Our City Sleeps Interview
written by: Brandon Jones for Indie Vision Music
- Brandon: So give me a little back story on your band. What bands were you guys involved in prior to joining Our City Sleeps and what inspired you to start this band? Where did you get the name “Our City Sleeps” and what significance does the name have to you as a band?
RG: Our City Sleeps is made up of Shaun Hypes, Josh Waltman, Brian Soule, Josh Tomlinson and Ryan Gerber. Shaun and Josh Waltman are the original members of Our City Sleeps. Brian, Josh Tomlinson and I used to play together in a band called Oh, Captain! and we used to play a lot of shows with Our City Sleeps. This past summer saw the breakup of Oh, Captain! and dissolution of Our City Sleeps. The 5 of us began renting a house together in August and Shaun and Josh Waltman asked Josh Tomlinson, Brian and I if we would be interested in joining the band. Was that confusing? That was probably confusing…
SH: The name originated as we were trying to find a phrase that captured how we felt as a band. Our City Sleeps refers to the current state of American Christianity as we see it. Most people who call themselves “Christians” have no idea what it means- to be like Christ. Our City (referring to Christians) should be alive and like Christ, helping the down and out, protecting the widows and orphans, and loving those around us.
- Brandon: “There is Hope” is the title of your new album (Ep). What inspired the title for that album?
JT: “There is Hope” were lyrics that we tried to shoehorn into a song and they didn’t quite fit. When we stepped back and looked at the album as a whole, it seemed like the more appropriate name. I know it’s not the most original album name ever, but it fits the message we’re trying to bring.
- Brandon: What was the creative process like working on “There is Hope”?
JT: Due to the aforementioned fact that we were two separate bands, we came together with a lot of source material, mostly jams and riffs. When everyone came in and added their parts to the songs, these five were the best songs that fit together. In fact, “Also, I Love You All” is the only song that we completely wrote from scratch.
BS: We are really blessed to all live in the same house. This makes it much easier to jam out stuff, for the most part, whenever we want. Josh Tomlinson loved when I tracked drums at midnight when he needed to be up for work at 3:00AM.
- Brandon: Where did you draw inspiration from when writing the music for “There is Hope”?
JW: Well, I’m not sure if this counts, but we wrote the album’s lyrics after Shaun and I had sort of been feeling aloof socially. The whole album is loosely based on the book of Isaiah who spoke to people who thought they had a handle on things by replacing a true connection with God with self-made comforts. After spending some time contemplating on our own feelings about the world around us (which is largely “Christian”) we realized two things:
One: Everyone around us had become numb to their own self-made niche that they can fit into. That they were comfortable with society and had unknowingly, perhaps, used this comfort to hide from their own inadequacies.
Two: We had done the same thing in our own way.
So, the album is our exploring that.
- Brandon: What was it like working at Survive Studios in Virginia? Was that a fairly large studio? It was mastered in another state, North Carolina, was there a reason for this?
JT: Survive Studios is the moniker for Shaun’s recording studio in our basement. We chose The Sound Barn in North Carolina because our friends in Ready The Way recommended them.
RG: It’s been a huge blessing to have Shaun’s studio located in our house. We never had to worry about booking time and there was no pressure as far as time and money are concerned. It was nice to be able to take things relatively slow and try and experiment a little bit.
- Brandon: Your songs are deeply spiritual and show a yearning for God in not only the message but through the music as well. Can you tell me a little bit about each of the 7 tracks on this ep and what they mean to you, to let our readers better understand what’s on your album “There is Hope”?
BS: As a whole, I think what we want listeners to take away from the album is that although we do not deserve it, God chooses to love us regardless of our shortcomings. The beginning of the album speaks of trying to find “god” in things of comfort. Comfort in this sense can be anything that a person may use to find happiness and/or contentment. The end of the album speaks of a realization that we can only find hope in our Creator.
SH: To understand each of the tracks I must first preface that the album is based around the book of Isaiah, like Josh Waltman said. The book moves through three states: judgment, comfort, and hope. God’s people, whom He loves with all His heart, have turned their backs to Him and He tells Isaiah to warn them that if they do not turn from their sin that there will be consequences. And so the first three songs establish that God is angry with those who say they love Him but live a completely opposing lifestyle. We wanted to portray a chaotic sound that felt like a downward spiral. The middle of the album, “Come, Heaven” is the realization that we are completely broken and cannot fix ourselves, that we’ve been feeling our way through shadows. This is what Plato referred to as living in a shadowed reality; what we think is reality is actually only a shadow of what is actually real. Finally, we come to the end of the album which explains how God looked down and saw there was no hope and so He became that hope.
I feel as though “Also, I Love You All” is the album within the album. This song sums up what people need to know; that we have stabbed God in the back and are headed for destruction but He loved us so much that He gave His life so that those would believe and follow him would have everlasting life.
- Brandon: I’m sure you guys are definitely Christians. How would you feel about being labeled a “Christian band”? Good or bad? Your thoughts?
JW: I think the “Christian band” label can often limit who will listen to your music because it carries with it, unfortunately, a stigma as being in a box. We are all Christians and think we have a message that needs to be heard and we think we might be more effective in proclaiming that message without the “Christian band” label. Hey, some bands can and should do it; I don’t think it’s our niche.
- Brandon: How do you feel about the current state of the Christian market? What do you think about the rise of ministry-minded bands like Ascend the Hill, My Epic, Standing Small, Glorious Unseen, So Long Forgotten, The Ember Days, Great Awakening, Cool Hand Luke as well as the ministry Come & Live? Your take on this East Coast revival?
RG: Awesome!! It’s exciting to see legitimately good bands that aren’t afraid to be open about what they believe in and don’t stick to playing churches and Christian festivals. It’s cool to see that they are willing to play alongside any other band. The fact that many of these bands view themselves as a ministry is really cool too. Music is a powerful medium and they have the potential to accomplish great things.
- Brandon: What are some of your favorite bands of the moment? What are your top 5 favorite albums of the year? All time favorite artists?
RG: Top 5 Albums of 2009 (in no particular order)
- Thrice – Beggars
- Brand New – Daisy
- Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – Don’t hate… It’s a GREAT album!
- Jonsi & Alex – Riceboy Sleeps
- M. Ward – Hold Time
All time favorite artists – Thrice, Brand New, mewithoutYou, As Cities Burn, Sigur Ros, Radiohead… I’m drawing a blank here.
JT: Top 5 Albums of 2009 (in no particular order)
- Thrice – Beggars
- The Glorious Unseen – How He Loves EP
- So Long Forgotten – Things We Can See and Things We Cannot
- As Cities Burn – Hell or High Water
- The Chariot – Wars and Rumors of Wars
I guess right now they would be my all time favorite artists, too. I don’t know; I go through phases.
BS: Top 5 Albums of 2009 (in no particular order)
- Thrice – Beggars
- Monsters of Folk- Monsters of Folk
- So Long Forgotten – Things We Can See and Things We Cannot
- As Cities Burn – Hell or High Water
- M. Ward-Hold Time
(All in all this was not my favorite year for music, let’s hope for a good 2010!)
- Brandon: What band influences have helped inspire Our City Sleeps in the creation process of your music? What bands do you guys look up to? What bands would you say your music sounds similar to if our readers were curious about you guys?
JW: Musically, we pull from all over the map. I grew up playing blues and the bassist, Josh, grew up listening to The Chariot. We just kind of met in the middle with bands like Thrice and My Epic who we all loved. In the end, I think the album’s music just became a synthesis of whatever we could make that we all liked. I don’t know; in some sense we just wanted the music to reflect the message in a way that would allow it to be heard.
RG: Thrice is a huge influence for all of us I think. Thrice is quite a level to aspire to, though. I paid a lot of attention to Circa Survive when I thought about how Josh and I were both playing lead parts. Circa Survive does an incredible job when it comes to guitars flowing with each other. I definitely think a lot about how bands like Mogwai evoke the emotions that they do through their music. Songs that seem relatively simple somehow seem so big. I feel like Instrumental/post-rock bands like that know how to build up songs JUST enough and switch up parts at the exact moment.
- Brandon: Do you guys have any upcoming tour plans for 2010? Any chance you’ll tour outside the east coast? What bands do you plan on hitting the road with?
JT: We’re kind of in an interesting position where we need to start touring when the semester ends.
RG: We should have dates throughout the various Southern states this spring. This summer we hope to be touring as well. In fact, I think it’s safe to say we will be touring. Nothing is set in stone, but we’ve been talking a little bit with bands we are friends with about a summer tour. Sadly, chances are we probably won’t stray too far from the east coast. However, that could change between now and then, right?
- Brandon: If you could have a dream tour right now, what bands would you go out with and why?
RG: Brand New: I would like to attend the Jesse Lacey/Vin Accardi school of rock’n’roll.
mewithoutYou: Would probably be a trip to tour with.
Thrice: Because we haven’t mentioned them enough in this interview.
So Long Forgotten: Because these are probably some of the nicest, most genuine guys I have ever met in my life.
Any combination of those four bands would be incredible.
JT: Even though we totally don’t fit, I’d love to play with The Chariot. They seem like really cool dudes who go on fun tours.
- Brandon: Favorite fast food restaurant and why? Go….
JT: Shaun really loves Chick-Fil-A. A lot. Josh Waltman eats a lot of Dickey’s Barbecue and Hardee’s. I don’t think these qualify as fast food, but Five Guys, Burgers and Fries, Moe’s, Jersey Mike’s Subs, or Firehouse Subs are all mealtime staples. The benefit of living in a college town is the insane amount of restaurants in the area. Unfortunately, we’re all kind of picky so I think only 4 of us can agree on anything at one time.
RG: Tim Hortons: not because they’re my favorite but because I’m pulling the Canadian card…
BS: Five Guys. Oh and definitely Dunkin’ Donuts
RG: Boston card…
SH: CHICK FIL A. And, it’s a “quick service” restaurant. I’m currently pursuing sponsorship. Just kidding, but that would be awesome.
- Brandon: Where can our readers purchase your new album? Will it be available on Itunes, Amazon, Emusic? Will you have a merch store set up like bigcartel.com?
JT: The album is now available on iTunes (US) and Amazon MP3. They seemed like the most economical way to get the album online right now. We’d love to try a different merch paradigm instead of the basic t-shirt and CD, and that probably involves BigCartel, but right now we don’t know what that looks like. And we’re broke…
RG: We’ll be selling physical copies of our CD at shows and out of the trunks of our cars, too. If you’re really itching for a copy of the CD and can’t make it to a show, shoot us an email at email@example.com and we’ll try and work something out so we can get a copy in your hands.
- Brandon: What are all of your social networking links so that our readers can find you guys on the web?
JT: I’m sure there’s probably more that we signed up for, but we probably forgot the password. We mostly check the Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, and I can’t tell if anyone actually reads the Tumblr.
- Brandon: Lastly, how can us the readers, best support you as a traveling band? Any prayer requests?
RG: As a band we are more than glad to hear you are listening to our record. We put a lot of work into it and feel we have a very important message to share and we’re glad to hear that anyone out there might be listening to it. If you enjoy the music, tell your friends and spread the word! As far as prayer requests are concerned, I guess just pray for us as a band and as friends. It’s our prayer that we might continue to use this band as a means to share the gospel and it would mean a lot to have others praying that we might do the same.
Well that about wraps up this interview with the insanely talented new group of individuals known as OUR CITY SLEEPS. Check out their music on the web here and make sure to pick up their new ep “There is Hope” wherever it is available. God bless.
Download an Exclusive 3 song Ep from Our City Sleeps on Indie Vision Music by clicking here.