Exactly what one might imagine California to sound like if it could exude music from its sun-soaked core, psychedelic rockers Sleepy Sun left the punters at HiFi Bar on Monday night in awe of their powerful and seemingly effortless performance, their often whimsical, melodic, and guitar-laden tunes, and their all-round solid performance.
The five-piece hailing from San Francisco have been making beautiful music together for the better part of a decade, and this familiarity exudes from their tight performance. Admittedly not well-known on our shores despite their longevity, if audiences around the rest of the country are as impressed as they tour, hopefully it won’t be long before they are back for more.
The HiFi Bar was a great venue for such a band. It’s one of the best sounding live music venues in Melbourne, with uninterrupted views of the stage thanks to the open layout. Sleepy Sun’s often powerful vibrating guitar and booming percussion was absorbed perfectly within the HiFi’s walls, and lead vocalist Bret Constantino’s youthful, smooth and steady tones peaked over the music without being lost within it or overpowering it.
Sleepy Sun played material mostly from their latest album Spine Hits released in 2012, each song being as solid and soulful as the next, yet each holding its own uniqueness. Lioness was one of the more mellow, dream-like tracks encasing Bret’s powerful vocals toned down to a haunting quality, slowly swaying with the delicately played soft guitars by Matt Holliman and Evan Reiss, Jack Allen’s smooth as silk bass, and Brian Tice’s mellow percussion.
Stivey Pond is one of Sleepy Sun’s heavier tracks, and this is only compared to their most mellow. Listening to Stivey Pond on their album you can imagine how it could be a powerful track played live, but not until you hear it live can you appreciate its real muscle and almost epic-like guitar. A very Led Zeplin-esque quality is attached to it.
One aspect of Sleepy Sun’s performance that was enjoyable was their knack of lengthening tracks to epic levels, letting the guitars rule and play in the absence of lyrics for some time, simply jamming, letting their audience enjoy their musical genius! V.O.G is a great song to hear live: it’s a more upbeat track compared to the previous, and the tangents this song journeys on in the absence of Bret’s vocals was very enjoyable.
Creature was an interesting track: a psychedelic undertone carried Bret’s more urgent and almost strained vocals nicely, shooting off into a quickened pace at certain points in the song, leaving you feeling like you could be listening to the next best thing at 1960’s Woodstock if you closed your eyes. This song has something special when heard live.
One of the more amazing tracks was Martyr’s Mantra. It started small and quiet, with quickly strummed guitar and Bret’s easy-on-the-ear, mellow style vocals, then built slowly into fabulous, more energetic rock. It has a pop-like quality and is definitely a track that can be danced to.
There was limited crowd interaction, but in this case it didn’t matter to the punters, Sleepy Sun is the kind of music you want to get lost in without the distraction of conversation. Bret at one point did ask the crowd to “feel the power” and clap along, which everyone obeyed, as if in a trance.
The Cali boys have released two other albums previously in addition to their latest Spine Hits. Their debut Embrace was released in 2009 and Fever in 2010. Listening to their earlier music, their sound has transformed significantly in the last few years, with once co-lead vocalist Rachel Fannen departing in 2010. Sleepy Sun, however, have maintained and strengthened their sound since and have transitioned seemingly easily.
Sleepy Sun were a pleasant surprise, a fantastic live band that gave a consistent and solid performance to an eager crowd and no doubt are creating a new following of fans while they tour Down Under. Their sound is in line with what live music lovers want to see and hear more of, and they would fit in remarkably well at Aussie summer festivals should they return to our shores.
The boys only have a few dates left of their Australian tour before heading back to sunny California at the beginning of March, with Melbourne lucky enough to host them a second