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You’ve heard the whispers for months and now it’s official – Florida’s Sleepwave have been added to the 2015 Soundwave line up. “We’re stoked!” smiled front man Spencer Chamberlain when we caught up just ahead of the public announcement, “I’ve been quietly pushing for us to be on the tour for a while, and we’re very very excited. I guess I can be quite persuasive!” he laughed.
Clearly in high spirits, Spencer admits that he’s in a very happy place, which wasn’t the case late last year when his former band Underoath went their separate ways under a cloud of constant infighting and reported substance abuse issues.
Sleepwave is essentially a duo with long-time friend Stephen Bowman. “This band began organically – we would talk for hours about the music we loved but also stuff we hated. One of the first bands we agreed on was Soundgarden, and I could be wrong, but I think they’re playing at Soundwave? And Slipknot, right? That’s going to be so cool,” he says.
“Soundgarden are a huge influence on Sleepwave. They were a band that Stephen and I both grew up listening to as kids, and now to be on tour with them – it’s exciting! But we also loved Nirvana, NIN and Deftones. In the beginning we were just two friends that enjoyed playing music together – we didn’t know it would turn into something like this.”
Sleepwave released their debut album Broken Compass in July this year, with both sharing the duties of bass, keys, guitars and programming, while Spencer also shouldered the weight of chief songwriter and vocals.
“I don’t mind working harder for what I want – it makes me happy not to be in a democratic situation where everything gets vetoed every other day. We made this music for ourselves, you might say selfishly.
“I write songs to help sort out things in my life and about some things that I went through – I think that’s what the greatest songwriters do. I don’t think Kurt Cobain or anyone like that was thinking about other people when he wrote those amazing lyrics,” Spencer explained. “He was a selfish songwriter – he was writing for himself.”
Spencer is unapologetic in his opinions and not afraid to speak honestly about where he sees some of his musical contemporaries heading. “A lot of bands get lost in writing music they think other people might like and trying to be popular. That’s when you’re seven steps behind rather than five steps ahead, and that’s where things get sticky. Once you start doing things for other people and not for yourself, you lose yourself completely.”
Despite Sleepwave gaining momentum, and Spencer’s seemingly happy demeanour, his true feelings about the disbanding of Underoath continue to bubble just under the surface.
“I didn’t want to involve anyone else because Stephen and I are totally capable and can handle things ourselves. Also, it puts me in the position where someone can’t come to me one day and say the band’s breaking up – that’s happened before. I didn’t want to put myself in a position like that again. If we handle everything ourselves, why shouldn’t the band just be me and him? Then we’ll get a group of friends to play with us live – it feels a lot safer,” Spencer says.
The mood lightens as talk turns to the crew that he and Stephen chose to be Sleepwave’s touring band; Josh McLin on bass and keyboards, Jack Burns also on keyboards and guitar and Chris Kamrada on drums. “Besides me and the drummer, no one else in the band has been to Australia, so it’ll be exciting to experience it with the group of guys that I hand picked to be in the live show.
“You guys are basically on the other side of the world to us. Most Americans don’t get to go to Australia for something like this, so it will be cool to take my friends there and play these massive festival shows and some club shows too.”
“So Sleepwave will be playing sidewaves?” I ask. “Nothing is confirmed yet, but I would be pretty upset if we didn’t!” he grinned. “I’ve got some friends there from the Underoath days and they’ll take us around. There are a lot of different restaurants, bars and spots around the city that we enjoyed. Obviously the beaches – the last time I was there I was renting surfboards on my days off and we did some cliff jumping. We did all sorts of cool stuff like that, so I’m excited to get back to do that with this group of guys.
“And this time around we may have a little more time off because Sleepwave is not a headlining band yet, because we’re so new,” Spencer said modestly. “We’re only playing 30 to 40 minute sets, but we play a lot of stuff live in between songs that you won’t hear on the record.
“I like to write a lot of music just for live shows and experiment with new sounds. At the end of a song we’ll drag it out and morph it into something else and then turn it into the next song that you’ll hear on the record. We have a lot of fun with the set…we’re making the music that we love – that’s what Sleepwave is about.”
When&Where: Soundwave, Melbourne – February 21 & 22
By Natalie Rogers