Sleeping in the Aviary keep it real with their new album, 'You and Me, Ghost'

Categories: Interview
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Unexpected and unusual, Sleeping in the Aviary charm their way into the indie-rock scene with their quirky albums; they now have three under their belt, and one on the way.

With all these albums out, you might be asking yourself, "Where has Sleeping in the Aviary been all your life?"  The answer has been there the whole time: touring and having fun.  Not that the band is out to prove anything to anyone.  They are, simply and sincerely, in the business for the music and always have been.

Gimme Noise talked to Elliott Kozel prior to their album release, You and Me, Ghost, at the Triple Rock Social Club.

Band Members:
Elliott Kozel - Vocals, Guitar
Michael Sienkowski - Drums
Celeste Heule - Keyboard
Kyle Sobczak - Guitar
Phil Mahlstadt - Bass

Gimme Noise: You have a song, "You and Me, Ghost," that is purely instrumental/Muzak; where did this idea come from?

That song is a muzak version of the title track of the album.  I made it for use as background music in the music video we are finishing up now as part of the album promotion. 

The music video features none other than local celebrity, the Artist, the Poet, the Actor, the Human Chocolate Orchid, and the self-proclaimed Best Lookin' Man in Comedy, yes that's right "Fancy" Ray McCloney.  I enjoyed making the muzak version of the song so much, I started making smooth jazz versions of all the songs on the album.  I haven't finished yet, but it's probably one those projects that should never see the light of day.

What was the idea behind You and Me, Ghost, and what was the ultimate direction/goal?

After we spent four months working on the previous album, Great Vacation!, I was ready to make something really quickly in the spirit of early rock and roll bands who would usually record albums in one day. 

We wanted the record to capture more of the chaos and enthusiasm of our live performances, so we went on tour for two  months, recorded the album during our week-long break and then went back on tour for two more months.  Then we came home and mixed it.  We recorded it entirely on a 16-track half-inch tape machine, so we had a limit to how many overdubs we could do, which kept all the parts concise.  Also, all of the songs are about girls, which was the ultimate goal.  The ladies need to know how special they are.

Most bands these days barely break even when touring; does this seem disheartening to you because Sleeping in the Aviary tours a lot?  What keeps you going?

Yes, it is disheartening sometimes when we put so much time and energy into something that drains us financially.  The hardest part is trying to find a place to stay and ways to make money in between tours, and the main thing that keeps us going is the generosity and kindness of strangers.  

Here is an example of what happens on an average night on the road: we were in Charlottesville on a Monday night playing to crowd of three people.  The only other band was from Miami.  The chances of us finding a place to stay were looking grim.  During our set, I mentioned we were in need of a roof and a floor to sleep on to which I got no response. Afterwards, I was drinking cheap beer heavily, contemplating what would be the best seat in the van to sleep in.  Then, like a Hail Mary touch down pass, the middle aged couple across from me passed me a note.  It said, "You can stay at our place, it's about 25 minutes away.  We can feed you pancakes for breakfast." 

We went over there and played Guitar God Charades until 3 in the morning.  They gave us fancy beer and leftover spaghetti.  We slept on their fabulous leather couches. They fed us pancakes for breakfast and in general treated us like we were their best friends that they hadn't seen in years, although they had only met us the night before.  This is the sort of thing that keeps us going.  Also, sleeping in a race car bed in Toledo, OH helps.

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Who does the majority of the writing in the band?  What did you grow listening to that has influenced you musically? 

I do most of the writing in the band. The first music I really loved was the Offspring's Smash.  That one kills it; the song "Bad Habit" taught me how to swear.

Then I got into the classic rock.  I bought a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon shirt that was six sizes too big.  I got heavy into the Steve Miller Band.  "Abracadabra" still has my favorite guitar solo of all time. Check it out.  John Lennon's Imagine album was probably my biggest influence after that.  

What are you listening to these days that influences you now?

Right now, I mostly listen to old funk and soul.  A lot of Rick James, the Dramatics, Barry White, Parliament, the Impressions and so forth.  I'm also super into teen idols from the '50s and '60s like Ricky Nelson and the Fleetwoods.  Last One to Know by the Fleetwoods is the most heart-wrenchingly awesome song I've heard in awhile.  I have a hard time listening to new bands.  It seems like a lot of style over substance to me.

Why do you think your fans connect so much to your music?

I'm not sure; I try not to think about that kind of thing.  If people connect with it, that's great and that's the ultimate goal of music in general, but I don't really spend any time considering what the reasons are behind it.  I just try to write the best songs I can, try to make sure there is meaningful lyrical content, catchy melodies and good sounds, put it out and see what happens.  

More and more bands are giving their music away and making their money through other avenues.  What are your thoughts on this direction of the music industry?

Yikes.  Most people's music listening experiences occur on crappy laptop speakers.  This scares me a little. 

As far as the industry I'm not sure what's going to happen.  It seems bands have never really made that much money from selling their recordings.  Bands have been getting dicked over by record labels since their inception.  Touring and playing shows has really been the way to go. 

Since I make no money playing rock and roll music,  I recently started a children's music project called Googly Guy.  I have been playing at daycare centers around Minneapolis for the past few months to make some extra money.  And it's tons of fun, of course.  I get to write songs about pancakes and dinosaurs and playing hide and seek.  Also, I make some money doing commercial music and selling instrumentals to be used in the background of internet advertisements for things like mountain bikes,  emergency GPS location devices, Josten's high school class rings and other random stuff like that.  We sold some songs to a snowboarding video.   That shit was awesome.  There are some pretty good wipe-outs on there.  In any case, any avenue other than Indie-Rock seems to be a better way to make money at this.

Name a song that you wish you could have written and why.

"Radar Love" by Golden Earring.  There is no better song to listen to while recklessly speeding down the highway at top speed in a minivan.  "Danger Zone" doesn't even come close.

Finish this statement: "Never have I ever..."

...finished an email interview before noon.

Sleeping in the Aviary will release You and Me, Ghost on 9/8/2011 with Night Moves, Brute Heart, and Red Pens at the Triple Rock Social Club.
18+, $5, 8 pm.

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Location Info

Triple Rock Social Club

629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Music

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