A lot has unfolded since Sleeping Bag's 2011 self-titled debut. The Bloomington group has continued releasing irresistible slack-inspired gems under the leadership of drummer/vocalist Dave Segedy, but the frontman's surrounding cast has changed entirely, with the friendly departures of guitarist Lewis Rogers (for Busman's Holiday pursuits) and bassist David Woodruff (for creative differences). Nevertheless, the three-piece shreds on, bringing us their heaviest record yet, both mentally and sonically.
Tuesday brought the release of Sleeping Bag's third full-length album, titled Deep Sleep on Joyful Noise. Now featuring Tyler Smith on guitar and Glenn Myers on bass, the record is the band's most collaborative effort to date, resulting in an exciting shift in their overall sound.
The Deep Sleep writing process began two years ago, according to Segedy, before 2012's Women of Your Life was even released. But it wouldn't be until the following summer that his foundational ideas would begin taking shape, with the help of a friend he'd made through working at Bloomingfoods and SC Distribution: Tyler Smith. Before officially joining Sleeping Bag, the guitarist says, "They were definitely my favorite band around." So when Segedy summoned him for help with his next batch of tracks, things just seemed right.
"It was a great time for me to join the band because I already respected what Dave was doing, and to have the opportunity to help him was awesome for me," Smith says.
Without a bassist, the guitarist and drummer steered clear of shows over the summer of 2013, deciding instead to craft something out of the demo concepts Segedy had at hand.
"Dave pretty much had the concrete idea of what he wanted the songs to be like, but him and I spent a lot of hours in my basement just working around different ideas and seeing what worked and what didn't," Smith recalls. "It was pretty collaborative in the fact that we just tossed around ideas with each other and worked on different arrangements and different dynamics with the songs, and what came out, came out."
Smith eventually approached Myers, a friend, about joining the group. The experienced bassist (The Calumet Reel, Heather French Henry) accepted, having also been a fan of Sleeping Bag previously. Myers remembers, "I hadn't met Dave before joining the band, but we ended up getting along just fine. Tyler and I were longtime buds, so the three of us hit it off pretty quickly."
When it came time to record, the band turned to a pair of Bloomington recording wizards, who they now refer to as their pair of George Martins. In Andy Beargie (who also recorded Rozwell Kid & Sleeping Bag's Dreamboats EP) and Eric Day, Sleeping Bag was able to find its perfect match in the studio. Segedy reflects, "I feel like if we were to record a new record tomorrow, we would get those two people.
"We sort of feel like we've found our foundation," Smith says. "This is who we want to work with and how we want to sound from here on out."
A HEAVY MENTAL UNDERTAKING
During an interview this past March, Segedy told me, "I was sent to the hospital three times in between Women of Your Life and today. That was a challenge, but Tyler and Glenn were really supportive."
He continued: "I bring it up just because when I was in there, it was hell, and in order for me to go to sleep, I would start planning the drum parts to the record or maybe work on lyrics or something. It was kind of meditative to just think about the record while I was in there."
The songwriter's lyrical expressions throughout Deep Sleep shed an ambiguous light on the dark time in his life.
"I had a really big issue about being paranoid, which kind of led me to go to the hospital a bunch. I wasn't trying to make the record about that, but it kind of seems like it was."
E.g.: "Riff Randall," where Segedy sings, "I wanna be the dog that I am / I wanna be the lawn mown man / I wanna feed the dog that I am." Segedy steers clear of being overly revealing, according to Smith.
"Speaking outside of being in the band and going back to just being a fan of the band, this is, I feel, the most interesting record just because it really shows how great of a songwriter Dave is," he says. "I mean, on a personal level for Dave, it's a heavy record lyrically, but when you listen to it, it's not overtly like, 'Oh. Dave's been through some shit. This is some heavy stuff.'"
Although he wasn't responsible for coming up with the album's title, Segedy felt that Deep Sleep was a fitting name for his most emotionally evocative effort to date. In fact, he recalls feeling a great sense of relief upon first listening to the album's rough mixes. Segedy: "I ended up falling asleep because it just kind of relaxed me and I wasn't worried about it."
Sleeping Bag, in its earlier incarnation.
Deep Sleep also marks a pivotal point in Smith's music career as well. Having acquired a love for "bitchin' guitar solos" and "sick tones" in his younger years, the guitarist had never truly been able to express himself quite like he did with this album.
"For me, personally, this was an outlet to explore what I've always wanted to explore with tone and my ability to play guitar, and I feel like I've lived up to what I wanted to create," Smith says. "Dave and I both, we are way more into heavier, fuzzier guitar tones and stuff, and we just took that influence and ran with it for this record."
So while the heavier Deep Sleep direction may catch longtime fans of the band a bit off guard, there's no question Sleeping Bag's third full-length is a fulfilling milestone for the Bloomington trio.
A HOLE IN ONE
Joyful Noise Recordings' relationship, with Sleeping Bag began in August of 2011, with the release of the group's self-titled debut, but Segedy's personal ties with the record label's president and curator, Karl Hofstetter, stem back much further. While attending the same high school, the two grew close thanks to their love for drumming. Segedy recalls: "I knew him because he was in bands and he was a drummer, and we've always kind of had this strong bond about music and we talked about drums all the time. He was like, 'Yeah. If you ever have anything musically you want to do, just send it to me and I'll see what I can do,'" Segedy says. "So I did, and that was the start of our business relationship."
"Still Life," from Women of Your Life
From the label's 80th release (Sleeping Bag) to its 141st (Deep Sleep), three years have passed, with the Joyful Noise captain remaining a fan and supporter of the band throughout. But with the group's latest release in particular, Hofstetter definitely appreciates the recent sonic evolution.
"I've loved Dave Segedy's songwriting for many years, and with the new album he was able to simultaneously retain the distinctively harmonious songwriting I've grown to love, while growing the music into something new and way more epic," Hofstetter says. "Before hearing this album I couldn't have imagined a Sleeping Bag album ending with an eight-minute guitar solo-laden closer. But that's exactly how Deep Sleep ends, and it works."
"This record is more along the lines of how he envisioned Sleeping Bag from the beginning — the way he wanted the band to sound and the tones," Smith says.
Looking forward, Myers, Segedy and Smith have no extensive tour plans, save for two release shows this weekend (see infobox). Nevertheless, the trio hopes to use the resources they have available to ensure this complex and heavy record reaches as many ears as possible.
"We've got a pretty strong plan in place for what we hope to accomplish with the record," Smith says. "We think that it's a solid record, and it has the potential to do very well. We basically just have to release it and let it do what it's going to do."