Sleeping in the Aviary interview 1: On Maroon 5 and Googly Guy

Categories: Q&A
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Sleeping in the Aviary in 2011.

Thursday marks the vinyl release party for 2008's Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel, but the night is really a celebration of the present for local five-piece Sleeping in the Aviary. The band formed in 2005 in Madison, before relocating to the City of Lakes. In the time since, they've actively toured and released several records, including last year's You and Me, Ghost on Science of Sound. The band is hoping to complete a 7" by year end, a new full-length next year, and three separate projects are in the works at present (InBOIL featuring bassist Phil Mahlstadt, Rupert Angeleyes featuring guitarist Kyle Sobczak, and Tickle Torture featuring guitarist/vocalist Elliott Kozel).

The Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel reissue allows for completists to have the band's discography on wax--a preferred format of frontman Kozel--and a digital 7-song package of bonus songs comes with the purchase. Gimme Noise reached out to Kozel to talk about revisiting old songs, what he's up to in general, and to discuss making music for children and for commercials.

Gimme Noise: The band formed in Madison and later moved to the Twin Cities. How was the move? Was it like starting over?

Elliott Kozel: It took awhile to get into the scene and what was going on here, but we had been coming up and playing basement shows and the Hexagon for a few years prior, so we already had a few musician friends in town to show us the ropes.

All in all, it was refreshing to work on other projects for a bit while I waited for half the band to move up here. In the meantime Phil, Kyle, myself, and a few others spent our time going to graveyards and giving ourselves an hour time limit to write a song. We recorded the best songs and made an album called If You Bury Me Ass Up, You'll Have a Place to Park Your Bike by the Southside Cemetery Choir.

From what I've gathered, you're constantly on the road or recording/releasing new material. Do you have a day job? How flexible is it with your musical schedule?

I work at a commercial music recording company here in town making jingles and background music for all kinds of funny TV and internet advertisements. At the moment, I've been assigned to crank out the "pop hits," so most mornings I listen to what's on the Billboard Top 100 and try to rip off a Maroon 5 song or something. It's a lot of fun so far. They haven't gotten mad at me yet, but I haven't asked them about leaving for tour yet.

How does the writing process work with the band? How do you add in the extra instrumental parts such as accordion?

It seems to be constantly changing, but right now I like to go down into the filthy basement with a 4-track cassette recorder, a drum machine, an electric guitar, and some coffee and bang something out as fast as I can without thinking about it too hard. The theory being if a song works well with only four things going on, then it's probably a good song. Or in other words: once you have some delicious cake batter, then you can add the frosting and the sprinkles and the candles and whatever you want and it'll taste good. The accordion is like adding a scoop of pistachio ice cream on the side. Sometimes it's not a good idea.

As a writer who has covered you in the past, I struggle with terms to categorize your music--something I presume you're happy to hear. As an artist, do you have a label or genre you attach to yourself? What's the silliest description you've seen? (Was it from me?)

I would call us a pop band.

The funniest description we ever had was in some Chicago publication in which the writer described us as a crappy version of Pearl Jam. I'm not sure what they were listening to. Another memorably bad one: "like Buddy Holly-on-acid." I beg music journalists the world over to stop using the "like _____ on acid" simile forever.

Looking back on Expensive Vomit in 2012, what are your thoughts on the album? Does listening to it bring back a flood of memories or emotions? Do you listen to your own records?

I don't like most of it. I think there are four good songs. I wrote some of the songs in a hospital in Colorado waiting to find out if my Mom was going to die (she didn't) and I don't much like revisiting those feelings. I don't listen to my own records often, all I can hear are the things I wish I would have done better.

The bonus songs are from the same period. Were they intended for another release at the time?

Most of them are songs we recorded for the album that just got cut because they either didn't fit, or were deemed not as good as the stuff that made the album. The song "Dick Gere" was one of my best songs at the time, but it was too goofy to get a slot.

Is the release show going to contain a lot of older songs to mark the occasion?

No, I can't stand playing them anymore. There will be a few in there because we probably should, but mostly we are going to try out some new jams.

Are you still doing Googly Guy? There seems to be a developing niche for musicians making kids' music of late.

Yes indeed, I am. In fact, I just performed at the Downtown Cradle Club last week. Some kid had so much fun during "It's Not Naptime (It's Get Up and Dance Time") that he accidentally set off the fire alarm. I also have a show for adults at Cause on August 10th with those lovable dudes from Koo Koo Kangaroo. They are celebrating their album release. Writing kids music is a nice pressure release for me. It's always refreshing to make something not very serious and think about trying to please an audience of 3 to 5 year-olds instead of a bunch of half-drunk 20-something hipsters, although the bubble machine seems to excite both groups equally.

Beyond the Turf Club release, what is the band planning?

Our tour van just died, so we are making a Kickstarter to raise some funds to help us get a new one!

Come back tomorrow for another installment of our interview with SITA.


Sleeping in the Aviary, Amo Joy, Hot Freaks, and France Camp at Turf Club, Thursday July 26, 2012 9 p.m., $5


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