Waking a Sleepy Kitty – St. Louis Rock at its best
Sleepy Kitty, although they’re only 5 years deep in the Saint Louis music scene has been making quite a bit of noise on the local landscape. As a twosome from Chicago, Paige Brubeck (lead vocals, guitar, keys) and Evan Sult (drums, guitar, background vocals) are more powerful than some of the big bands we’re used to seeing on a regular basis. With solid themes and song concepts, their new album is steadily bringing indie rock and roll back to the fore.
Projection Room, according to Paige and Evan is a collection of songs inspired by films, and music in films, they’ve seen over the past couple of years. They revealed that fact and much more in an interview I did with them last week, leading up to their album release show at the Pageant this Friday.
Examiner: So what is this album about? What kind of stories or themes are you including?
Paige: Well, we have been watching A LOT of movies over the past couple of years and these songs are inspired by those movies and the music in those movies. Some songs narrate characters from the films. Others like ‘What are you Gonna Do When You Find Bigfoot’ are just about these films that were fascinating. I mean, I’m not really into Bigfoot myself, but these people were so engulfed by this idea that [bigfoot] is out there, that we were compelled to write a song about it.
Evan: Yeah. St. Louis has all these great little places to see films and some really good film festivals and we were watching all these films and writing music and we kept noticing that the themes from the films kept popping up in our lyrics and the feel of the songs. So we just decided to go with it and Projection Room embodies that period of watching all these movies and that surrounding our thoughts in making the music.
Examiner: So, ‘Batman: The Ride‘, is that about the movie or something else?
Paige: That one’s not really about a movie, so much as a vivid memory I have of going to ride the Batman ride at Six Flags for the first time as a teenager. It’s not just me either! A lot of adults I talk to that are my age, had this same experience with the marketing of that ride around junior high [I admit I remember the campaign too]. I remember seeing the commercials and being so excited! Then I get to the park and I end up waiting an hour and a half to ride the ride and it was one of the best rides I remember as a kid. Totally worth it!
I called Evan one day about it because it was on my mind and before the conversation was over we were already writing music for it and everything. We actually played that song for the first time at a comic book store. We’re both comic book fans and we played at Star Clipper in the Loop for a comic book release. We just called and asked if we could play, and the people there were like, ‘well, we’ve never had a rock band play at an event before but why not?’ and so we played and we debuted Batman: The Ride there.
Examiner: Do you have any favorite songs coming off of the new album?
Evan: Batman: The Ride is a Saint Louis favorite, so we love playing that one. At the Pageant show, we’re releasing a song called Hold Yr Ground which is about our experience living on Cherokee Street and our thoughts on that part of St. Louis.
Paige: I really like playing ‘Don’t You Start’ because I get to loop my own voice in real time on stage. I don’t get to do that with many other songs. Then there’s ‘All I Do is Dream’ which comes from ‘Singing in the Rain‘. Any time I can mix what I love about rock and roll with what Fred Astaire did or Gene Kelly I will. I love both of those things, so I want to combine them as much as possible!
Examiner: Evan – you run Eleven magazine don’t you? How do you balance your duties with Eleven and still have time for everything Sleepy Kitty?
Evan: Yes! I’m editor-in-chief actually. Well, we moved here five years ago from Chicago and we had both Sleepy Kitty and Sleepy Kitty arts going at the same time which is screen printing and other media. I was also doing some writing of my own. I have a lot of experience in producing print media and I’ve always liked having lots of things I’m juggling so when the position at Eleven opened up a couple of years ago, I jumped on it. Before we would just rant to our friends and fans about the music we were listening to and everything else we were into. Now I have a real outlet to rant about those same things, to a much wider audience [chuckles]
Examiner: What about you Paige? What other endeavors do you have going currently?
Paige: I still work on Sleepy Kitty arts, I fill in at Eleven magazine and I was a vocal instructor at Camp Jam, a kid’s rock and roll camp. Through Sleepy Kitty arts I’ve done a lot of album artwork for other local artists as well as some posters. Not as many posters, but I still make them.
Examiner: very cool. So why did you move here from Chicago? Was is mainly economical? Were there other reasons?
Paige: We did come to St. Louis for mainly economic reasons, but we stayed for much more than that. In Chicago we were living in a neighborhood of artists that had passed its peak for it to be a good time to be an artist in that area. Also, with Sleepy Kitty arts – screen printing, art space and studio space all in one place, we were growing out of our apartment. When we moved to St. Louis we could see that it was a great time to be doing art and music here.
Evan: We saw a lot of people putting in hard work, finding buildings and opening art galleries or other kinds of venues and just making it work. So we found a building to work on, really put in some elbow grease and went to work ourselves.
Paige: One of the main reasons St. Louis works for us is because it is a city. I prefer the city life. I grew up in a rural area outside of St. Louis, but I’ve always been in love with city life.
Evan: I grew up in the northwest and moved to Seattle in 1991 right as it was exploding. In Seattle during the alternative rock period, we had dozens of bands that were ready to make a leap to the next level, that got to develop in private. I see the same thing happening in St. Louis right now. There’s such a rich music scene here! The musicians know, but the citizens don’t. Not really. There’s just a lot of really good bands here that haven’t been disturbed by the mainstream scene like you might see in L.A., New York or Atlanta.
Examiner: Speaking of really good bands… Are there any that you really like or would suggest that people listen to? Besides yourselves of course.
Evan: We really like Middle Class Fashion. They’re on Tower Groove Records and we just split a 7-inch vinyl with them. They’re really good, and they’re also well known in St. Louis. Also Boreal Hills. They’re a force. They’re a two piece band like us and their energy on stage is amazing! Oh. Budchasers! If you haven’t had a chance to go see them, do it.
Examiner: Since you’ve both seen much more robust music scenes before, what would you say that St. Louis needs to take that next step, for the artists to become mainstream? Do we need more labels? Anything with infrastructure?
Evan: One thing we need here is more labels based in the city. You can see how many there are at Label Day this year on Labor Day weekend. We’re on Euclid Records and then there’s Tower Groove records and some others. Middle Class Fashion is on Tower Groove. Being on Euclid Records is really cool because they’ve been operating as a record store for so long and now they have a label to support more of the music scene.
Paige: St. Louis needs better public transit which is what makes Chicago and New York so much better. For example, when we were up in Manhattan for a while, around load in time – like 4 in the evening – you could see bands hopping out of cabs, buses and every other form of public transport you can think of with their equipment, guitar cases and all. St. Louis needs more of this, because it makes it easier for bands to get around without having to buy or rent a van. Also, since alcohol is related to clubs, not having to worry about driving is a big plus for people who want to come to shows too. The city needs a more pedestrian focus.
Evan: What’s good is that clubs are bringing in good bands for St. Louis bands to play with. St. Louis bands are finding out that they need to go to other cities and represent for St. Louis well. They need to go to places like Nashville, Memphis, New York, Chicago, etc. Then the dots or threads will start to connect and get people excited about the scene. That’s just the way it works. St. Louis bands are starting to do a better job at that. Whenever we go out of town we make sure people know that we’re from St. Louis so they can understand that their really is a good music scene here.
Examiner: I always ask if there’s anything you want the fans to know or you want to say to the fans before we sign off. What would you want to tell your fans?
Evan: Definitely. I would say come to the Pageant show next Friday [8.23.2013]. We’re playing with three of our favorite bands – all with new tricks.
Paige: Yeah. At the show, our new CD single will be released so you can pick it up too.
[We exchange pleasantries and hang up the phone.]
Next time I’ll remember to ask Paige is she has any relation to the late great Dave Brubeck.