.” It is living up to this mantra, with its self-titled debut album helping to legitimize the members as a band.

The band is made up of full-time students — Jonah Lounds (bass and vocals), Toby Darci-Maher (drums), Gabe Wall (guitar and vocals) and Finn Capurro-Durkee (guitar and rhythm). Wall and Capurro-Durkee attend UC Santa Cruz, Lounds is at UC Berkeley, and Darci-Maher is a senior in high school at Oakland Technical High School.

The Sleeps, which is available on Spotify, consists of 17 songs and was released this January. The band recorded it in Oakland at Timber Trout Recordings, a nonprofit cooperative recording label in the studio basement of Fireproof Sam. In an interview with The Daily Californian, which took place at Darci-Maher’s house, the band discussed what makes this album a cornerstone to its development as a band and an actualization of its sound. Lounds stated that the project marks the band’s “first attempt at actually trying to do a real produced album — as opposed to everything before, (which) we had just done in a garage and on a Mac.” Wall elaborated: “(The Sleeps) is all done with ‘70s and ‘80s analog equipment too, which is really cool. … We tried doing digital recording before but never really got the right feeling to it. It was pretty exciting to get to do.”

Overall, Wall stated it best — “(The Sleeps is) the beginning of our realization of sound.” This self-awareness shows in the album itself, which speaks to the band’s rock and post-punk influences. The Sleeps derive its influences from groups such as The Replacements, Gang of Four and Pavement, noting that its tone and attitude is often inspired by these bands. While the band draws on a lot of influences, Lounds said the band members “try not to reference any one of (these bands) too obviously. So we pull a lot of elements, but we try not to copy any one artist.”

A common interest in music between Wall, Capurro-Durkee and Lounds originally brought the band together, with Lounds acting as the connecting link between Capurro-Durkee and Hall. Lounds himself got exposure to music from Capurro-Durkee’s dad. Lounds was eventually given the elder Capurro-Durkee’s bass, which he still plays today. Capurro-Durkee’s father remains a source of support for the band even now. From there, the group began to make music. As Hall stated, “I took about four guitar lessons … and then I started writing songs.” At the time, he said, Lounds didn’t play instruments, but he would write lyrics and sing along, while Hall toyed around on guitar. Eventually, Lounds learned bass and brought Capurro-Durkee, a friend of his, in to make the duo a trio. “We were a three-piece for a while,” Hall said.

It wasn’t until later that Darci-Maher joined after hearing Lounds, Hall and Capurro-Durkee playing at a party. Today, he’s an essential part of the band, allowing The Sleeps to grow into the group it is now. In addition to bringing to the band his skills as a drummer, Darci-Maher also allowed for Capurro-Durkee (who had previously been playing drums for the group) to switch back to guitar, his primary instrument. Hall remarked, “Toby’s really taken us to the next level for sure. Definitely added another element — definitely gets a way more full sound with two guitars.”

As a band made up of students, The Sleeps is breaking the mold — as opposed to touring together straight out of high school, they all do, or in Darcy-Maher’s case plan to, go to college. The restraints of being full-time students mean that there is a split energy and that they cannot completely focus on the promotion of The Sleeps and getting more gigs. This is a point of frustration for the band but also a source of collective understanding and acceptance of the route the members have all planned to take in choosing to further their education.

So where do the members of The Sleeps see themselves in five years? With any luck, they’ll have their bachelor’s degrees and be embarking on their first European tour, they said. Most importantly, according to Hall, the group hopes to “keep making music, record as much as we can, make as many records that I love as possible. (We’ll) keep promoting and see where it takes us — that’s the plan going forward.”

Contact Zoë Cramer at [email protected].