Interview: Indie Band Sleep State Talk Groovy Singalong "Dyin' When I See Ya"
Most people probably wouldn’t recover from being ghosted by their date… on the actual date… but Troy Ritchie of Sleep State isn’t most people. He turned the situation into a song.
On the California-based indie band’s newest single, “Dyin’ When I See Ya,” Ritchie transforms a bummer into a banger. The result is a buzzing, vibrant alt-pop anthem packed with little sonic details and genre-bending influences. We talked to Ritchie for an exclusive look into the production process, his favorite artists, and a whole lot more, so read on. But first, let us gush.
“Dyin’ When I See Ya” opens with plinky percussion and neon synth swells before Ritchie’s swoon-worthy vocals kick in, accompanied by retro-style backing harmonies. In under four minutes, Ritchie relays the story of a party-time heartbreak, at home among a punchy arrangement so robust it threatens to burst. There’s just so much to hear — searing guitar riffs, layers of percussive slaps, tropical rhythms, doo-wop harmony — endless details that ring and buzz and hum in the lively soundscape they’ve created. And that’s just it: the song is alive. It’s animated, throbbing with a chaotic kind of energy awash in rainbow. In the face of a bittersweet situation, Sleep State have made their own sunshine. We’re pretty lucky they’re sharing it with us.
Watch the (super creative and expertly put together) music video for “Dyin’ When I See Ya” below and connect with Sleep State on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and their website. Plus, read on for our exclusive interview with Troy Ritchie!
The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourselves and your music?
Troy Ritchie of Sleep State: Yes I can. Sleep State is made up of myself (lead vocals, guitar, songwriter), Michael Haua (keys, synthesizer, backing vocals), and Parker Jackson (drums, percussion). We originally formed in 2013 and have been steadily working on music since then. My inspiration usually comes from life events or a lot of the old school music I love.
TMM: You guys are based in LA, one of the most saturated music hubs anywhere. What’s the music scene like there and how has it influenced your work at all?
TR: The music scene in LA is very inspiring for sure. There’s a great variety and I love that any given night of the week you can go out to see a badass band or artist. It’s both intimidating and motivating trying to navigate through that scene, but we’re definitely glad to be close to it.
TMM: What was the production process like for your new single, “Dyin’ When I See Ya”?
TR: We recently switched to doing the majority of the recording and production at my home studio, which has helped me to get a sound that I feel much better about. I had written the song a while ago and we had been playing out to a rough backtrack with it. We recorded drums with our engineer and producer Jose Alcantar. Once I got the drum tracks back, I really started to flesh out the song.
The intro actually didn’t come into fruition until we were almost done — I had the plucky synth sound but the riff wasn’t there. Michael heard this guitar riff that I put in the last chorus and thought it would be cool if the plucky synth played on the last chorus too. Once I heard him play the riff, though, I just put it everywhere -laughs-. It definitely made the intro pop more.
Once it was done, we shipped it off to Jose with a rough mix. He pretty much nailed the sound right out of the gate. He was in New Jersey so we had to communicate over the phone or through email notes the whole time. He’s one talented dude though. This is actually his favorite song he’s worked on with us so far — he says he can relate -laughs-.
TMM: We read that the track is about a, uh, huge bummer in your life when your date left with someone else. Ouch. I’m sort of picturing a few years down the line, that girl hearing the song at a party and being like “...well shit.” Does the inspiration for your songs typically come from personal experiences for you guys like that? What’s the songwriting process usually like?
TR: -laughs- At the time it really sucked, but I laugh about it now obviously. “Dyin’ When I See Ya” even sounds really bright and happy in the beginning. I like to make happy sounding songs about the rough times in my life — I think it helps me cope and not take things so seriously.
As far as the girl hearing the song down the road, I doubt she would even care or even remember! I’m sure that brutal moment for me was so minor for her. She was just that type of heartbreaker, I guess.
TMM: You’ve had a ton of success with your singles, garnering placement across television and big-name playlists, which makes sense because they’re all so robust and colorful and you really can almost see them play out in your head. Do you guys have any plans to write music for the screen or are you just jamming and loving it with a sort of “whatever happens happens” perspective?
TR: I don’t really try to write songs for the screen, which I’m sure our licensing agent would prefer that I did more often -laughs-. I’m more of the jamming “whatever happens happens” type for sure, [but that’s] not to say that my ear for writing doesn’t have pop music leanings.
TMM: In what ways has Sleep State evolved since forming its early beginnings back in 2013?
TR: I think the production has gotten much, much better. Since we switched to primarily working in my home studio and finalizing everything with our boss-of-a-mixer Jose, I’ve felt much more confident about the sound. I’m constantly learning how to create new sounds and learn little production tricks to help spice up our mixes. Our stage presence has definitely blossomed over the years too. We definitely know how to bring the party.
TMM: Which song from your discography do you feel closest to and why?
TR: If we are talking about released discography songs, I’d say “In This Lake.” That was the second full on song I wrote and the message really helped me through a somewhat depressed time in my life. I used to write a lot of songs that were geared toward not being afraid to fail and realizing the big picture.
I do love to see the fans at shows belting out “Tether” though. That song has brought us the most success so far.
TMM: Who are three musicians you think the world needs to hear ASAP?
TR: I think Tame Impala is already getting close to becoming a household name — Kevin Parker is a damn genius and continues to inspire me every time I listen.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra is amazing too.
The third one could be Mac DeMarco — I just think he’s hilarious and talented, plus I love his sound.
All of those artists are already pretty popular though. A band that’s just coming up that people should hear is Sure Sure. Their cover of Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place” is possibly better than the original.
TMM: What has been your most memorable music moment so far?
TR: The most memorable music moment so far would probably have to be the Chinese New Year Festival. We had a blast. Kevin Bronson who helped put it on was such an awesome host.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for Sleep State?
Troy Ritchie of Sleep State: “Dyin’ When I See Ya” is hopefully going to grab some eyes and ears and we’ll use the momentum to book some rad shows in our area. We might do a mini tour as well. We’ll be trickling out a few more singles in early 2019 as well.