By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
On Friday, August 23, Sleepy Kitty will play perhaps its biggest local concert in the nearly five years the band has resided in St. Louis. The duo — drummer Evan Sult and singer, guitarist and pianist Paige Brubeck — will share the Pageant stage with the Blind Eyes, Shooting With Annie and the Incurables. Special guests have been booked; an all-cast sing-along has been hinted at for the encore. It has the makings of a memorable evening, a true celebration of local talent and musical osmosis.
But there's one small hiccup: The date was planned as a release show for Projection Room, Sleepy Kitty's sophomore LP. In the eleventh hour, the band and its label, local imprint Euclid Records, decided to push the release until January 14, citing concerns about frontloading promotion, insuring the arrival of vinyl pressings and a few other public-relations minutiae. (For a more thorough story on the delay, head to RFTMusic.com.)
To its credit, the band is not bailing on the "release" angle of this once-called "release show." Instead of the full-length, fans can purchase the "Hold Yr Ground" single, which teases the album and will contain a B-side and a cover of the Beatles' "I Wanna Be Your Man."
A few weeks before the decision was made to delay the release, RFT Music talked with Brubeck and Sult in their Cherokee Street loft space where the couple lives, screen-prints posters and rehearses. The discussion ranged from the evolution of the band's songwriting process to the changing face of their neighborhood, for which they serve as unofficial cheerleaders.
Christian Schaeffer: What do you think has changed from Infinity City to Projection Room, in the fundamentals of how you write a song?
Evan Sult: To me, Infinity City ended up being a document of our move from Chicago to St. Louis. We didn't realize it at the time, but we really ended up memorializing Chicago with the songs written about Chicago and introducing ourselves to the city, both in the sense of "Hello, we're Sleepy Kitty," but also finding out what was so exciting about it. You can tell — we have St. Louis all over the artwork and Chicago all over the artwork. It was a real city-based thing.
Paige Brubeck: From my perspective, a lot of the songs that were recorded and released for Infinity City were written before Sleepy Kitty was official. A lot of those songs, I had versions I could play all the way through acoustically. Projection Room was way less of that — it feels more like compositions for Sleepy Kitty, versus songs that Sleepy Kitty does.
Sult: I think Infinity City is sort of a document of us learning how to work together, and then Projection Room is more, like, working together. We both bring in different things, but we're using each other to complete our ideas. Projection Room is more a record of our shared experiences — the stuff we have looked at together or read at the same time, or movies we've seen.
You're still committed to the two-person lineup in concert, with the occasional guest joining you onstage. Are you seeing a limit to what looping can do, or is it that you can write a more orchestrated song and find a way out of the studio to make it work?
Brubeck: I feel the limitations of loops all the time. I think that's one of the more interesting things onstage — I always like seeing how other two-person bands do it. So I like doing it onstage because the limitations help show everything that's going on, but in the studio I hate trying to keep true to a loop-based thing. Because in the studio you can do whatever you want.
Sult: I feel like we are a six-piece with four arms, four legs and two heads. Like, Paige has guitar parts in her heads, keys in her heads, harmonies, second harmonies, third harmonies, bass, and it's all there. It all seems like it shows up simultaneously. She has kind of a crowded brain. And then I sometimes have harmonies and am helping out with those things. But the tension of the band, and the thing I think is exciting about the band live, is that there are more ideas than limbs. So how do we create a thing that comes across with power — that feels like there are more people onstage than there are?
"Hold Yr Ground," to me, is the one of the songs that will get the most attention from the record. It takes a pretty clear-eyed look at urban St. Louis' issues while still serving as something of an anthem.
Brubeck: "To whoever stole the Dodge Caravan" — this is a true song, all of it is true. We use our neighborhood as an inspiration. Our van got stolen, and I was really pissed and got really bummed out. It was kind of like talking out loud about that. The police officer that filled out the report with us said that a lot of kids steal these cars, and it's apparently a very common thing. I just think that some of these kids are getting off to a bad start.