Sleepwalking to a groove where past and present collide

Sleepwalkers are a Richmond-based band comprised of brothers Michael and Austin York, as well as Alex De Jong, Mike Bryant and Jacob Shank. They’re headlining at The Broadberry on May 31. Photo courtesy of Hank Archer

Quentin Rice, Staff Writer

In the abstract, a sonic marriage of The Cars, Thin Lizzy, Foster the People and Hippo Campus sounds strange at best. But Richmond’s very own Sleepwalkers has found a way to make it work.

Led by brothers Michael and Austin York as well as drummer and engineer Alex De Jong, Sleepwalkers have made quite a name for themselves, in Richmond and abroad. They have toured with the likes of The Lumineers and J. Roddy Walston & The Business; the band also just performed at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

“We do great in New York, LA, Seattle, Denver,” guitarist and vocalist Michael York said. “But I’m pretty biased. When we’re touring Richmond’s just the best.”

The band released their first full-length LP, “Greenwood Shade,” in 2014. It’s laid-back, simple and groovy. It combines the goofy synthesizers of The Cars, the basic and addictive groove of Foster the People and, in a number of spots, some vocal harmonies that evoke a Hawaiian vibe.

“Cocaine” is probably the best cut from “Greenwood Shade.” The way the lo-fi vocals effortlessly glide over sweet syncopated guitar chords makes it difficult not to sway like the palm tree imagery it evokes.

Michael York said the band’s collision of old and new sounds is the result of the music they grew up with and their recording process.

“Our parents were listening to everything from [John] Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie to punk rock and all the great ‘60s and ‘70s bands,” York said. “It might just be a compulsive thing to bring those sounds into the modern age, but you can’t help but have it sound slightly modern because of the gear we’re recording on.”

Sleepwalkers signed to Richmond-based Spacebomb Records in 2018 and are set to release their first album in five years with the record company later this year. On March 5, the band released a new single titled “Fault is Me” to announce the forthcoming record. The main guitar riff drips with distortion and other effects, and the heady vocal delivery is as catchy as ever.

Michael York said the band plans on adding even more elements from different musical worlds on their sophomore record.

“There’s a lot of Prince, there’s a lot of The Cars,” York said of the new record’s influences. “There’s some hip-hop-oriented stuff that’s more like ‘90s boom-bap, but we’re not actually rapping.”

The band aims for a summer release with accompanying tours before and after the album comes out. The next performance will be at the RPAA Parking Lot Party on April 27. Their next headlining gig will be May 31 at The Broadberry, and they are working on nailing down more East Coast dates before the release of the record.

More information about performances and releases can be found at spacebombrecords.com/artists/sleepwalkers.

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