Kerrang! (UK) - - HOTTEST BANDS OF 2018 -

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.


But what hap­pens when some­one does honk, huh?

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