SLEEP ON IT
THE CHICAGO QUINTET ARE A BAND TO BELIEVE IN, BRINGING A RELATABLE, EVERYMAN APPEAL TO POP-PUNK. THEY MIGHT LOOK ORDINARY, BUT THEIR MUSIC IS ANYTHING BUT…
As the saying goes, mighty oaks from little acorns grow. In the past two years, Sleep On It have gone from hustling in a saturated pop-punk scene, to releasing one of the scene’s finest debuts (2017’s Overexposed), quickly finding themselves becoming a source of hope to a rapidly-growing following. But if you ask vocalist Zech Pluister at what point the seeds of his own hopes for pursuing this life were sown, he cites a small yet significant moment half his lifetime ago.
“The first thing that really clicked in my head was seeing Yellowcard’s video for Ocean Avenue, when I was around 12,” he remembers, speaking to us from his apartment in Chicago. “when I saw that video I thought, ‘oh shit! These kids look like my brother!’ [Frontman] Ryan Key looks like a normal dude you’d see in the street. Suddenly, there was a realisation that I could do that too.”
That statement is characteristic of Sleep On It as a whole, because the band are just that: five normal dudes. Five guys whose paths crossed in various outfits playing shows in the same local scene that spawned Knuckle Puck and Real Friends, before Zech replaced Sleep On It’s original vocalist John Cass in November 2015.“We want people to see that we’re just five friends having a blast,” Zech insists.
Yet despite their relatively ordinary beginnings, there is something undeniably extraordinary about being invited out on continent-crossing tours with Waterparks and State Champs, whose frontman Derek Discanio offered to help bring some of the songs on Overexposed to life. “it was a little jarring at first to have someone say to me, ‘that chorus is really sick, but how about if we change this?’” recalls Zech of the recording sessions. “a lot of people use that phrase about there being too many cooks in the kitchen, but if there’s a better cook than you, then you should probably try their food! He helped us to put that little extra sprinkle on top of the ice cream.”
The dreams of youth.the everyman appeal. Ice cream. It’s all very pop-punk, yet that doesn’t fully capture why people are connecting with a group of young Midwesterners on such a personal level. For that, you need to examine the core of Zech and co-writer/guitarist TJ Horansky’s lyrics, which, though emphasising a brighter tomorrow, come from a place where, ‘The sins I made at 17 / Have started crashing down on me.’
“Growing up, it seemed like I constantly failed in everything I did,” admits the 24-year-old frontman. “school didn’t really work for me. a lot of relationships never worked out. I lost jobs. Every day I woke up, it was the same shit over and over. People need to hear that you’ve got to push through that to get to the good stuff.”
What kept you dusting yourself off each time you hit the ground?
“Well, music has always helped. Not even playing it, but listening to records like [Fall Out Boy’s] Take This To Your Grave and hearing that these people knew how I felt,” he explains. “seeing what they were doing to help themselves is why I started doing it from a young age. Everything I’m writing about, I can almost guarantee that 90 per cent of kids in the room watching us are also feeling. It connects because it’s real and it’s human.”
That sentiment shares a lot in common with the phrase, ‘it’s okay not to be okay’, the mission statement of mental health awareness initiative Hope For The Day. “we believe in that so much,” agrees Zech, who, along with his bandmates, is
vocal in drawing attention to the Chicago-based charity and playing benefit shows for them whenever the opportunity allows. “as a band who all struggle with mental health issues – anxiety, depression – it’s something that we all hold so near and dear to our hearts. It’s why one of the biggest messages we try to portray is, ‘Can you hear me when I say you’re not alone?’”
And it seems that expression of solidarity in What We Stay Alive For is being heard loud and clear. Not just by a burgeoning fanbase in the U.S., but across the globe. “there’s a German Sleep On It fan account that tweets us every day to come play there. Some dude told us he flew from the Philippines to our show in Seattle with Waterparks, just to see us play for 25 minutes!” says Zech, a note of disbelief entering his usually confident baritone. “that stuff blows my mind. things like that and playing Irving Plaza in Newyork have been real bucket list moments.” So what other things are on that list? Before Zech can answer, his flatmate and Sleep On It’s guitarist, Jake Marquis, shouts, “play with Fall Out Boy!” from across the room.
“That would be tight!” agrees Zech, with a halfchuckle. “obviously there’s big stuff like playing with them and Jimmy Eat World. I would kill to write a song with Jim Adkins or Patrick Stump…”
But then, he reins himself in, before his imagination runs away with him.
“I’m a horrible person to ask that to, because I’m so focused on the next steps we’re taking. we’re still growing, and the biggest thing we’ve modelled our band around is longevity.we want to play the UK and EU countries we hear from, and I’m sitting here, smiling like an idiot knowing that this next year is going to be so fun. Nothing has been announced yet, but I’ll get to do things I’ve dreamed about doing since I saw that Ocean Avenue video. 2018 is going to be such a good year…”
And you know what? We believe Zech, because Sleep On It are a band to believe in.
“OUR MUSIC CONNECTS BECAUSE IT’S REAL” ZECH PLUISTER