Sleepy Sun talks touring Europe, and staying true to your roots
A cross-country road trip is the closest I’ll ever get to understanding the grueling life of touring in a band like Sleepy Sun. As it happens, I’m riding shotgun in a car headed westward and marveling at the flat landscape near the Nebraska border.
“I like the U.S. because the landscape changes so much,” says Bret Constantino, singer of the Santa Cruz-born psychedelic five-piece, coming to Don Quixote’s on Wednesday. “You have the desert, you have the mountains, you have the South and humid swamps, big cities—seeing the U.S. feels more like an intense, epic journey.”
Sleepy Sun’s most recent album, one-year-old Fever, is currently blasting on my car’s stereo, making it much easier to get into the van-rock frame of mind. Constantino has plenty of experience staring at the window scenery of America and overseas, since the band has completed a punishing five tours through Europe (their label, ATP Recordings, is based in London) in the past two years.
While their popularity is bolstering abroad as a consequence, many locals can easily relate to these guys—all five current members (Rachel Fannan left the band last October amid some controversy) graduated from UC Santa Cruz and represent an interesting cross section of majors, ranging from electrical engineering to psychology.
Constantino graduated with a business major, from which he gleaned some skills that help when self-managing the band’s tour in the U.S. It’s also the kind of background that allows him to speak about the economics of music with such a specialized, firsthand knowledge.
“A lot of people cringe at the idea that you think of a band as a business, and you can’t do that in the creative realm,” says the frontman. “But when you have a record that you need to sell, you need to figure out how to make some money, and how to keep this going if you want to play music for a living.”
And it’s precisely making a living that’s sent the Black Sabbath-meets-post-rock-band over to Europe enough times to rack up some serious frequent flier miles. Still, in the post-Napster generation, it’s exceptionally impressive to be selling enough music to not have a day job (or an off-tour job)—so what advice does Constantino have for all the UC Santa Cruz-born bands trying to make it work long-term?
“Buy a van and get out of there,” says Constantino, who at this point sounds like he could be addressing any recent graduate or Santa Cruz townie. “That’s the biggest wall that people run into in Santa Cruz,” he says. “I love Santa Cruz. It did a lot for me and my perspective on music, and art, and creation. But it can become a little bit constrictive because it’s such a bubble of a city.”
So, whether you’re in a band, or just someone who has big ambitions, you might consider taking this band’s advice to go see America. You may end up coming back to our cozy beach town, but at least you’ll get a refreshing look out the window.
Sleepy Sun plays at 9 p.m., Wednesday, July 27, at Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. Tickets are $10/adv., $12/door. Call 603-2294.
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