"}
Music

Sleepy Sun

A story in two parts

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Although it’s a fair bet the band would prefer not to think of things this way, the biography of California psych rock band is a story in two parts.

The first begins, as so many musical origin stories do, with a bunch of guys in college who form a band. At first, they called themselves Mania, played garage rock, and were fronted by singer Brad Constantino. A couple of years later, in 2007, they added another lead vocalist, Rachel Fannan, and changed direction musically, becoming a psych rock band called Sleepy Sun.

Those modifications seemed to suit the band well, and when they released their debut album, Embrace, it would be to critical acclaim. The album was eventually picked up and rereleased by ATP (All Tomorrow’s Parties) Recordings, to an additional round of lauding by critics. Even persnickety Pitchfork approved, calling Sleepy Sun a group that has “designs on writing songs that still move you after the drugs wear off.”

That trend continued with the release of their sophomore album, 2010’s Fever, which saw the band further try and hone their version of stoner/psych rock and meld it with their obvious folk and classic rock influences.

As well, Sleepy Sun toured nearly constantly, racking up miles and playing show after show, in town after town. It was an effort that paid off in a reputation as a killer live band, and it was onstage where Constantino, Fannan, and Co. came closest to fulfilling the plentiful potential they’d shown on their highly praised albums. That reputation earned them a touring slot with Arctic Monkeys, as well as the Black Angels, a band to which Sleepy Sun has often been compared. Things were progressing nicely for the California psych rockers.

No matter how weird their music might get, no matter how fuzzed-out it sounded or how far down into the jamhole the band went, the dual vocals of Constantino and Fannan were a constant, compelling draw, an entry point that kept Sleepy Sun’s sound approachable while also serving to make the band distinctive. In short, it seemed they’d hit on a formula that, by all appearances, worked, and worked well.

Except that it didn’t.

Appearances can be deceiving, and behind the scenes all was not well between Fannan and the rest of the band. This discord erupted in painfully public fashion in September 2010, when Fannan abruptly left Sleepy Sun in the middle of a tour. Later, it became clear, via various statements made by Fannan and Constantino in which words like “difficult” and “volatile and “exhausting” were used freely by both parties, that the parting was as acrimonious as it was sudden and dramatic.

And so begins the second part of the Sleepy Sun story, the “after” part.

Perhaps fortunately, the band didn’t have time to consider what the breakup meant to their future, as they were too busy trying to manage what it meant in the present. They had to finish their string of U.S. dates before heading out for a European tour. They had to rearrange all their songs, culling their set list to those that could be performed with a single vocalist, jettisoning others until some future date—if such a time were to ever arrive. They had to do these things immediately, and they had to do them well enough that audiences would move past Fannan’s highly noticeable—and for a time, unexplained—absence and accept Sleepy Sun as a band that could survive, even thrive, without her.

If this were a classic comeback tale, this would be the point at which Sleepy Sun would finally and fully embrace its destiny and come into its own. But real life isn’t always like that. In real life, people often react to a situation in which they are thrown in an unanticipated direction with an overcorrection, a miscalculation that can result in an errant step before solid footing is found.

To a certain extent, that’s what Sleepy Sun’s first post-Fannan album, 2012’s Spine Hits, represented. While nothing was overtly wrong with the album, nothing was especially right either. Spine Hits was harmless, inoffensive, well-produced, pleasant. Some critics referred to it as being “safe,” a characterization that’s tough to disagree with. Simply put, Spine Hits was just fine. However, “just fine” isn’t a mark of distinction bands typically shoot for.

But Spine Hits did serve an important purpose: It showed that Sleepy Sun could, in fact, go on without Fannan. While the album wasn’t entirely realized, it had flashes of pure potential, and enough of them to suggest this band might just be on its way to regaining its footing and embracing its evolved identity.

All of which brings us to this juncture in Sleepy Sun’s second act, just a couple of months after the release of the band’s fourth album, Maui Tears, and just prior to its Sun., March 23 show at the Shakedown. With Maui Tears, Sleepy Sun has delivered on the promise shown on Spine Hits, and proven beyond a doubt that this iteration of the band can stand its own ground and can exist both alongside and separate from the Sleepy Sun of its previous life.

While some things have changed for Sleepy Sun during the tumultuous events of the past several years, one thing has remained constant: they continue to be a force to contend with live. Touring has always been this band’s mainstay—so much so that the loss of a band member caused them to miss neither a beat nor a show—and onstage they are never happier than when they are letting their freak flag fly.

SVCR-0603 Buffet_ 770x150 CW
More Music...
Hovander Homestead Bluegrass Festival
Party in the park

Several years ago, after undergoing a series of personal setbacks, I decided it was time to take my show on the road. Generally speaking, I’m a firm believer that wherever you go, there you are. But in this case, a change in geography seemed in order.

So, I moved to Ferndale.

While not…

more »
Wild Buffalo
From Minus the Bear to Macklemore

If you happened to wander past the Wild Buffalo last weekend, chances are pretty good you found that the normally lively music venue had gone dark, save for a private event Sunday night. This darkness probably confused you, as it is not the norm for the Buff, a place where a blank space in…

more »
Northwest Washington Fair
An affair to remember

By now it is no secret that I love the Northwest Washington Fair above almost all things in my life. Perhaps that sounds like hyperbole, the kind of exaggerated statement a person makes when they’re trying to grab your attention.

But with me, it’s stone cold truth.

It’s also not…

more »
Events
Today
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

5Point Adventure Film Festival

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Bow Little Market

1:00pm|Belfast Feed Store

Garden Dedication

3:00pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Blues, Brews & BBQ

5:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

Vintner Dinner

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Riverwalk Summer Concert Series

6:00pm|Riverwalk Park

Move to Amend

6:00pm|Mount Vernon

Fiction Writing Group

6:00pm|Village Books,

Elizabeth Park Concert Series

6:00pm|Elizabeth Park

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Northwood Steak and Crab 5 Point Film Festival
Tomorrow
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

5Point Adventure Film Festival

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

What's Next?

9:00am|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Wild Things

9:30am|Lake Padden

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Ferndale Farmers Market

1:00pm|Cherry Street

Barbecues and Beach Parties

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Ferndale Street Festival

6:00pm|Downtown Ferndale

Summer Concert Series Finale

6:00pm|Seafarers Park

Art Party

6:00pm|Tillie Lace Gallery

Farm Tunes

6:00pm|BelleWood Acres

Final Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

Final Dancing on the Green

7:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Wine and Music

7:00pm|Artifacts Cafe and Wine Bar

A Little Night Music

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Doubles

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Bellingham Farmer’s Market Village Books
Saturday
5Point Adventure Film Festival

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Barbecues and Beach Parties

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Ferndale Street Festival

6:00pm|Downtown Ferndale

Final Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

A Little Night Music

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Doubles

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Hall

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner

Sedro Car Show

9:00am|United General Fitness Center

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverfront Plaza

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Island Market

10:00am|Islander Grocery

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|Peace Portal Drive

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Wondermud

10:00am|Bellingham BMX

Discover Birch Bay Days

10:00am|Birch Bay Drive

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Improv for Kids

10:30am|Improv Playworks

Fidalgo Bay Day

11:00am|Fidalgo Bay Resort

A Swinging Weekend

12:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Holly Street History Tour

1:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

This Old House

2:00pm|Point Roberts Community Center

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Drinking for Dogs

4:00pm|Green Frog Acoustic Tavern

Downtown Throwdown

4:00pm|Public Market

Scary Monster & the Super Creeps

5:00pm|Heart of Anacortes

Toys for Tots Benefit Concert

5:00pm|Eagle Haven Winery

Moonlight in Margaritaville

5:30pm|Maple Hall

An Evening with Ann Morris

7:30pm| Lummi Island Library

Circus on the Water

8:00pm|Lookout Arts Quarry and Boundary Bay Brewery

see our complete calendar »

Swinomish 2016 Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books 5 Point Film Festival Artifacts Wine Bar Andrew Subin Northwood Steak and Crab Bellingham Farmer’s Market