JANUARY 21, 2022 (Fort Pierce, FL) — “We’ve recorded this damn album, like, three times now,” laughed bassist Alex Peck, referencing Sandman Sleeps’ perfectionism on their debut album, Crisis Actor [release date: March 26, 2021] that took nearly a decade to complete. Embroidering songs old and new with honed musicality and diverse life experience, the band was originally formed by Cristina Peck and her bassist sister Alex as teens, but between spells of separation and togetherness, of depression and exploration, in art school and in various cities and bands, the sisters missed their unspoken sibling synergy that was absent when they were isolated from one another. Sandman Sleeps reconvened with renewed passion in 2019 and was enhanced even more with the addition of drummer Karsten Andersen and guitarist Zack Jones in early 2020. The album’s mesmerizing first single “Portrait of Jennie” (out today) was written by Cristina in June of 2020 amidst the “oddly liberating claustrophobia” of being co-quarantined on Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway with her then-partner, a time in which she says she was “physically trapped yet increasingly spiritually free.” Spill Magazine premieres the new track in their feature HERE.
Listen to “Portrait of Jennie”:
While in that COVID-caused quarantine, Cristina says she had little to no energy, and it became a goal each day to take a few steps out on the beach area, spending most of her time looking out the window. “The beautiful morning light coming in through the window and the surreal headiness of being sick and scared definitely played into the lyrics,” she says. Having recently watched the 1948 classic film Portrait of Jennie, she also took inspiration from the movie’s fantastical plot: star-crossed lovers intertwined by time travel that brings them together but ultimately splits them apart. “They only had so much time together before they would be separated by an outside force again.”
Since Cristina barely had energy while writing the track due to her battle with COVID, the tempo was very slow to start and it still felt very acoustic even by the time she showed “Portrait of Jennie” to Alex. Cristina says, Alex then wrote a “dynamic and rooting” bass part which added an “intensity” to the song and the sound became even more visceral while playing it with the full band. “Karsten made up an interesting, syncopated rhythm for the pre-chorus and chorus which fit perfectly, while Zack’s guitar playing rooted with the bass for the verses and then using dreamy tones for the choruses, added to this sense of swinging back and forth from reality to dreamworld/other dimension,” she adds.
As a result of how the band usually creates music (“not having a concrete mapped out plan for the sound as it gives [them] a lot of room to be creative and write [their] own parts”), Sandman Sleeps merge various musical genres without ever feeling too muddled. Cristina says that the energy of this album is probably the most consistent theme, “For me personally it feels a bit like ‘give it your all because you don’t know if this is the last time.’ I feel this energy is woven into the live performance aspect of our band as well. Perhaps Covid aided in this. I think we all tried to use this energy to our greatest advantage and to keep momentum going.”
The album’s dynamic arrangements and Cristina’s glacial, borderline Bjork timbre lead by the hand rather than beaten over the head. There’s a subtle yet insistent power of suggestion in its soaring melodies, lurking basslines, and shape-shifting guitars. A cohesive album that refuses to settle for just one style, Crisis Actor features everything from ethereal, moody alternative (“Soaked, “Opaque,” “Induced”), punchy upbeat tropical punk leanings (“Feet,” “Fellini,” “Five Bell Alarm”) which capture the band’s restless on-stage chemistry and energy, and indie, alt pop tendencies (“Spiral,” “Rare Cloud”). Lyrically, she says, there are recurring themes such as fear of illness (coincidentally mostly not related to Covid), a hyperawareness of mind/body, love/break ups, as well as feelings of dissociation. Crisis Actor knows no boundaries and never panders, instead letting us run with its emotional hints to our own destinations, different on every listen.
As a whole, the Floridian band’s debut album Crisis Actor is effectively a “best-of” culled from a decade of songcraft. It’s an arresting, singularly evocative and authentic expression inspired by Pixies, Kate Bush, Talking Heads, and Tori Amos, yet not sounding like any of these – or anyone else.
Crisis Actor will be released on March 26, 2021 and can be pre-ordered/pre-saved at https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/sandmansleeps/crisis-actor.
7. “Five Bell Alarm”
8. “Portrait Of Jennie”
9. “Summer Rain”
10. “Rare Cloud”