Exclusive interview with:
THEY SLEEP WE LIVE (Jens)
from Bremen, Germany
Order 12"EP w/silkscreened B-side from:
USA/CANADA = Zegema Beach Records (here)
ASIA = Framecode Records (here)
EUROPE = Pike Records (here)
Koepfen Records (here)
Samegrey Records (here)
Dingleberry Records (here)
1) How did you band come into existence?
It was during the summer of 2014, I (Jens) met Nico at an Old Soul Show in Bremen. His old band “Manku Kapak” was going to disband in a foreseeable time, so he was kind of seeking for a new project and asked me if I would like to start something new with him. We knew each other before from different shows and my part in Moment Of Collapse Records. I was always impressed by the passion Nico exuded while he was playing or talking about music in general, so I immediately decided to join him.
The next day I talked to Dirk, also a close friend, that I played in different bands with and asked him to join my and Nico's new project. During this time Dirk and I played together in Black Everest and before that band in Only For The Sake Of Aching. He joined the band under the consideration that Black Everest will be our priority. Contemporary Black Everest lost drive due to different reasons and Dirk left Black Everest, which meant that They Sleep We Live was focused way more than before. We started as a three piece band, wrote the first bunch of songs and played an overabundance of shows.
To record our songs we started working with Fabian, which was as things turned out, a cooperation with consequences. After three intense days in his studio recording our debut 12inch “Escaping the Measures of Time” as well as the song for the split 5" with Piri Reis, it felt like Fabian was almost part of the band. The connection the four of us shared was as pleasant as it can get, so it felt absolutely right to ask Fabian at some point later to join They Sleep We Live. He joined us in October 2016, since then it’s Nico on guitar, Dirk on drums, Fabian on guitar and me on bass. The vocals are split between all members.
2) Who were your initial influences, and how has that changed over time? What bands/music are influencing you now?
All of us have been playing in bands for years, most of those bands played music that was labeled with tags like screamo, emo, heartcore and whatnot. I would say Nico, Dirk and me are highly influenced by bands that we listened to during our first years in active bands. To name a few I would list Louise Cyphre, Yaphet Kotto, Saetia, Orchid, Song of Zarathustra, Suicide Nation, The Spirit Of Versailes, Portrait, I Would Set Myself On Fire For You, Neil Perry, Yage, Knives And Greenwater, Usurp Synapse, The Locust, Swing Kids, The Khayembii Communique, The Red Scare… that list could go on for a while. I guess Fabian is initially more influenced by heavy and grindy stuff.
Meanwhile all of us would add more kinds of music if it comes to current influences. That range includes classical music, jazz noir, post-rock, soul/funk and ambient music. During the last few years I started listening to a lot of soundtracks, especially synth-based stuff from the 80’s and older horror flicks - stuff like John Carpenter, Alan Howarth, Angelo Badalamenti and Fred Myrow.
The musical influence was only half of the impact, the other half that is still influencing and motivating us day by day, is the basic principle of this diy-based musical movement and its inherent network of open minded people that try to make a difference towards a world that is based on capitalism and exploitation. This includes people all around the world setting up shows, fighting for space that can be filled with art, people publishing zines/blogs, people releasing records from their bedrooms as well as people visiting the local punk shows to support touring bands. That list could on for a while as well.
3) Was there any kind of message conceived by the band early on that you try to convey to listeners?
There is a little plea that is connected to our band name, a message that we don’t only convey to listeners but also to ourselves. We all have our daily routines, roles, obligations and commitments, which involve the danger of acting like a robot and loosing grip on our consciousness. While getting measured by time, we forget to appreciate the basics of an actual comfortable life. Making music within this band, playing shows, recording songs and screaming out the anger that we feel towards many points that we don’t agree with, is our answer to a questionable world and outlet to all the routines/problems we face in our everyday life. If you wanna put this in a kind of message you can say that it’s simply about making yourself aware, right here and now. No more, no less.
4) Why the band name, THEY SLEEP WE LIVE?
While meeting for the first rehearsals at Nico's parents' house and checking his vinyl collection, I found a couple of John Carpenter Soundtracks and was stoked to see that he was into this kind of music. It was a coincidence that I was digging through this stuff right at that time, too. So Nico and I first came up with the idea to name this band “Season of the Witch”, which is the title of the third Halloween movie by John Carpenter which, by the way, is one of the most underrated movies with an excellent soundtrack. Since Dirk isn’t that much into the Carpenter related stuff and didn’t agree with name we had to find a new one. We ended talking about this movie “They Live - We Sleep”, surprise surprise, a John Carpenter movie and somehow became set on the idea of changing the title to They Sleep We Live and use it as band name. As mentioned in the previous question, we connect the name to the plea of making yourself aware and make sure that you are alive and not sleeping. The movie “They Live” is dealing with this topic as well and I only can recommend everybody to watch it.
5) How did the split 7” with Vi som alskade varandra sa mycket come about?
At some point I recognized that Blood Of The Young Records in the US was releasing music again and found Vi som alskade varandra sa mycket. Since US postage costs are a neck breaker, I asked the band if they could send a bunch of records from Sweden to our place and they did. Quickly I developed a nice connection with Arvid, who sings for VSÄVSM, which led into the idea of a split. We are absolutely thankful for that split.
Order 7" split here, as well as everything VSÄVSM has ever released.
6) Tell us about the 12” ‘Escaping the Measures of Time’. What is the theme? Can you discuss the lyrics? What about the art? The music video? Was the writing process different than the split 7”? What have been the most rewarding and difficult things during the process thus far?
“Escaping the Measures of Time” is carrying the first four songs we wrote back in 2014/2015. We wrote those songs as they came by without any related concept. The song for the split 7inch was written later, with knowing that we would like to use it on that release. The most rewarding thing during the whole process is the common spent time within this band. We have a smooth foundation that is composed of friendship, appreciation and passion. The difficult part for this band is to find windows of common time. Two of us already have kids and family, we have our jobs, studies and commitments.
The release title can be more connected to our band name and the story behind that. As mentioned above, this band is our outlet and kind of escape from routines and static drains, which often get measured in time.
Content-wise the first song “empty shells broken hearts” deals with the loss of a loved person and the void you have to face after this person is gone. “Equilibrium”, the second song, is about the situation of people with handicaps and how society faces these people and tries to include them as part of the assembly line to generate more profit. Up next is “asunder”, a song about terrifying porosity towards right wing tendencies within the music movement that we are part of. The last song is “what remains”, textual dealing with the anti-Semitism during the national-socialism in Germany during the second world war and the alarming frequency of finding matching mindsets in today’s society all around the world.
When we announced the release of “Escaping the Measures of Time” we wrote following words…
“These four songs are our statement to a world that is unalienable connected to capitalism, exploitation and struggle. These four songs are a statement to a society that missed to learn from its own history and set increasing space for racism, anti-semitism and other uncountable faces of oppression. Furthermore we release these four songs as statement to a life, that gets measured in time, making you forget that you're alive and leaves you in doubts about your own existence.”
Rodrigo Almanegra contributed the artwork and we are stunned how his drawings turned out. On the cover you have eight different instruments humanity has used to measure time from the early history till today. Since the release will be a one-sided 12inch vinyl we choose to use the space on the b-side for a print. Rodrigo drew the scene of Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” movie, where a young man finds his task in taking care for the rotation of the factory clock. So the idea behind the album title is going through all parts of Rodrigo's artwork as well.
“Escaping the Measures of Time” will be released with the helping hands of Pike Records, Koepfen Records, Dingleberry Records, Samegrey Records, Zegema Beach Records and Framecode Records.
7) THEY SLEEP WE LIVE has a split 5’ with Piri Reis coming out, what can you tell us about that?
Yup, we recorded “fire walk with me” for that release, which was a little bit of a struggle since we are used to writing longer songs. With 2:30 we had to speed up everything and managed to compress it a bit. Arwith from Piri Reis is an old friend, some of you maybe know him from his work with Utarid, Kias Fansuri, Quantis as well as his label Utarid Tapes and Framecode Records. We stayed in touch during all those years and after Piri Reis released their demo tape and the split 10inch with Coma Regalia we simply had to ask them for a split release. We love their music and hope they will tour Europe at some point in the future. This odd format will be released in spring/summer 2017 with the help of some lovely record labels from all around the world.
8) You played at least one fest in Europe last summer, can you tell us about that/those experience(s)?
Our first three shows were Fiducia Fest in Mülheim, Miss The Stars Fest in Berlin and the mighty Cry Me A River Fest in Versmold, an unreal row of shows in passionate environments that are hard to describe. All these festivals have their own atmosphere with an overlap of lovely people and passion. We have been received with warm hands on all sides and had a wonderful time playing our set, connecting with other people, seeing old friends and making new ones, meeting the dudes of VSÄVSM for the very first time. As a band this is where we wanna be, and we can’t imagine anything better.
The Fidcia Crew is setting up the fest this year for the 6th time I think, Miss The Stars will be on its 4th edition and Cry Me A River fest is going on its 16th year or something like that, crazy. The people behind these festivals are fantastic and we are not getting tired to say how thankful we are being able to play such awesome locations in front of so many nice people who share the same spirit. Goosebumps alert!
9) What is your opinion of what is happening in the US/World right now?
Without writing a book, I would say it is absolutely horrifying and means a drastic change for the worse, especially for people who already suffered from disadvantage and discrimination before. The scale is of this tragedy is beyond measure. I hope for the best and fear the worst. It feels unreal to see how people with a mindset like Trump actually get elected and capture power over resources that could eliminate any life on this planet.
In the same moment we just have to take a look out our front door and realize that right wing parties register more and more intake and spread daily their message of hate, fear, disparity and national pride. It is inalienable to take a stand and try stop this progress. It all starts with you and your way to treat people. Without empathy this world is lost.
10) Is there anything else you’d like to discuss or get off your chest? Thank you so much for the interview!!!
Thanks for setting this up Dave, this blog is a nice archive of meaningful words and contributions. Thanks to everybody who read this. Please consider that I answered these questions mostly from my perspective, and I am just ¼ of this band and only the bassist. As our drummer always likes to say: There are musicians and there are bassists. Have a nice day and try to make a difference.
Moment Of Collapse Records