Artist Interview: “Monsters” by CouchSleepers

Q: I love your song “Monsters”! What was the process in making it?

COUCHSLEEPERS: It took me a long time to write “Monsters”. Normally, I get lyrics and melody at the same moment, a little germ of the song; with “Monsters”, I had the words long before I ever found the melody. My phone is full of voice memos of alternate attempts at putting those words to tune or harmony and not quite yet finding it. Eventually, late one night, that initial, sing-songy melody of “I was peering through the dark when you said, ‘Babe, what are you doing?’” popped into my head and the rest pretty much flowed from there.

Recording “Monsters” was fun, because I knew I wanted it to stay grounded in a folk/singer-songwriter tradition sonically while still incorporating lots of new and exciting elements. The process of finding those sounds — like that ghostly flute sound (resampled from my vocals), or the muted acoustic guitar, or that synth that adds just a bit of dirt during the choruses — was really rewarding.

Q: “Monsters” has a beautiful and really unique melody. Where do you get your inspiration from?

COUCHSLEEPERS: Thank you! This is a tough question — immediately there are so many different threads weaving through my mind. Let’s see. Well, to start musically, I’ve always been really inspired by the great, capital-S Songwriters, people like Joni Mitchell, Jasper Sloan Yip, Elliott Smith, Andy Shauf and Anaïs Mitchell. A lot of how I approach storytelling in song is really directly influenced by those artists. And in a raw sonic sense, a lot of our sound is in conversation with great indie rock bands like Pinegrove and Broken Social Scene. As a producer, I find Blake Mills, Tony Berg, and Ethan Gruska to be some of the most inspiring folks out there — I love the unique tone of the recordings they’ve worked on. That philosophy of making the new familiar and the familiar new is one that really guides me. But I also take a lot of inspiration from literature! Recently I’ve been reading a lot of Karen Russell and Samantha Hunt, both of whom managed to give this feeling of the fantastic intruding on the mundane. That’s a feeling I’d really like to capture more in my own writing. Inspiration comes from all over! Often it’s as simple as a phrase or anecdote related by a friend, or a really good conversation.

Q: What is the song you’ve made that you’re the most proud of?

COUCHSLEEPERS: I’m always smugly satisfied when I manage to write an upbeat tune, I think because so much of my natural songwriting inclination is biased toward the sadder, dirgier type of stuff. But I think I’m proudest of the songs where I managed to express myself clearly and in my own voice. “Monsters” is certainly one of those rare few. I hope that when the muse wanders into my room in the future, she brings more tunes like that.

Q: What has the fan response to “Monsters” been so far?

COUCHSLEEPERS: I’ve been really pleased and overwhelmed by the response! It’s always enormously cool to see that my music has reached and resonated with people out there. I love hearing from our listeners!

Q: How did you all come together to form a band?

COUCHSLEEPERS: We’ve all known one another and been playing music together for many years! Most of us met at Middlebury, where we went to school together — even Brendan, who plays bass with the band, we met at Middlebury when he came to play (he and Mike went to high school together and have been making music as a duo for forever). It’s an expansive cast of players, though!

Q: Do you all write songs together, or is it more of an individual process?

COUCHSLEEPERS: More of an individual process — Couchsleepers sort of operates on a benign dictatorship model, where I’ll bring songs and often fleshed out parts to the band and then they’ll gradually evolve and become imbued with the great ideas of many minds more than just what I initially offered up. Everyone in the core cast of Couchsleepers — Max, Mike, Brendan — is a songwriter in his own right, and so we all get to rotate in and out of various projects in which a different person takes the lead. It’s really lovely. There’s nothing better than making music with your best friends.

Interviewed by Shoshana Silow





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