Today I spoke with Alex Kandel, the lead singer of Sleeper Agent.
The band is in Boulder, Colorado on a tour with fun. sandwiched between a tour with Ben Kweller.
After The Show: I saw you open for Ben Kweller in New York at Irving Plaza two weeks ago. Any particularly memorable shows so far on this tour?
Alex Kandel: Well, playing at Irving Plaza was amazing. A few shows stand out…St. Louis (last week) stands out because I cracked my head open on Tony’s guitar. That’s still healing…a battle wound of touring.
Ouch. So Jay Joyce produced your album. Do you like recording in a studio or playing live better?
AK: They’re both totally different worlds. I feel like a toally different person in each scenario, but I get a little homesick for the studio because we don’t get to be there as often as playing live shows every night.
When you arrange your songs, how do you figure out which parts you or Tony sing? Do you guys try different arrangements?
AK: It comes naturally. We have a general idea of how we want to trade off. It’s from the gut and based on instinct. A sign that a song is overthought is that something doesn’t click…it doesn’t have that feeling like this is the song. We have demos like that where it could be a good song but it’s not…so sometimes we take parts of demos and piece them together.
When we wrote “Get Burned,” it ended up happening in pretty much one take, in terms of song structure. Of course we messed with it a bit vocally later.
Funnily, your album has been described as “a rollicking set of barnstormers.” I think there’s a perception that young bands with energetic music have songs that are just fun, simple and straightforward.
But, your songs are more than that – they have interesting lyrical references and wordplay – like “Pavlov’s pup” in “Get It Daddy” and “Freudian slips” in “That’s My Baby.” How aware of that dichotomy are you as a band, and how aware do you think audiences are of it?
We’re very aware of that. Tony’s/our motto is “Brevity is the soul of wit, so don’t waste my time.” We’re trying to write short pop songs, but we try to be interesting. We don’t want to write another clichéd pop song. We like old school melodies like those of The Ronettes.
A lot of our fans recognize that in our lyrics, and they like us because of that.
You made a T-shirt about getting a song on a car commercial, and now “Not Never” has been on the Nike video series. What TV shows would you want to license Sleeper Agent songs to?
My favorite show is Shameless. It’s amazing. Even on the road when I don’t have access to Showtime, I figure out a way to watch it. So, I’d want Shameless.
If you could have any band cover one of your songs, which band and what song of yours would you choose?
I want Girls to cover our song “Force a Smile.” I think that would be really cool. And I cover Girls’ songs so it would be a fair trade.
Will Sleeper Agent celebrate the 1-year anniversary of Celebrasion’s release later in the summer?
Maybe. We’re still focused on touring. We’ll hopefully be overseas by then, but I’m sure we’ll find some way to celebrate.
Is the rest of the band thinking about getting more active with Tony’s songwriting?
We’re all involved in the first record. We collaborated on parts of “All Wave and No Goodbye,” and I wrote some of “That’s My Baby.” Because we’ll have a lot more time to flush out the second record, there’ll be more writing from everyone, and we all still constantly write on our own. We’re always sharing songs and ideas, even if it’s Tony who puts a lot of it together.
When we wrote the first record, we were living in the same house. When Tony writes a finished song and presents it to us, it ends up totally different than how it started. Example: Early acoustic demos of “Be My Monster” sound totally different. Justin speeds everything up, and adds the crashing drums. It’s not Sleeper Agent without Justin.
Check out the band’s tour dates at SleeperAgentMusic.com