For some art is something that’s fun to dabble in. Taking a painting class down at the local Y and after that first session you’ve got a pretty little canvas with a pretty little flower on it. You can hang that up in the kitchen for all to see. Or maybe taking guitar lessons from the guy that goes to church with your neighbor. You can learn enough so that you can play some simple Petty covers at the Saturday night open mic. It’s a way to burn off some steam and have a little fun while you’re at it. For others, however, there’s more to the creative process. There’s a cathartic exorcising of personal demons in creating. Painting is more than keeping between the lines, as life isn’t necessarily a paint-by-numbers kind of thing. Life is messy, complicated, bloody, and it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to. For some art needs to show all the messy stuff. Petty covers are great(I love Petty, man), but there’s more than just playing the hits. Some have their own story to tell and need to relay the tough times and lonely hours they carry around in their head and heart through songs. Bang some stuff out on a guitar, bass, and drums with some like-minded souls.
Enter Best Sleep.
One of Fort Wayne’s newest music collectives is a 4-piece which brings together guys from The Dead Records, Shade, and Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. But where these guys are coming from isn’t important. What is important is where they’re at right now, and that’s playing music and writing songs together. They recently released their first EP called For Those of Us Who Know Nothing. It’s a cathartic, loud, and bruising 5-song collection that is the kind of art that doesn’t paint-by-numbers, or between the lines, or resurrect your favorites hits from yesterday. These are the kinds of songs that come straight from the heart. They tell a story through jagged rock and roll; the kind of songs you belt out in a sweaty bar with everyone singing at the tops of their lungs. These are songs with importance and purpose.
But they’re still fun, too.
Hit play on this debut EP and bands like Manchester Orchestra, Kevin Devine, Brand New, and Pedro The Lion might come to mind. Older indie rock stalwarts like Archers of Loaf, Pavement, and Sebadoh might be echoing throughout these tracks, too. That could just be my older ears hearing those bands, but anyway you slice it that’s a compliment. The biggest takeaway with Best Sleep is that they’re doing their own thing. There’s definitely not any wearing their influences on their sleeves. The band, which consists of Sean Richardson and Dan Obergfell on guitar and vocals, Ian Skeans on bass and vocals, and James Wadsworth on drums, have taken their influences, similarities and differences and turned them into their own brand of sweaty, emotional, and loud rock and roll.
“Late Nights” starts things off like a slow motion emotional breakdown. Lyrically there’s a bit of narrative about hospitals which comes up more than once throughout the EP. The guitars jangle and ring as Richardson sings “Sitting around, ain’t know way to say that I’m sorry/The waiting room is full of excuses, yeah the seats are empty”. “Mackinaw” is more of a driving track about trying to get through the awkwardness and hurt of seeing someone you love withering away. The band locks in beautifully with each other. The vocals are shouted out, giving the song a feeling of desperation. “Losing” sounds like a mix of Pedro The Lion and early Modest Mouse. “I don’t really care what makes you happy” is sung over a punk-infused rock and roll banger.
The mood overall is a bit boozy and a bit confrontational. It’s like asking someone going through some serious shit how they’re doing after they’ve had a couple drinks. Instead of the usual “I’m doing fine” they look at you and say “Do you really want to know?? Well here you go” and the conversation that follows is For Those of Us Who Know Nothing. There’s a lot of self reflection here as well. Something like “Back Porch”, which closes the album out, is a conversation with someone the singer used to know but has changed. “You remind me of someone else, but not the guy on the back porch” belts out over Weezer-esque guitar noise. The song could be more of a mirror view, too. You can make it what you want.
Best Sleep, despite some of the heaviness in the song’s themes, sound vital and alive on this debut EP. There is some cathartic songwriting here, but there’s also a lot of fun and uplift in these tracks, too. There can be a middle ground between having fun in your art and saying something with your art, too. It’s definitely not a paint-by-numbers affair, but For Those of Us Who Know Nothing should be proudly displayed. Preferably loudly through some speakers, as opposed to your kitchen wall.