Sleeper Agent was first formed in 2008 by guitarist Tony Smith and drummer Justin Wilson in Bowling Green, Kentucky. By January, 2010, the band had added its current members of Lee Williams on bass, Scott Gardner on keys, vocalist Alex Kandel, and guitarist Junior Martin. Sleeper Agent has enjoyed a quick rise in their short time together. The band recorded their debut Celebrasion in seven days in a studio in Nashville, TN and soon inked a deal with indie label Mom + Pop records, releasing the album August 2nd, 2011. The band plays an energetic brand of indie rock influenced by everything from the Pixies to current bands like Wavves and Yuck. Sleeper Agent's songs are tight and muscular, with plenty of hooks and raw energy. This style is partially due to the band's live recording style. Sleeper Agnet have toured with fellow Bowling Green residents Cage The Elephant among others.
Some bands sound like there are sparks flying off their music. Sleeper Agent sounds positively electric. The six-piece band from Bowling Green, Kentucky has existed for less than two years, and only have one album under their belt, but they sound like an incredibly tight unit, knowing just when to burst the banks with thunderous drums and guitar riffs, and when to dial it back down with beautifully dueling vocals. We got a chance to chat with vocalist Alex Kandel. The band's sole female member, at 18 Kandel was a half decade younger than the rest of the band when she first approached them, wanting to join. They shrugged her off at first, but it didn't take long for her sultry jazzy take on rock vocals and undeniable verve to convince them, and help give the band their unique sound.
Band of the Day: Question: Are you still based in Bowling Green?
Alex Kandel: Yep, we all live in Bowling Green.
Band of the Day: What was it like growing up in Bowling Green musically?
Alex: I grew up in north east, Ohio, but I went to high school here and that's when you get into good music anyway. But yeah, it's a weird stop in between Nashville, so a lot of bands will come through and stop. At least in the past there were some small all ages shows that aren't around anymore, but there've been a few bands that have gone on to become pretty successful... it's hard to find the music scene, but it's definitely there. It's not in your face like bigger cities where everyone's in a band and there's a million places to see a show every night. It's definitely hidden and the kids here that are into it sought it out.
Band of the Day: What do you think would be the ideal place to play a Sleeper Agent set?
Alex: I think my favorite shows have always been playing club shows, small divey bars that surprisingly have great sound, there are a few out there, they have the most charm and it's a more intimate place. When we can pack one of those full it's always just the best time. Playing The End in Nashville is a good example of that.
Band of the Day: You haven't been around that long, you formed what, a year and a half ago?
Alex: I joined January 2010, but the band Sleeper Agent has been around in various forms since 2008. But as far as the music we're writing now and the band we are now it started in January 2010.
Band of the Day: Seems like the band has had a quick rise, has it been very exciting?
Alex: It's weird, when you look back at all of our success in the amount of time we've had to do it it's baffling. But then when you're actually doing it it's a lot of hurry up and wait. So it'll be like, we recorded this record, and now we're waiting for something happen with it. And oh we signed with this label now we have to hurry up and put the record out. When you're actually living it there's this weird push and pull to it, but after this last six week tour, we just came home yesterday and it was like I forgot what Bowling Green looked like, I forgot my apartment and it felt like I was sleeping in someone else's bed. It was strange.
Band of the Day: How does the recording process work for you guys?
Alex: Tony usually has a huge amount of songs ready to go in his head, even right now he has probably about 15 or 20 ready to be worked on with all of us. We'll have the band go through the song and flesh it out together. When we record it's all live, I'll be doing a scratched vocal along with the band and everyone's playing at the same time. We track everything at the same time and we do it over and over until we get a good take.
Band of the Day: The record does sound very live, it's a real rock and roll album. I also heard you recorded it in just a week.
Alex: Yeah, in 7 days.
Band of the Day: Is its muscular rock sound a result of the short time your recorded it?
Alex: I think it's just who we are. We have six people in the band and everyone has a different background and things we like, so even if the song starts out with one idea, it'll turn into something else entirely after everyone gets their hands on it. There's songs on the album that veer away from that energetic rock sound, on the next record it'll probably be a mix of both. We're all very in the moment and go from the gut, and that's what gave the record it's sound and will give the next record its sound, whatever that may be. It's totally our instinct.
Band of the Day: Is there one band that unites you as a band?
Alex: As a whole we're all huge Jay Reatard fans, we all got into King of the Beach the Wavves record and later on, there's a lot of bands that unify us, we all love Yuck.
Band of the Day: Any surprising Sleeper Agent influences?
Alex: I would say that for me personally I'm a huge Ronettes fan, you can kind of see it in some places on the record, before this record I was all about being Adele, and Amy Winehouse, and just old Ronnettes songs, and Anita O'day, I was really leaning towards that and we kind of put that in front of a rock band, and it worked out!
Band of the Day: You think you'll want to go more in that direction in the future?
Alex: Maybe, I'm still kind of, I still feel like I sing that way, not exactly that way, but that's always going to be an influence on how I write and how I sing, just a good pop sensibility, especially with the Ronettes, short pop songs that are hooky as hell. That's the kind of music I'm attracted to, and the kind of music we write, and that's why I'm so proud of this record.
Band of the Day: You use social media a lot, is that something you feel like you should do?
Alex: I wouldn't say it's something we should do, there's a lot of bands that don't utilize it and are just as successful, but the reason we use it is that our fans are so, they feel we're their band, there's a great sense of ownership with it which is amazing because every step of the way they're very proud of you and they feel like it's their success too and we love connecting with them, through Facebook and Twitter. It helped us maintain those relationships and I've become friends with so many people from coming to our shows, it just makes being a band on the road more fun and interesting.
Band of the Day: I've talked to a few bands who sometimes feel like it's something they should do and it can get kind of onerous.
Alex: A lot of bands feel like it ruins the facade of your favorite band being untouchable, and there being some mystery behind it, because that is a whole rock star mentality of being idolized, I guess. But I feel like it's your music that does that. Why not put some personal conversation behind the music, it just solidifies them as your fan for life. I got into a conversation with a guy who worked at a very big record label and his whole theory was that I couldn't talk to Aerosmith everyday when I was a fan of theirs, but could you imagine if you had that opportunity to say something to them and they had the opportunity to say something back and how you would feel to have one little back and forth conversation. Even “when's the new record coming out” and then just saying anything back to them. It's not about giving up everything, you don't have to tell everyone what you ate for breakfast or that you got into a fight with your drummer last night, it's just about having a conversation.
Band of the Day: Sleeper Agent was inspired by Battlestar Galactica, do you guys nerd out a lot on tour?
Alex: Tony and I just got really into the series, he's always been into it but he never finished it. So on our first tour I downloaded it all onto my computer and we sat there and watched everything and got through the last episode right as we were pulling back into Bowling Green on the way home. It's a great series. Tony is a sci fi nerd who has turned me into one which I will gladly accept. Sci fi is a good way of hiding philosophy.
Band of the Day: If Sleeper Agent could write a sci fi concept album what would it be like?
Alex: Knowing Tony, it would either be based on a short story that Tony's written or Stranger in a Strange Land, which is his favorite sci fi book, which I haven't finished yet. I've only read the first 100 pages and I'm really sucked in.
Band of the Day: If you could travel back in time and be a member of another band, who would it be?
Alex: That's a hard one. At first I want to say Kim Deal, but I don't know, the Pixies had it really rough. Let's see, maybe Ronnie Spector from the Ronettes but she had it pretty rough too. Maybe Joan Jett. That sounds so cliché, but she was at that end of the 80s cock rock, everything was totally insane, it seems like a whole other world. Either her or Anita O'day, because that 1940s jazz singing would be pretty classy. Anita O'day, that's my final answer.