Incoming: A re-branded Walking Sleep hopes to break its curse with women
Walking Sleep's bouncy orchestrated pop tends toward the upbeat. With an emphasis on harmonies, the act's jaunty, keyboard-enhanced melodies were right at home on an outdoor stage during sundown at the first-ever Silver Lake Jubilee festival this weekend. One would have never have guessed that the band keeps driving women away.
Walking Sleep's newest addition is multi-instrumentalist/singer Sara Radle, better known around these parts as a former member of the Rentals. She's Walking Sleep's fourth female singer in about three years.
"I’m hoping it’s not because this is a hostile environment," singer/guitarist Hunter Curra said. "We’re very gentlemanly men. After having this happen so many times, we have to break the curse."
Walking Sleep's attempts to reverse its fortunes will officially begin this week with the release of debut full-length, "Measures." The band will celebrate the recording with an album release show Saturday at the Bootleg Theater. Self-financed and self-released, it's an initial offering that's brimming with confidence.
"The Cause" is a rush of keyboard textures that opens the album with a grand power-pop overture, while "Let It Go On" is a string-boosted waltz that echoes the craftsmanship of Belle & Sebastian, coming to a close with the gracefully inter-twined male/female vocals that mark all of Walking Sleep's material.
"I love vocal harmonies," Curra said. "I didn’t have a choir background, but I sing to a lot of songs in my car. Instead of trying to sing with the singer, I always tried to sing some sort of harmony line on top. It sounded horrible, but I liked doing the math in my head. I’m writing for the band, and we have a certain aesthetic, and we want to keep it contained. We want people to know what they’re listening to."
Though there's a playfulness to the band's sound, there is a darker undercurrent that runs through it as well. "Final Chapter," above, said Curra, is loosely inspired by a couple going through a divorce. The song's original rhythm was a rip on Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual," but eventually morphed into something a bit harder.
"We wanted to capture that sound, and we played it forever around that beat," Curra said. "But it was so hard to make it work. It’s not that simple of a song. So we kept practicing with it and found a Brit-rock, garagey-sort-of sound instead."
Walking Sleep's names may be relatively new on the scene, but the band was around in a previous incarnation as the Flying Tourbillon Orchestra. Curra, who by day does sound design for animated television, with work on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block of programming among his credits, felt it was time to say goodbye to the act's original name with the release of "Measures." Going under the Flying Tourbillon Orchestra, said Curra, probably wasn't the wisest of business decisions.
"We were having issues with the name, in terms of mispronunciations and misspellings," Curra said. "There was general confusion. Friends and family were having trouble with the name. So even though we loved it, we decided to make it a little easier on ourselves.
"Being an independent band that’s relying on word of mouth, people have to be able to recommend you to your friends," Curra continued. "If they can’t pronounce or remember the name, then you have a problem."
Walking Sleep at the Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., on May 29. Tickets are $8, and available in advance online.
Other notable shows this week:
Bitches Friday at the Smell. Sloppy, low-fi punk rock, the English duo don't have a ton of music to their name yet, but here's hoping more of it is along the lines of "Can't Love." It's over and done with in about 90 seconds, but its distorted guitars recall Wire at their most ferocious, and the back-and-forth male/female vocals are built for shouting. The Smell, 247. S Main St., Los Angeles. Tickets are $5.
Lost in the Trees Thursday at the Troubadour. The latest addition to Epitaph's Anti- imprint, Lost in the Trees sometimes seem more fit for a chamber hall than a rock club. This is folk rock with a classical bent, and the band's upcoming debut for the label, "All Alone in an Empty House," is an enchanting collection of mini-symphonies. Lost in the Trees at the Troubadour with Plants & Animals, 9801 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets are $12.
Spectrum Thursday at Spaceland. The latest project from Pete Kember -- known as Sonic Boom of Spaceman 3 to those raised on mid-'80s psychedelic rock -- Spectrum continues the tradition of lost-in-space organs, tripped-out fuzz-laden guitars and Velvet Underground-inspired urban moodiness. Spectrum with the Meek at Spaceland, 1717 Silver Lake Blvd. Tickets are $10.
-- Todd Martens
Photo: Walking Sleep. Credit: Team Clermont