The band is characterized by professionalism and hard work, which manifests in a minimalistic style that provides a solid foundation for Brian’s vocal melodies and piercing lyricism, focusing on social issues that impact us all and to lead and inspire the movement to change and overcome them. The songs meld elements from genres such as hard rock, punk, and progressive rock, while also experimenting with softer moments featuring piano and acoustic guitar. Known for their “tight” live sound and expert stage presence, Sleepwalker makes fans out of sound engineers, concert promoters, and music fans alike. Brian took some time to answer questions over email.
State your name and role in the band
My name is Brian, and I am the singer of Sleepwalker. The other members of the band are Matt Horn on drums, Joe Gerhard on bass, and Michael Gessert on guitar.
For starters, what bands were you guys a part of prior to Sleepwalker? How long has the band been around?
Sleepwalker has been around for just about two years now, however we have all been a part of local bands in the past such as Yellow The Vertical, At Least We’re Dreaming, The Ivy, The Anatomy of Suffering, Mi Amor, The Rescue Plan, and a handful of others along the way.
What’s the origin of the band name?
In the context of our band, the name is more of a comment on the state of humanity today—particularly in America. People seem to have forgotten what it means to truly be alive and think for themselves instead of taking what they see on cable news and in newspapers as fact. A “sleepwalker” to us is someone who lives their life being content with working a job they dislike, never seeing the world for what it has to offer, and choosing which side of the line they fall in terms of politics, socioeconomic class, race, religion and so forth. Those lines are a means to divide us as people and only hold us back, and some are slowly waking up and realizing that.
How did you meet each other?
Joe and I have known each other since early high school when our first bands played backyard shows together. Not long after that, we found ourselves in the same band and went to record demos with Michael—who was getting into audio engineering. We stayed friends throughout the years and all three of us were in the same band a few years back which had just parted ways with our drummer. I got contacted by Matt, who had heard about the opening and wanted to try out. Minutes into playing music in the same room together, we knew we had our guy.
Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs and do you think these topics will change over time?
The music is a huge collaboration between Michael, Matt, and Joe. I write all the vocals and lyrics which is either the starting point for a song or the final piece. As far as topics, I try and write things that are empowering to the open-minded individual, or maybe even a spark that causes a listener/reader to think outside their box for the first time. Our earlier songs have some lyrics associated with girls and social experiences, but the transition from that mindset to a more forward-thinking and relevant array of themes is apparent on our debut album “New Age Inertia”. Listen to “Black Plague (Miss California)” and then to “New Age Inertia” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. We grew up as a band during the recording process, but it adds a cool dynamic to the album as well as a glimpse of what we’ll be diving into going forward.
What was the very first concert you attended and how much of an impact did that have on you musically?
Going to see friends play in someone’s backyard was an extremely common event when we started high school, but the first “real” concert I went to was to see Taking Back Sunday play at the Marquee Theater. It was the first time I saw a great band play a big stage with big amps, big lights, banners, the works. It gave me a mental picture to set goals around and start working towards.
What are some of your favorite venues/cities that you like to play in? Any standout experiences that you’ve had (good or bad)?
We’ve had some great shows in Arizona since being a band, namely Tempe, Scottsdale, Prescott, and Tucson. We’ve met so many people that are excited about our band or music in general and it’s a great feeling that has pushed us over personal hurdles along the way. Playing out of state is still something that we’re doing when we can, and we had an amazing time playing Hollywood back in December for the finals of the 2011 Ernie Ball Battle of The Bands. Everyone who was involved with the event made us feel at home there, and we made a lot of new friends in the other bands, local music lovers, people involved in the business, and more. We can’t wait to play in towns and states we haven’t been to before, the excitement involved with playing a new stage and to fresh faces is always on our minds.
How to does feel to be on Vans Warped Tour a for week?
It’s unbelievable. We had a great, sweaty time playing the AZ date last summer and are ecstatic to be branching out this year. It’s a great feeling being a rookie band on the same tour as so many groups that we look up to (Taking Back Sunday, The Used, New Found Glory, Every Time I Die), and hopefully we get the chance to learn as much as we can from the veterans while we’re out there. We plan to make the most of the experience and gain as many fans as possible along the way.
Last question: What is one book AND one band that you’d personally recommend to anyone that listens to Sleepwalker and what reasons do you have to support your choices?
1984 by George Orwell is a good one, because it warns of various dangers involved with people giving up their freedoms and turning into a brain-washed and paranoid society that has forgotten what the other way of life was like. It at least exposes your mind to a lot of “what-ifs” that don’t get brought up on an everyday basis but are thoughts that everyone should at least entertain during times like these. When it comes to bands, there are SO many we love and hope others listen to. I suppose a current band that has a lot of similarities to us at least when it comes to having a social-oriented message is Enter Shikari. The topics they touch on in their songs, especially on their new album “A Flash Flood of Colour”, seem to be pro-society, anti-tyranny and promoting sustainability from what I’ve taken from it. It’s awesome hearing and seeing another band attacking the problems in the world and calling others to action like we try to do. It’s become a goal of ours to play with them someday and hopefully sit down and hear what they have to say, I think it’d be refreshing. Until then, everyone should check them out and LISTEN to what they’re trying to communicate. We as a people are sharing this planet and we have a lot to learn from one another, I think that we forget that at times.