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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Sleepwalkers Double Down on 'Lost My Mind in Stereo'

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In music few things are as romanticized as the session album, an album recorded in a burst of inspiration at a distinct place during a distinct time. For every session album, though, there are just as many like The Sleepwalker’s new Lost My Mind in Stereo, a mutt of an album recorded in bits and pieces here and there over various stretches of time. There’s nothing sexy about the complicated, fragmented creation of a mutt album, but at their best these hard-fought, long-haul records can be just as pure as their quick-take counterparts. Lost My Mind in Stereo may have been tracked at three studios around Milwaukee and Oshkosh then completed nearly two years later, but those stiches don’t show.

The album could easily have not been released at all. Sometime during the long wait to finish mastering the album, Sleepwalkers’ singer-guitarist Ian Olvera—the one-time namesake of the band, back when they played the Fox Valley as Ian Olvera and the Sleepwalkers—moved to Nashville, and he took to the city. As he tells it, he’d been planning to stay there and was ready to put The Sleepwalkers behind him until he began hearing Justin Perkins’ final mixes of the songs his band had tracked years ago.

“We were starting to think we might not ever release the album, especially if it didn’t come back as good as we’d hoped,” Olvera says. “But the songs were coming back nice, and we wanted to do something with them.” He returned to Wisconsin to give the album the full push he felt it deserved.

As part of that push, The Sleepwalkers have hired a national publicity team, Pavement PR, that’s helped land them some coverage outside the Wisconsin market, including kind words from USA Today’s “Pop Candy” blog, which premiered the Lost My Mind track “My Best Was Never Good Enough” this winter. The band’s next step is to hit the road. They’re preparing to tour in May, following some release shows around Wisconsin and Minnesota around April. “Having Pavement on board has definitely helped free me up, so I have more time to spend working on shows,” Olvera says.

The Sleepwalkers’ hooky, Replacements-indebted rock ’n’ roll isn’t exactly a novelty around these parts, but there are few Milwaukee bands doing it with such sweetness. Olvera brings a pop-punk earnestness to the band’s vaguely rootsy sound, while Perkins’ warm mix cushions his songs. And since finishing the album, that sound has only grown fuller. This summer the group added second guitarist and backing singer Ryan McCrary.

“He really thickens our sound,” Olvera says. “I always thought that for being a three piece we were pretty full sounding, but adding that extra element really helps. Now I can sit back on rhythm guitar for some parts, or play lead and have that support behind me.”

Credit Nashville in part for that new addition. While living there, Olvera noticed that Nashville performers tend to fall into two categories, “bands that are rehearsed to the point where everything is practiced to a tee and everything they do works, and bands that sound like they’ve never rehearsed ever.” That first camp of career musicians helped inspire him to double down his efforts with The Sleepwalkers, committing to long practices spent refining guitar lines, backing vocals and melodies. “Seeing that professionalism really made me want to get it together,” he says. As the band hits the road in the coming months, he’ll find out whether that investment paid off.

The Sleepwalkers release Lost My Mind in Stereo on Tuesday, April 8. The band plays a release show on Saturday, April 19, at 9 p.m. at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn.