Pic by Bethony Harnden

INTERVIEW: Austin Rock Band Sleeve Cannon

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

AT:  Hey, thanks for having us! I’m alright, global events considered.

TP: Optimistically unemployed

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Unaccompanied”?

AT: Yeah, we really had a great time with this song and personally I love how it came out. The slow-build in the intro is one of my favorite moments in the album and I’m delighted with how smooth it sounds. Definitely one of my favorite tracks we’ve made.

TP: When I joined this group the track was very synth heavy, and I’m happy with what I was able to bring sonically and how my guitar work could influence the arrangement to bring the energy that can appropriately compliment Anton’s lyricism. I come from a funk background, and this hip hop, kind of rap rock sound was a perfect opportunity to bring something different to the Sleeve Cannon sound.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

AT: As cliche as it might sound, this one lyrically is inspired by a breakup. I found myself comparing the feeling of withdrawal from a toxic relationship to that of quitting a drug cold-turkey.

At the same time the stylistic arrangement and the hip-hop melody allowed me to sonically demonstrate the fun, mesmerizing but ultimately toxic traits I brought into the dynamic as well. It’s intentionally not a tragic or empowering breakup song; it’s about the duality of rationally taking responsibility for my own share of what made it all implode while simultaneously illustrating that physical/emotional pull, that persistent temptation you can feel that leaves you second-guessing your decision and wondering “did I do the right thing? Should I give this one more chance? Should I send this 2AM  ‘I miss u’ text?” Stylistically it was also a chance for our band to stretch our wings and explore aspects of a genre we usually don’t play.

Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?

AT: Yes! The pandemic has obviously put a monkey wrench in our plans but we definitely do want to make a video and have tossed a few ideas around about what it could eventually look like.

The single comes off your new album KAPTV – what’s the story behind the title?

AT: We pronounce it “Captive.” Personally I envision a sinister TV or radio station playing to a captive audience. Sort of an on-the-nose metaphor for media domination of our culture. It’s also a combination of all of our first and last initials without repeating any of them. I think that pays homage to the fact that each of us really had a voice in writing, crafting, and creating this debut LP.

How was the recording and writing process?

TP: The first song I started to work on in the studio with these guys was our first single and music video, “Contagious.” At this point the drums and bass were already recorded before I had joined the group, so we recorded the guitar and vocals afterwards with my humble studio equipment at Anton’s house, and repeated the process in my apartment for “Vault.” For the rest of the tracks, we crammed all the instrumental tracking at SPACE here in Austin, where I got to play around with some nicer gear. I always prefer doing as much live recording as possible to retain the kind of energy we display on stage, while also balancing some more indulgent layered guitar overdubs. Anton, being the trooper he is, recorded almost all of his vocals either live in the control room while we tracked scratch tracks or in the last couple of hours while we ran out the clock on our studio reservation. For the next six months I had to do a lot of learning, and experimenting with mixing and tracking layers of harmonized backing vocals in my home studio. Especially on Cave. I tracked almost 30 different vocal layers for a huge choir, having to enlist my girlfriend and quarantine partner Dalynn Grace for the highest soprano vocals. You can hear her more prominently during the breakdown of the final song on the album, “Wrecked.”

I’m grateful for this album for pushing me in my production and arranging skills. I still don’t think I know how to master, but I got myself a little closer to proficiency in the art through this process.

What role does Austin play in your music?

AT: There are so many talented bands and musicians in this city that it makes you want to up your game. Back when the world was open there was always inspiration to be found by other bands doing amazing things live. To my nerdier friends I’ve compared playing music here to training in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber from DragonBall Z—every day outside is a year inside. Everyone and their dog is making music here so you have to find ways to go above and beyond to hold people’s attention because there are so many other options. It’s also generally way more friendly than it is cutthroat though. The most amazing and prolific musicians I’ve met here are also some of the most down to Earth and supportive of other music. It’s truly a community at its core.

What aspects of social media did you get to explore on this record?

AT: I know the director of ‘Breaking Bad’ Vince Gilligan said that in shooting in Albuquerque, NM, he saw the city become its own character in the show. Similarly, I view social media as both a character and setting on this album. Thematically it really serves as a glue to connect the individual messages of the songs to each other. Every song sort of takes on a different issue or aspect of what it means to live in a reality where the lines between public/private, art/meme, news/marketing are so blurred, but that constant interconnectedness is an omnipresent theme.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

AT: For all songs besides “Wrecked” I wrote the lyrics and vocal melodies to fit the existing instrumentals that the rest of the band had worked out together. Having that sort of self-imposed limit of needing to fit within those confines allowed me to narrow my focus into hitting maybe one or two phrases that sounded good in that space, and what those phrases were talking about always comes up deep from the subconscious. But if the phrase that came out were about being eaten by zombies and being lost in the woods, I can write a whole song around those phrases. It’s almost free association at first, but you really start to see greater themes laid bare in retrospect.

For “Wrecked,” the chorus came to me in the shower and I basically jumped out still dripping wet to write the rest. I’ve always been really terrified of getting into a car accident, so I think writing a song just very specifically describing that fear in detail was exhilarating and honestly pretty cathartic.

TP: “Wrecked”is special to me because it’s the first time I got to be involved in the band’s writing process. In writing the instrumental for the song I tried to take inspiration for some different sources than what I normally would. In particular, Anton’s vocals in the bridge gave me the idea for a symphonic metal type ostinato that would later feature some aforementioned operatic vocal accompaniment.

 Any plans to hit the road?

AT: We had a great tour through Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona last year and wanted to do another this year, but like everyone, the pandemic changed our plans. Hopefully, once it’s safe to do so, we can hit the road again.

TP: We had two separate double tours planned for this summer in conjunction with my other band Blue Tongue that I was really looking forward to before the apocalypse hit. I can’t wait to tour with everyone when the world returns to normal, as our last tour was one of the best experiences of my life.

What else is happening next in Sleeve Cannon’s world?

TP: Singles, live album, EP, music videos, Kyle Tapia brand cologne and more.

AT: It’s true. Kyle Tapia is our drummer and he smells amazing.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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