Sleep On It : A Talk With Sean Richardson of Best Sleep

by J. Hubner

So say you’re in a pretty successful local band. You guys make a name for yourselves as a group that’s the real deal; you make solid, blood, sweat, and tears rock and roll albums, you leave scorched earth wherever you play a gig, and you not only garner the respect of fans but of fellow musicians you play shows with. Sean Richardson is the drummer in The Dead Records, a band that by all accounts fits the description above.

The Dead Records are the quintessential rock and roll band. No gimmicks and no carefully carved-out genre, just loud guitars, big melodies, and solid songwriting. But as things slowed down for TDR, Richardson had an urge to keep writing and creating. He turned in his drums for a guitar and recruited TDR guitarist Dan Obergfell to help him in the process. To round out this new project he reached out to Shade’s Ian Skeans to play bass and James Wadsworth of Heaven’s Gateway Drugs for drumming duties. The result of this musical collaboration is called Best Sleep.

The guys are putting the finishing touches on a 5-track EP(I’ve heard it and it’s great.) In-between finishing that up and gearing up for their debut show on February 16th at the Brass Rail, Richardson sat down with me and we talked about Best Sleep.

J. Hubner: So how did Best Sleep come together?

Sean Richardson: This project started as a creative outlet for me to continue to do something I very much enjoy, writing music.  My favorite part about playing music has always been the writing process, however for years I have always been playing drums.  I started to play guitar because I wanted to continue to write songs.  My other band, The Dead Records, were kind of slowing down on the writing process, but I wanted to keep going.  I felt like I was going through a range of different emotions and experiences in my life and the best way for me to articulate that is through words.  I had the opportunity to write a good amount of lyrics on the last TDR album and if felt very therapeutic to say how I was feeling through lyrics in a song.  So most of my songs start with words and then go from there.

J. Hubner: How did you bring everyone into the band?

Sean Richardson: Once I had some bare bones for the songs I asked Dan if he would be interested in hearing them and filling them out a bit with me.  We probably played guitar together a handful of times before we wanted to hear how they would sound with drums and bass.  I also encouraged Dan to write some lyrics and versus in the first few songs because I have always been a big fan of Dan’s voice and I thought it would be a shame to have him in the band and not have him singing in some way.

I asked Ian for two reasons.  I loved a band he was in called Pink Balloon Band and because I thought he played bass with Ryan Kerr when they do full band stuff.  It was not until he came over to my house for our first full band practice that he told me he didn’t play bass with Ryan, but he said he was happy to play bass so we went with it.  However, the main reason was because I have always appreciated Ian’s ability to write a good fucking song.  The Pink Balloon Band EP he released some years ago is probably my favorite release from a band that I am friends with.  I spent some time working in a kitchen in New York and when I drove out that way this PBB EP was the only CD I had in my van and I literally listened to it every single day.  Ian seemed honestly excited.  It was also a great excuse to hang out with a dude that I have wanted an excuse to hang out with for some time.

I was kind of asking anybody I knew who knew how to play drums if they would be interested, but once James came over and played through the songs with Dan and me it was a done deal.  It is nice to hear a part for drums in my head and then have James play that part without any sort of coaxing or conversation.  It is odd, because I think that James and I probably have the most different musical influences in the band, but when it comes to drums we both like to fucking play with emotion and our preferences are linked behind the set because every time he plays a part I usually think, “That is what I would have played if I was as talented as a drummer as he is.”  On top of that, as a new guitar player, I have been trying to push myself in time signatures and different ways of playing things to the best of my ability to see what the fuck he will come up with to play with me.

J. Hubner: From the sound of the upcoming demo you guys have really gelled quite well together.

Sean Richardson: We have been a band for roughly 4 months.  It has really blown me away to see how these songs have come together.  It think it has been a true representation of everybody bringing something to the table.  I will usually have the rough idea for a song, some bridge chords, a melody, and some lyrics I like and a couple practices later we have landed on a song that is vastly different than what I had envisioned, but more unique because every voice is heard.

J. Hubner: I’m sure it helps that everyone has experience outside of Best Sleep. What are those other projects in case folks want to dig a little deeper?

Sean Richardson: Ian is always doing something in his musical cove at his house in Warsaw.  He is playing with his band Shade, he does these great fucking one minute song deals, and also dabbled in some shit he was calling Garfieldwave.  I honestly don’t really understand what it is all about, but it is great.  Dan’s baby is Big Money and The Spare Change, he also plays with me in our other band The Dead Records, and plays bass in The Meat Flowers.  James is playing drums with Heaven’s Gateway Drugs.

J. Hubner: Tell me a little bit about the song creation in Best Sleep. What’s your writing process like?

Sean Richardson: For me playing guitar and singing in a band is way different than anything I have ever done.  I have really been trying to write things that I maybe would not have normally thought of.  I will play something and then try to force myself not to play the way I naturally want to.  It winds up being something that I am connected to so it is going to sound a certain way regardless, but I want to make sure that I am really focusing on how I am playing what I am playing.  Once I started really paying attention to songs and how songs can feel a certain way I wanted to approach them from a sense of how I want to be feeling when I am playing that song.  Some parts may seem a bit uncomfortable and then be followed up with something that is very familiar.  I try to articulate that to the other guys the best that I can and explain to them why I decided to put certain notes in certain parts and I think that can change their thought process a bit too.  Hopefully it is about more than just piecing together different parts to get to the end of a song, hopefully they can feel a bit of emotional connection to the songs as well.

J. Hubner: It sounds like you’re really taking your time crafting the songs. Very therapeutic, even.

Sean Richardson: It may sound incredibly cliche, but I am really getting a sense of calm from playing in this band.  I need loud music periodically to keep my head from spinning.  I have never questioned whether or not I am good or no good at playing music and writing songs, because in the end I always feel better after playing than I did before.  If you are able to find something in your life that makes you feel like everything is working out, then I don’t know why you would ever want to stop doing that.

J. Hubner: Are there any bands that are influencing the vibe you’re going for?

Sean Richardson: I don’t know if we are really going for a particular sound.  I will say when I really started writing and playing guitar every day I was very much into The Front Bottoms, Modern Baseball, Sorority Noise, Tigers Jaw, Free Throw, and The Hotelier.  But I am always influenced by Pedro The Lion, The Weakerthans, Manchester Orchestra, and will constantly listen to Jim Croce and Jimmy Buffet, guys that I think are just good fucking song writers.  I thought maybe I was going to write songs that sounded a certain way, but in the end I just play what I want to and what feels right and how it sound is how it is going to sound, especially once the other guys get going on it.

L to R: James, Dan, Sean, Ian

J. Hubner: Let’s talk about the upcoming EP Best Sleep is finishing up.

Sean Richardson: We have been writing for 3-4 months, I wrote the first song for this EP about a year ago.  We recorded the EP with a good friend of mine Matt Riefler in his house.  He has a great little set up and we set the instruments up in his living room and kind of burrowed away for a few days and got something that we are all really pleased with.  Matt is crazy talented and it is great that he has remained so available to me.  He is just so fucking enthusiastic about music and about whatever they fuck you are playing.  I had never recorded vocals, so before we got started Dan and I bought a bottle of Old Grandad and I poured a big old swig over some ice and walked in front of the mic.  Matt was super pumped the entire week to get to vocals and so was I.  I have always thought that once you get to vocals in the recording process the songs start to come together.  So I did a couple lines and I was on the fence about it, but as we would listen back to the tracks Matt was just constantly like, “Fuck yeah dude!”  “This shit sounds so fucking good!”  He is like a fucking coach during recording and that is what I needed.  So I just kept drinking whisky, getting loose, taking deep breaths, and singing the parts.

J. Hubner: You seem to be mining some painful stuff, lyrically anyways.

Sean Richardson: As far as the lyrics are concerned on this EP there aren’t really any new themes that haven’t been explored by thousands of song writers.  Themes such as death, sickness, aging, acceptance, discovery, and love.  I have always thought that the beauty of songwriting is that I am the one writing about these things.  Sure, maybe the concept of death and acceptance has been researched and gone over time after time after time, but if there is just a little bit of clarity that I can put on the subject, if not just for myself but maybe someone else than it is worth it.  After all, the lyrics are mine, so maybe writing about love is a bit cliche, but for the listener hearing what I have to say about these subjects they could be new and inspiring.

J. Hubner: I’m hearing a lot of talk about hospitals and sickness.

Sean Richardson: Most of the lyrics are about things that fucking bother me.  They are the things that I think about when I sit alone, with no distraction, with the ability to simply think.  I had a friend die some years ago and it really shocked me, then my dad got really sick and that kind of threw my family into a sort of chaos, and then I had to close down a business that I was very excited about and that forced me to think about the importance of certain things.  Everything just fucking bummed me out.  With the death and the sickness I really focused on how all the people around me were reacting and wondering if my reactions were appropriate.  When I closed down my business I couldn’t help but focus on how everything was constantly about money.  I thought I was doing something positive for a community and in the end it was just about money and the people who seemingly had the money were the ones mostly focused on the money while the rest of us were more focused on doing what was right, but that didn’t translate to financial success.  I often wonder if the whole of society really gives a fuck about anything anymore outside of social media and Netflix.  BUT, when I wrote about these things I would realize that of course people still give a fuck, how lucky I was to even have a family to criticize, and a friend who was so inspiring to me that I still tear up when I think about him.  I just think I needed to complain about it through these songs to realize that my problems are so fucking minuscule compared to problems and complications that others deal with.  I am hoping that something that I say can resonate with someone.

Poster art by Jared Andrews

J. Hubner: With the EP coming up, I’m sure there will be an album release show. What other shows are lined up?

Sean Richardson: I think that we will do a release show, probably in the early spring, but nothing set yet.  We are playing our first show February 16th at The Brass Rail.  We will have a physical CD and I am planning on getting it to Spotify and hopefully like iTunes.

J. Hubner: So what’s 2018 looking like for Best Sleep?

Sean Richardson: I would like to get back on the road and sleep on some fucking floors again.  My van has seen a few tours with The Dead Records and I have faith it has some miles left to be discovered.  I am hopeful we will continue to write and maybe focus on recording a full length later in the year.  I would like to get some sort of local interest stirred up and hopefully people like the songs and if not I am sure we will continue to get together, hang out, and play songs together.

Get out and see Best Sleep as they debut their EP(and themselves) at the Brass Rail on February 16th. It’ll be a great show. Keep up with Best Sleep at their Facebook page here.

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