Sleeping in the Aviary
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Sleeping in the Aviary

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | INDIE

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Pop


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Colorado Interview 2010"

Sleeping in the Aviary
Posted on February 15, 2011 by imwiththebandblog
Sleeping in the Aviary (Minneapolis, MN)

Haunted Windchimes (Pueblo, CO)
Sasquatch (Pueblo, CO)

The Red Raven, Pueblo, CO

February 14, 2011

There are footballs whizzing by overhead, the music is a bit too loud, and no one is ok to drive anywhere. It’s an after-party, my first with a touring band. I decide to do an interview, hoping my new arrangement writing an art column with the Pueblo P.U.L.P. will lead somewhere into music eventually. I should be home in bed, but I’ve decided to treat myself to a vacation day tomorrow, as I’ve had a helluva bad weekend. Practically everyone is a stranger to me, except Felicia, someone I met just days ago at my first meeting at the paper. I’ve been to this place once with a friend from out of town, and once for an art reception, but a couple more people I know are supposed to show up. The only reason I came to this show was my ex was a fan of the Haunted Windchimes, and I had planned on attending with him. But c’est la vie, and I decided to come alone in lieu of staying home alone on Valentine’s Day. I’ve had a wonderful evening so far, making new friends, walking to nearby neighborhood bars and convenience stores for frozen pizzas, and I’m not ready to call it a night just yet.

I approach Kyle Szobchek, long before I figure out he’s in the band. (I was busy dancing my ass off, not even looking much at the stage.) He’s quietly sitting on a chair in the back of the room, with his hands folded in his lap, in a Batman shirt, which I later find out is borrowed. It spurs a discussion about my Halloween pumpkin carving project- Pacman and the ghosts. He has a wig on, but it doesn’t look much different than his real hair below, only longer, and slightly different colored. What strikes me most is that he is the spitting image of my ex-brother-in-law, Will.

When I devise the plan to actually conduct an interview, he points me to Elliott Kozel, the lead singer, it’s normally his role, but I want to interview them all. I don’t know where I’m going with this, I’m not going to lie, this is my first interview ever. Somehow, I come up with a few questions, one of which I end up sticking to in the future. Elliott is dressed in a plaid shirt, and a jacket that looks like a 1960’s pastel flowered couch. Unfortunately, so far on the tour, he’s had to stop at the hospital twice, once for a broken foot (good story), and once for a severe ear infection. Something about him reminds me of Bill Murray in Osmosis Jones. I finally come up with a good question- name your top 3 all time favorite bands or albums. Or just your favorites for this week. Unfortunately, I’m writing on a ridiculously small piece of paper, and everyone keeps changing their mind. So these are either bands I need to check out because I like Sigor Ros, or Elliot’s favorites: Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai. The other entries are either Elliot’s list or Kyle’s guesses for Celeste: Bingo Trappers (Juanita Avenue album), Spacemen 3, Barry White and Rick James… Yeah, these sound more like Elliott.

Someone returns with cases of PBR and Red Stripe and Phil Mahlstadt (lead bass, he says, even though there is only one bassist) dives on the floor and uses them as pillows and blankets. He might as well have licked every can and bottle. Phil is the one in the band who likes to drive, and, like me, has a photographic memory for the places he’s been and the map of where they are headed. His current picks seem to only be Weird Al’s Straight Outta Linwood album, and Johnny and the Church Camp Rebels, his old band in which he played Johnny, the style of which he calls acoustic punk spiritual. A Google search turns up Myspace pleas from the people of Madison, Wisconsin to please come back. And a recording of a radio show.

I make my way over to Celeste Heule (accordion, vocals), thinking to myself, she probably thinks I’ve been hitting on the boys. Last night was one of those nights, where no one could sleep. They were staying at the s00kr33m in Denver, and Celeste was awoken by either a shared hypnogogic hallucination or a visit from a ghost. It appeared to her at first as a dog, and she wasn’t concerned, saying, “Oh, it’s just you.” But as it got closer, it turned into something more sinister looking, and then visited Elliott in the form of a woman. When I ask what she listens to on the road, she says she doesn’t anymore because the headphones were like an isolation booth, and she missed out on whatever everyone was laughing about all the time. But she gives her current flames as Chopin, Captain Beefheart -rest in peace (so Pamela Des Barres of you Celeste!), and Black Sabbath. Later in the jam session, I try on her beautiful accordion, and I have a new found appreciation for its weight, not to mention how hard it is to play the two sides, while squeezing. Anyone who plays this instrument (and sings at the same time!) gets major props in my book.

I make it to the final member, Michael Sienkowski, the drummer better known as Swayze. Earlier his face was plastered with neon pink heart stickers in celebration of the occasion. A couple of the others have nicknames too- Porkchop and the cat-like Mittens. The conversation degrades to who everyone would be, if they were a muppet. Elliott is most obviously Animal, even I can see this after his performance onstage. Phil is Kermit, Kyle is Fozzy, and Michael is Ralph’s sense of humor, without the jazzy stoner element. He’s into the Kinks and Motown and girl groups like Martha and the Vandellas, Missy Elliot, Chris Clark, The Supremes, and The Temptations, just to name a few. He’s still pretty pumped about some shows they played with the Murdock’s down in Texas. I appreciate how his love of pianos caused him to move one through a 6 foot tunnel of snow, like he did once in Madison.

The night is never-ending, with a long jam session, including a rendition of the kid’s song Down By the Bay in which each person in the giant circle of musicians takes turns giving a new rhyming line in place of “Did you ever see a _____, _____ing a _____.” And a football game, which is mostly comprised of the 6 of us making up touchdown dances, when I’m not taking passes in the face.
Blast this! The Very Next Day I Died (Right-click to download.)

Their antics make it easy to see why they have lyrics about Maria forgetting the safety word and now she’s dead. Or people gargling as background singers. Or why the couples dance was a song about being in love with someone else. (PLEASE tell me there is a recording of this somewhere?) The SITA show and after-party has been the most talked about among my circle of friends since that night. They sold something like 30 albums, and I can’t go anywhere without hearing it before too long. We hope more will join us in the aviary. Trust me, it’s a snuggly warm place to sleep.
- Im with the band blog

"Boston's They Will Rock You Interview 2010"

Sleeping in the Aviary (Elliott Kozel, Phil Mahlstadt, Michael Sienkowski, Celeste Heule, and Kyle Sobczak) has whipped out three albums in the last four years on their local indie label, Science of Sound – each new album bringing with it a new member and a revamped music profile. The first album made with just Kozel, Mahlstadt, and Sienkowski, Oh, This Old Thing (2007), in its spastic post-punk rage somehow maintained a controlled delivery, earning them a loyal local following. Their sophomore album, Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel (2008), added Heule to the mix and introduced a folksy but clever flavor, which brought them some underground national attention. The newest album, Great Vacation (2010), maintains a sense of garage/folk, but in introducing new member Sobczak has also brought in more storylines and even an island flair.
With a Blackstreet cassette rolling and Kozel raggedly swigging Jim Beam from the bottle, we sat down the night of their cd release (with Sienkowski and Sobczak chiming in occasionally from the couch) to discuss the band’s tour kickoff, the newest album (Great Vacation), and how you can’t always trust strangers on craigslist.
Interviewed by: Dorise Gruber
Dorise: You are about to embark on a nationwide tour – what are you most looking forward to?
Kozel: Oh man, seeing all of our friends that we miss.
Sienkowski: “Eating Fresh!”
Kozel: Eating Subway a lot, trying to get exercise at gas stations. Kyle’s gonna do jumprope at every gas station.
Sobczak: Yeah gotta whip em into shape.
You guys seem to spend a lot of time on the road. Do you have any cardinal rules for the tour van?
Kozel: Not really. Uh, try not to fall asleep if you’re the front passenger.
Sienkowski: Only one Billy Joel album at a time.
Kozel: We can only listen to Billy Joel once, and that never happens…every goddamn day. I dunno, I drink a lot of energy drinks. Not as much of a rule as it is a habit.
Sienkowski: I take a lot of power-naps. Four or five hours.
Kozel: Yeah, everyone sleeps a lot, cuz there’s nothing else to do.
What’s your favorite city to play in?
Kozel: Um, I like playing in Atlanta. I like playing in Little Rock, Arkansas quite a bit. Wichita is awesome.
Sienkowski: Wichita!
Kozel: Austin is fun, cuz we have friends there. It’s mostly based on where our friends are, who we get to see. But yeah, Wichita and Little Rock are two little un-turned stones.
What makes them so cool??
Kozel: The kids there are really excited cuz there’s not much else to do, so they’ll be really excited to see you. I don’t know, they’re just scrappy little cities, and there’s something very lovable about them, cuz it seems like there’s nothing there.
At your shows nationwide you’re known for a rather frenzied performance style – have you ever gotten injured during onstage antics?
Kozel: Yeah, I’ve accidentally cut myself on broken glass. That was probably the worst thing, though. Surprisingly I haven’t gotten too badly injured. I punched somebody on tour but that wasn’t during a show, and I broke my wrist. That was not during the performance.
Not just your performances, but your sound too can be pretty rambunctious. The Boston Phoenix described your music as “If Conor Oberst knew how to throw a party.” How would you describe your sound?|
Kozel: I don’t know, cuz that’s just them going off of that one album [Expensive Vomit]. I don’t think the other ones sound like that, but I can see how they would say that. I’ve been telling people we’re a Hawaiian garage folk band. I don’t know, I don’t know what that means. I like “Hawaiian” being in there, but it’s probably not as true.
I can definitely hear the Hawaiian in your new album, Great Vacation.
Kozel: There’s a lot of Hawaiian influence on the new album. I got really into Hawaiian records.
So what else distinguishes Great Vacation from previous albums?
Kozel: A lot of things, I guess. Where the songs are coming from is a lot different. The songs are a lot goofier, and a lot sillier, and there’s a lot more joking around going on. Not as much serious subject matter, it’s not as personal as the other ones. There’s not very much screaming, it’s kind of mid-tempo, not super amped-up and fast and crazy. And the production is quite different. We recorded it ourselves, and there’s just like 9 million sounds going on in every song. Lots of synthesizers.
And you just acquired a new member, Kyle.
Kozel: Yeah, we got this guy sitting next to me here.
Sobczak: Yeah, I’m the best thing to ever happen to him!
And what was the impetus for the new addition?
Kozel: He’s my roommate and probably my best friend, and he helped out a lot on the recordings – he’s a talented recording engineer. He helped us with production of the album, and he added a lot of tracks to the music. We were trying to play the songs live and we were like “Man that sounds shitty. You know what would make it sound less shitty? Get Kyle in on the action.” He had just left his old band, A Paper Cup Band, so we stole him.
Sobczak: I didn’t know I was in the band until on the inner-sleeve of the new album it said “Sleeping In The Aviary is…” and then my name was there.
Kozel: Bad communication.

Last Kiss on a Sinking Ship from Christopher Heubach on Vimeo.
Your new music video for “Last Kiss on a Sinking Ship” had a lot of interesting animations – who did the artwork for the video?
Kozel: Well, we all did the artwork as a team. We all had a painting party at my house, a bunch of times with a bunch of random friends and whoever was around, painting waves and fish and crap, and then the director, Chris Heubach did all the computer magic. He must’ve spent a long-ass time with his mouse.
Where did you get the couple?
Kozel: The couple: the old guy was from craigslist. And, we had some issues with him. The old woman was somebody’s mom’s friend or something like that. I don’t know where she came from but apparently the old guy was hitting on her kind of creepily during the entire shoot – he will not be asked back. Yeah, he was hitting on the makeup girl, too, apparently. He said that she had fabulous breasts, was the quote that I heard, so… But he’s a great actor, he’s a tremendous actor, he did the role really well. He really hammed it up in the right spots.
So minus the random hitting on everybody involved, he was ok?
Kozel: Yeah, I mean, he did a job, he did it well. He was definitely a better actor than a lot of the other actors we found.
Do you have a favorite track from the new album? How about from past albums?
Kozel: It’s really hard for me to enjoy any of the albums that I make, at all, cuz I spend so much time working on them, and listening to it over and over, trying to mix it and that kind of shit. I end up usually just hating it when I’m done. But, I guess I like “Weightlessly in Love,” that one’s important to me, and “Blacked Out Fun,” which is kind of a doo-woppy number I like a lot, and that’s sort of where the band’s going to go now. Spoiler alert! I guess from the previous albums there are a few songs that I can stand, still. I still like “Gas Mask Blues,” that one feels real, the secret song from the first album – that one still feels real… but a lot I just hate cuz I’ve heard it too many times, played it too many times, don’t care to listen to it.
That’s crazy, since you’re so engaged when you play! In the last couple of years, you’ve even gotten pretty close to really breaking out, featured in numerous “best unknown” types of lists, (Best Album You Didn’t Hear, Bands Not to Miss from “X,” etc). Do you prefer to fly under the radar or is it the ultimate goal to make it big?
Kozel: I would prefer to be making *some* money, and it would be nice to play for more people. That’s more fun, you know? Definitely not being unsuccessful on purpose. But, it’s just more of a means to be able to do what you love to do all the time, and nothing else.
Right. I’ve heard rumor of a second leg being added to your tour, any truth to this?
Kozel: Yeah we’re going to come see you! We just haven’t booked out that far yet.
And then after the tour, what comes next for you guys?
Kozel: Well, in between legs I’m hoping that we can go record a new album, and I don’t know when we would be touring on that because he’s [Michael’s] in school and stuff. Or when it would come out. But I intend to go back home and become a children’s singer. That’s my plan. But yeah, keep going, I think is the plan, right? There’s nothing else to do, and it’s fun, isn’t it? Right guys? - They Will Rock You

"Red Alert Great Vacation Review"

What I call the Brooklyn-Echo Park Axel of Hipster dominates indie rock right now. As different as they are, bands like Best Coast, Crocodiles, Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls and The Drums not only have a particular sound in common (lo-fi, pop-noise) but also share an almost religious commitment to tight songs. These bands are influenced by The Jesus and Mary Chain, Factory Records and 60s garage rock. They have nothing to do with ruminating styles like the Blues or Daniel Johnston-style epic love ballads. Needles to say, “weird” instruments like the Hawaiian guitar or the harp are not part of their musical universe.

Sleeping in the Aviary (singer/guitarist Elliott Kozel, bassist/keyboardist Phil Mahlstadt, drummer Michael Sienkowski, vocalist/accordionist Celeste Heule, and guitarist Kyle Sobsack), on the other hand, are all about rumination. This particularly shows in the band’s latest album, Great Vacation!

There isn’t really anything surprising about a good band that does not have a cohesive sound. There have been many great ones: Butthole Surfers, Pixies and Sonic Youth, to mention three off the top of my head. It’s just that, because the Axel of Hipster bands have such a strong scene going on right now, finding an outsider band like Sleeping in the Aviary doing interesting things on their own is kinda refreshing. It’s nice for a change, that’s all.

The first song, “Y.M.C.A. (No, Not that one),” starts with strange sound effects and moves slowly forward over Michael Sienkowski’s marching band drums. Singer Elliott Kozel screams things like, “teach me CPR/dry up my soggy heart.” His sweetly pathetic, child-like voice complements the melancholic storytelling. “Sand between my teeth/seaweed for a beard/the ocean licked my toes/they took off all my clothes/her head eclipsed the sun,” he sings, referring to a girl he met at the Y.M.C.A. At the end comes the recording of a girl laughing and a muffled melody that sounds like mermaids gargling underwater, which gives the song a tongue-in-cheek children’s storybook feel.

Multiple instruments (including heavy doses of Hawaiian guitar) in the slowly unraveling love stories create a sense of sunny nostalgia for teenage love. Too bad Elliott Kozel does not enunciate his words more clearly, a production issue perhaps, as the stories he sings about are full of a mixture of fascinating biographical and imaginary details.

“Last Kiss on a Sinking Ship” starts as a straight 70s-sounding ballad. It sounds like a random corny song by Rod Stewart or something. But the lyrics draw the reader in. “All the freaked out passengers are talking on their phones to the loved ones they won’t see back home/the Captain, he jumped overboard/we’re a 150 miles away from any shore/you’re the only girl I’ve seen that looks about my age.” And then the corny chorus: “So come on and love me, no one can punish us....” Lines like, “while we’re both still dry/ let’s hit the bar and grab two bottles of expensive wine/we can take a blanket to the crow’s nest,” while not ultra poetic, do show a unique lyrical imagination. The weird mermaid gargles also make an appearance here, coloring the song’s slightly disheveled cheap lounge style. Soft irony, or a tribute to corny love ballads in the form of a loving spoof, that’s what “Last Kiss on a Sinking Ship” sounds like.

Except for “Blacked-Out Fun,” which has a faster garage rock feeling and “Axes Ground Looth Tooth,” which features female vocalist Celeste Heule, who sounds like Kim Gordon (a good thing), most of the songs in Great Vacation! follow the “Y.M.C.A. (Not that one)” and “Last Kiss on a Sinking Ship” route. A great thing.

Not that there aren’t weaker songs. A song like “Nothing,” for instance, while pleasant, does not have a melodic drive and so the story told in the song can’t shine through. Clearly, Sleeping in the Aviary are at their best when they find a melody that sticks around from the beginning to the end of a song, particularly if it’s a slow song. Weak songs, however, are not the rule in Great Vacation!

One of the strongest ones, “I Want You Back (I Want You Dead),” comes at the end. It really is a strange little gem. It has that ironic 70s ballad feel, but also sounds as if it had been made with a cheap vintage keyboard. Kozel’s high pitched delivery and Phil Mahlstadt’s Galaga-like sound effects make it both humorous and touching at the same time. “I want you Back” is the musical equivalent stumbling upon an old video game you used to play when you were a kid. As in the rest of the album, the song’s nostalgia is totally real, but also --and it can’t be otherwise-- tongue-in-cheek.

Just to clarify things, I don’t think Sleeping in the Aviary are part of a new wave of bands that will replace the currently favored short, hip and sharp songs with long, wacko and loose musical trips. If anything, like the Butthole Surfers and Daniel Johnston, bands like Sleeping in the Aviary tend to breed in a strange universe of their own. - Red Alert

"San Francisco Live Review"

Walking up to The Pink House, home to members of Little Teeth, I had no idea what to expect. With a wreath on the door and dimly lit red-tinted hallway leading up to a mini Christmas tree, this was clearly not going to be a normal house show. If you are ever in San Francisco, CA and The Pink House is having a show I highly recommend that you go. The hipness of the attendees complemented the Christmas décor that had exploded all over the walls and shelves perfectly.

Alternating between garage and living room, three bands played before Sleeping in the Aviary. Danny, a friend of Little Teeth, started the night off playing acoustic guitar and singing a combination of original and cover songs. “I’d like you guys to forgive me for this one and someday…uh…you’ll get your forgiveness,” Danny said before playing his last song, to which someone in the audience replied: “I love bands that begin with an apology!” Luckily the apology was not necessary for any aspect of the night. Moving from garage up to the living room to enter a room romantically lit solely from Christmas lights on the walls and one of those twinkle-light-reindeers, the show had changed gears. Beginning with Danny’s innocent acoustics, the performances were becoming more riled up when Winnie Byrd and Logan Greene began to play. Audience involvement was becoming more and more encouraged when Winnie Byrd asked two girls from the crowd to sing and when Logan Greene handed out handwritten lyrics to a song for people to sing along.

Back downstairs, Sleeping in the Aviary had finished setting up and the crowd was ready. They started their set with a dance-rock cover of “Tell Her” by Kenny Loggins in order to draw everyone into the garage. It worked. By the time the song was over the room was filled with dancing people that craved more. As soon as the bubble machine lingering in the corner was turned on Sleeping in the Aviary began playing their song “Y.M.C.A. (No, Not That One),” which can be seen in the video below. As time sped by, the band became more and more energized, infusing more of themselves into every song, which was being rebounded back by the crowd. At some point the singer shot a confetti gun into the air, increasing the excitement to an unimagined level. It is bands like this one that allow me to keep faith in my generation because while Britney Spears is still releasing music that is somehow played by the main-streamers, Sleeping in the Aviary mean what they play; pouring heart and soul into music and performances that have audiences smiling and dancing without any hesitation. - SSG Music

"Scene Point Blank Great Vacation Review"

leeping in the Aviary begin Great Vacation! with a sparse, plodding guitar line that builds into the skeletal indie-folk of “Y.M.C.A. (No, Not That One)”. Instead of starting with a rocker, this sets a tone that showcases their many elements: quirky poppiness, lyrics that border between absurd and genuine, and a penchant for the big, memorable refrain. The record plays with a sort of rising action and it’s not until the third song, “You Don’t Have to Drive,” that the band actually hits at anything upbeat and they quickly up the ante with the Hawaiian-styled “Maria’s Ghost,” which adds ukulele and horns—giving a hokey instrumentation that the band delivers matter-of-factly— without winking at their cleverness, but by letting the song’s structure speak for itself. The lyrics are playful and singalong, but they also have a dark and twisted imagery akin to a creepy Tim Burton world.

“Blacked-Out Fun” mixes surf guitar lines with distorted keys and a chorus of “ba ba ba’s” and album highlight, “The Very Next Day I Died” has a classic big pop singalong that is countered by its dark subject matter. Here, Elliott Kozel starts with a minimal guitar and his voice lamenting a number of seemingly everyday occurrences, followed with a choral “and the very next day I died.” It brings a tempered melodrama that works largely through the slow crescendo that incorporates additional sounds and instruments until, at its peak, it discusses life’s banalities to a folksy rhythm complemented by, of all things, cartoony boing sound effects. The upbeat songs establish a tone that is seemingly playful, but with an underlying grimness. While it feels like the band would like to laugh at life’s foibles, it’s as though they just can’t hide the macabre inclinations that are just beneath the surface.

Meanwhile, they take the time to mix up their tempos. In between the foot-tappers, come songs like “Nothing,” with minimal music, eerie keys, and haunting lyrics that aptly cover the lows as well as the highs. While the slower songs carry a more somber tone, they don’t drag down the record’s enjoyability but, instead, provide pacing to the album while showcasing a bit of musical range and giving a greater sense of seriousness that would be lacking. Whimsical, yet based in just enough reality, Sleeping in the Aviary fall into a class of folksy indie-pop that should attract fans of Modest Mouse, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Mountain Goats. - Scene Point Break

"Reviler Great Vacation Review"

I first heard Sleeping in the Aviary on their sophomore album, which was focused around the groups smart, Pavement leaning alt country indie rock. When I read the press release announcing their new album, “Great Vacation!,” and mentioning a “change in sound,” I couldn’t help but feeling a tinge of apprehension. Luckily the group has traded good for better, with the weirdo pop on Great Vacation! helping to move their sound forward and creating a highly entertaining record.

The closest band I can think to relate Great Vacation! to is the work of Nick Diamonds (Islands, Unicorns). The song structures are pretty straightforward pop, but the lyrics and presentation are decidedly, and to great effect, weird. The song subjects range from someone forgetting the safe word and being killed during sex (“Maria’s Ghost”) to hooking up on a sinking ship (“You Can Stay But There Won’t Be Pancakes”). Other songs are slightly less goofy, but even some of those tracks, like the quasi ballad “Nothing” and the spooky, circus pop of “Axes Ground Looth Tooth” are case studies in abstract pop writing. When the band takes a stab at a classic folky sound on album closer “the Very Next Day I Died,” it to me came across with even less weight compared to the smart material that preceded it. While it is a little bit of a letdown to end the record, it really goes to validate how creative and entertaining as a whole the record is.

While the changing of horses midstream can result in disasters, Sleeping in the Aviary have again successfully completed the jump with their third record. Great Vacation! is both smart and fun, a feat that isn’t easily accomplished, and results in a really solid effort from a band that has continued to push boundaries and succeed on their third record. Check out the band live Saturday night with Chelsea Boys and Buffalo Moon at the Kitty Cat Klub at the record release show.

"Hybrid Magazine Austin Texas Live Review"

After reviewing Sleeping In The Aviary's Great Vacation, I knew I had to catch them live to see how their performance compared to the album. I'm happy to say they did not disappoint! The Minneapolis natives played Austin's Hole In The Wall as part of a national tour promoting the album. They weren't the headliners, but just as the lead singer of [headliners] Murdocks said, Aviary was a hard act to follow.

The 5-piece band kicked the set off with "Blacked-Out Fun," a rambunctious, dancy song written toward an ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend (and the approval of the new boyfriend: "As long as he don't cut you up / and leave your body in the dump / he's cool"). The majority of the set was comprised of Vacation songs, with the exception of a few like "Write On" and The Dinosaurs theme song. I really enjoyed "You Don't Have To Drive" live, which really highlights the way the band's vocal harmonies play off each other. The set ended with the haunting "Gas Mask Blues" that culminated in a raucous crescendo, at which point I fully expected some instruments to get smashed.

Judging by the enthusiastic dancing and several bouts of audience-participation, including clap-alongs and dinosaur "rawr"-ing, the good-sized crowd appeared to have as much fun as I did. There were a few hiccups, like a problem with the keyboard audio, but they powered through. Aviary has an instant charismatic energy that could easily lend itself to a bigger venue. The sound was polished and the performance was a blast. From behind his googly-eyed guitar, the lead singer bantered with the audience between songs. The band even joked around with the crowd and willingly donned birthday hats that were being passed around the bar.

By the time the show was over, I couldn't help wonder, why isn't this band more popular? I figure it's just a question of timing, and once a few more people discover Aviary, they are going to take off and I'll be paying three times as much to see them at Stubb's. Gladly.

-Kelsey Rodgers - Hybrid Magazine

"Onion AV Club Great Vacation Review"

As a general rule, spazzy punk trios are preferable to indie-folk troubadours. But spazzy punk-folk troubadours are best of all, and that’s what the former thrash-and-yelp smartasses of Sleeping In The Aviary mutated into on their second album, Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel. Elliott Kozel’s voice was too ungainly to go the prissy pastoral route, bassist Phil Mahlstadt and drummer Michael Sienkowski were too habitually up-tempo to wax fussily intricate, and newcomer Celeste Heule’s accordion and musical saw accompaniment registered as weird, not trad. Expensive Vomit was like the great Bright Eyes album Conor Oberst was too pretty and Dylan-besotted to make, with that same sense of the cooler people in a Midwestern town gathering to make expressive noise, and its premature appreciation of mortality never undercut its raucousness.
Last year, SITA relocated from Madison to Minneapolis, added new guitarist Kyle Sobczak, and got goofy. Really goofy—Kozel finished a recent set at the 7th St. Entry fully pantsless (nope, no undies either). And the band’s third album, Great Vacation!, has a similar commando feel. “Y.M.C.A. (No Not That One)” substitutes choral gargling for a solo, while elsewhere Kozel’s voice has grown less declamatory and more whimsical. When he sings about “floating in space and sipping on juice made from a powder” to the strum of ukulele, there’s an air of self-amused slackerdom that invites you in to pass out on its couch.
Death still peeks around the corner, but its current aims are absurd. Take “Maria’s Ghost”—maybe you could write a serious song about a BDSM foray ending in death, but not with a quirky accordion and Dixieland horn solo. The story behind “You Can Stay But There Won’t Be Pancakes” is explained by its alternate title, “Last Kiss On A Sinking Ship.” And on “The Very Next Day I Died,” a skinned knee, a first love, a good job, a happy marriage, a country home, spoiled kids, divorce, and being buried alive each kill Kozel within a day—and then he has to wait in line to get into heaven. - Onion Twin Cities

"Daily News in PA"

With a killer band name and an album title that not only catches your attention but is certain to elicit a chuckles every time it's spoken aloud, all Sleeping in the Aviary needed to land a spot on my current list of bands to keep an eye on was a really good follow-up to their underrated debut "Oh, This Old Thing?" Well, I'm happy to report that the Madison, Wis.-based collective has outdone themselves on "Expensive Vomit," a fantastic record that is in the running for inclusion on my year-end list of favorites.

Frontman Elliott Kozel is a witty, talented songwriter who mixes things up with the blues stomp of "Gas Mask Blues" (a tune the White Stripes wish they had written), the Replacements-leaning "Write On" and Bright Eyes-ish "Ladybug Death Song." Additional keepers include "Things Look Good," "Everybody's Different, Everybody Dies" and the sprawling (if slightly overwrought) disc closer "Windshield." I can't wait to hear what these guys come up with next.

-Jeffrey Sisk, The Daily News (McKeesport, PA) - The Daily News

"Aversion Magazine"

Let it not be said that Sleeping in the Aviary doesn't know how to party.

Brutal truth: As much as you like listening to folk bands, most of those guys aren't the sort of band you'd want playing your birthday party. Earnest and meaningful and Bob Dylan-worshipping just doesn't really translate into a good-time band. They can't all be party acts, though, so fair enough.

Sleeping in the Aviary's twisted spin on folk would be the exception. The band drops its crazy, lo-fi pop mania from its debut, Oh, This Old Thing?, and settles into a folk groove for its sophomore record. Settling in isn't the same thing as settling down. The band's still as in love with mischief, big pop hooks and defying the laws of good sense, tradition and self-importance that are usually the tripod on which folk bands sit.

The raw and immediate approach that garnered the band comparisons to The Thermals is still around. It's toned down a tad, though, as SITA tackles a broader base of influences, drawing on everything from late-'90s indie pop to that sort of singer/songwriter folk that's been around forever without changing one bit. Just take it as a whiskey and speed party at the folk festival and leave it there.

Watching SITA vandalize folk pop is a good time. "Everybody's Different, Everybody Dies" tangles with the same morbid issues of mortality as a young Conor Oberst, but the act's rambunctious lo-fi production hints more at Sebadoh's role in its upbringing. Roots guitar forms the basis for "Things Look Good" and "Gas Mask Blues," but instead of twang guitar, Sleeping in the Aviary turns to shrill, in-the-red guitars that are violent and edgy in a punk sense. Anyone who remembers the band's mile-wide pop streak from Oh, This Old Thing? won't be disappointed, though pure-pop songs like "I'm Old," "Write On" and "Ladybug Death Song" hone the band's craft, as it writes longer, more intricate and all-around more mature tunes.

Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel isn't folk, per se, but it's mostly made up of bits and pieces of the genre. Sleeping in the Aviary just knows how to bang them up, bend them out of shape and make a lot of weird noise in the process. And it has a lot of fun in the process.

-Mark Morrison, Aversion - Aversion

"Illinois Entertainer"

Sleeping In The Aviary wears its heart on its sleeve, combining wry, yet heartfelt lyrics with an acoustic punk aesthetic. The Madison quartet has much to lament on its sophomore effort, Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel (Science Of Sound). Recording on the heels of a friend's drug overdose, a co-worker's brain aneurysm, and the hospitalization of vocalist Elliott Kozel's mother, the band faces mortality on the clanging, busker tune "Everybody's Different, Everybody Dies." Listing the circumstances under which people will meet their demise borders on morbid, but in Kozel's hands, the song becomes a meditation.

- Illinois Entertainer - Illinois Entertainer

"All Music Guide"

Searching for a lo-fi Violent Femmes? Look no further than Sleeping in the Aviary, and their 2008 release, the charmingly titled Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel. Hailing from Madison, WI, Sleeping in the Aviary certainly possesses the same snotty charm as the aforementioned Femmes (circa their early era), especially in the vocal stylings of singer/guitarist Elliott Kozel, which can be heard clearly on the album opening "Write On." Elsewhere, you'll also find a Pixies-esque ditty ("Gas Mask Blues") and a haunting album closing ditty ("Windshield"). The trio keeps it bare-bones sounding throughout, as Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel sounds like it could have been recorded in your living room, with just a few mikes strewn around. And that is exactly the charm of Sleeping in the Aviary.

- Greg Prato, All Music Guide - All Music Guide

"Metro Spirit"

AUGUSTA, GA - A little like early emo bands, especially Bright Eyes, Sleeping in the Aviary unleash a driven emotional indie rock sound right from the start of "Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel." But, more than Bright Eyes, Sleeping in the Aviary carry the flag of early- and mid-80s college rock bands such as the Violent Femmes, the Dead Milkmen and They Might Be Giants. Maybe with a little early Against Me thrown in for good acoustic measure. Catchy, danceable, quirky and noisy; the Madison, Wis., trio of Elliot Kozel, Phil Mahlstadt and Michael Sienkowski began their sing-along, intense, stripped-down style of rock in 2003 before releasing their debut, Oh, This Old Thing? in 2007. Following up with Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel, the newly formed quartet since adding Celeste Huele, continue to release out music often thought of as comparable to early New York Punk-era Talking Heads. That early Big Apple vibe gives the band a similar energy as the Velvet Underground too. Frantic, moody and slightly weird; Sleeping in the Aviary’s second full-length album pushes the amalgam of screaming vocals and clangy guitar rock into fuzzy, spacey territory. Fans of the early American proto-punk sounds of such Detroit bands as the Stooges and the MC5 or Ohio-based rockers like Rocket from the Tombs will find an energetic little brother with Sleeping in the Aviary.

The opening track, “Write On,” kicks off the album with a catchy, fun tune that causes toes to tap along to a very college rock sound. While “Gas Mask Blues” brings out the big guns with a clash of soft singing and wild Sonic Youth-esque noise.

The way the tracks often build from a slow contemplative melodious musing to a screaming fit redolent of any pre-90s indie band, "Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel" packs a punch while asking the listener to pack their lunch for one wild ride through what could quite possibly be the mind of a schizophrenic. Touchy, creative, sappy, eclectic, and fiercely energetic all at the same time; Sleeping in the Aviary bring together an array of sound most bands can only dream of accomplishing. Maybe that’s why “You’re A Party” reminds one of the Beatles, one of the few other bands in history to approach the ledge of musical creativity and step off it with confidence.

- Dino Lull, Metro Spirit - Metro Spirit

"Aiding & Abetting"

The album title is fairly indicative. These are songs of caustic wit and even more corrosive loathing. The venom seems to be delivered at both the subjects of the songs and (perhaps) other band members as well. I'm not sure about that last part, but this album is tension city. Which makes for compelling listening. Sleeping in the Aviary plays a raggedy sort of rock of roll, one that dips its toe into folk and the blues before galloping back into the world of cranging guitars. Sonic tension, if you will. And like I said, it works quite well. Indeed, just about everything works here. The songs are tight, the band is just loose enough to give some room to breathe and the sound is a couple steps above demo-quality--exactly what these folks need. The easiest touchpoints would be the Brian Jonestown Massacre or the Flaming Lips (circa 1993 or so), though these folks are more anarchic and antisocial. This one sounds good from the start, and then it grows on you. Loverly, kids.

- Aiding & Abetting - Aiding & Abetting

"CMJ New Music Monthly"

Despite lyrically heavy content -- and the fact that this album was written the very same week frontman Elliott Kozel experienced the deaths of two close friends -- Expensive is nonetheless full of blithely charming up-tempo songs. At nearly 45 minutes long, the band's second album provides a pleasantly tailored listen throughout. While songs like "Write On" are incredibly infectious, other tunes, like "You're A Party," crescendo with polished nonchalance and delicacy. Then "Things Look Good" has a Dylan-esque vibe to it with a friendly harmonica, nostalgic gritty vocals and catchy guitar chords. Alternately somber, poignant, lively or even a bit waltzy, Expensive Vomit in A Cheap Hotel will leave you neither nauseous nor drowsy. - CMJ New Music Report 10/20/08 - CMJ NMR

"3 Imaginary Girls"

Departing (if only slightly) from the irresistibly catchy punk ditties of their 2007 debut, Sleeping in the Aviary’s Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel is a solid, genre-bending follow-up. Tossing accordion/saw player, Celeste Huele, into the mix, SITA have developed their sound into more of an indie-folk likeness, but that’s not to say they have forgotten how to write a deliriously appealing hook.

This instantly likeable, airy lo-fi conjures the good times had in basements lit by Christmas lights and rooftops lit by street lamps. Similar to such acts as Flaming Lips, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Two Gallants, Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel displays impeccably well-rounded rock sensibilities and stays cohesive despite a great deal the movement between genres. The constant presence of triple meter is like the musical glue holding together a truly emotionally dynamic experience. At times the rhythm is uplifting, swaying your body uncontrollably, such as in “Things Look Good.” Other times it is bittersweet and heartfelt, or melancholy and introspective, such as in “Maybe You’re the Same” and “Windshield.” Even the sound quality of the recording is emotional, the presence of a slight echo to the music creating a sense of space, as if the album was recorded in big room in a cabin tucked away in the mountains.

There were some artistic choices I could have done without. There is a hacking cough at the end of “Things Look Good” that kind of grossed me out, and I could’ve done without the wild distortion bit at the end of “Write On.” There are about five seconds at the beginning of “Everybody’s Different, Everybody Dies” that sound like an awful recording mistake, and the digital, synth, and experimental sounds at the end of “Ladybug Death Song” and the untitled bonus track felt really out of place.

However, these miniscule moments do not overshadow the overall quality of this album. The insatiable hook to “Write On” (“I just wanna write you out of my heart”) invokes the melodic sentiments of the Undertones, calling to mind childhood bike rides in the summertime. “Calm Me Down” features irresistible harmonies and a hook I was singing before the end of the song. The banjo, tambourine, and multi-part harmony found in “Girl in The Ground” reminded me (in a good way) of a summer camp talent show performance. And the saw in “Gas Mask Blues” effectively builds a heavy mood, conjuring the sense of grief after tragedy. This song, and true of the entirety of Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel, is testament to SITA’s incredible ability to meld and blend genres, fusing twang, blues, and punk rock. A truly graduated effort, like a fine wine, this album is a beautiful example of a band able to mature with time.

-imaginary brooklyn, November 26, 2008
- 3 Imaginary Girls

"Magnet Magazine- Best of 2008 Hidden Teasures"

The 10 Best Albums You Didn't Hear

Sleeping in the Aviary, "Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel" (Science of Sound)

Beating on pawn-shop acoustic guitars and trashcan lids while whooping it up about all the joys and pains of being young, dumb and awkward, this ramshackle four-piece takes its cue from fellow Wisconsin misfits the Violent Femmes on its sophomore album. At times, Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel’s lo-fi shittiness is so raw it sounds like the band is busking in a high-school bathroom, but somehow the wheels stay on this mess of charming melodies and mischievous wit.

And in the print issue on page 100:


Long before there was a small army of people on Craigslist available at your fingertips for a potential midnight kiss (or at least a grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of Two Buck Chuck), you had to work things out for yourself. Or, as in the case of Sleeping In The Aviary, you could let your interpersonal relationship fester like that last eye-watering bag of half-eaten pork tenderloin and cat-box scrapings that makes it so difficult to even raise the lid of the garbage can. That’s when the only options left in life seem to involve kicking down a door and breaking your big toe, throwing the iron through the front window onto the lawn and scaring the hell out of the neighbor’s cat, or running head-first into the medicine cabinet and writing your goodbye note in blood on the cracked mirror. As neurotically intense as the bad-dream vibe of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, the 11 ultra-lo-fi songs on SITA’s second album offer an agonizing litany of painful blind dates, awkward encounters and domestic partners as mismatched as the last two socks left in your bureau drawer. Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel is the unshaven, drug-addled, untold misery those good-looking, blissful-idiot couples who’ve found their perfect soulmates on eHarmony have never even dreamed about. With a disturbed, ranting style that points out the barely controlled rage common to the early work of fellow Minnesota/ Wisconsin natives Bob Dylan and Violent Femmes, the members of Sleeping In The Aviary are as obsessed here with love gone bad as notoriously demented cartoonist Robert Crumb under a heavy deadline, with a houseful of screaming kids and a car in the driveway with a dead battery. -Jud Cost, Magnet Magazine, Winter 2008/2009 15th Anniversary Issue
- Magnet Magazine

"Austinist- The Best Overlooked Albums of 2008"

The Best Overlooked Albums of 2008

Sleeping in the Aviary - Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel (Science of Sound)

They're a chaotic art-folk band that manages to pack the right amount of punk and the right amount of pop in their bag of tricks to keep things forever interesting and engaging. The group - Phil, Elliott, Michael and Celeste - are excellent at making the transition between pop acoustic songs and rowdy electric ones feel natural. Although, they don't get as much into the high-octane stuff on this one as with their previous, Oh, This Old Thing.

But honestly, if for no other reason, the very first song of the album is so strong, that it guarantees this album a spot on this year's best overlooked albums. It's called "Write On," and it's catchy, rambunctious and totally inspiring. It's full of furiously strummed acoustic guitar, an electric buzz and a chorus begging to be sung along to as you bounce around with the poppy rhythm. Mix this one with others like the echoing, somber piano tune, "You're a Party," and the Western acoustic number "Gas Mask Blues" and you've got a strong recording full of emotion, harmony and high energy. They flood their live show with even more intensity than the recordings, making that the best way to discover their music. They're also not too bad at creating lyrics that stick, like "If you have my daughter I don't know what I will do, cause I'm gonna want to hit her if she looks like you" from "Gas Mask Blues." -William Mills,


To Be Released Sept 2011
"You and Me, Ghost" - full length, CD, Vinyl

Released November 2010
"Great Vacation" - full length, CD, Vinyl

March 2009:
Split 7-inch w/ The Hussy

Released October 2008:
"Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel"- full-length, CD

Released February 2007:
"Oh, This Old Thing?"- full-length debut CD- Feb. 6
"Oh, This Old Thing?"- Vinyl (album on Side A, plus exclusive demos and home-recordings on Side B)- Feb. 20



"It's got a fuzzed-out doo-wop feeling, and all the songs are about girls!" says Sleeping in the Aviary's Elliott Kozel. "It's like Dion and the Belmonts with a hangover trying to figure out how to use a Big Muff pedal, or the Everly Brothers beating up some kid in the bathroom of a high-school gymnasium and then feeling bad about it later." He's describing the band's fourth full-length album, You and Me, Ghost, set for release by Science of Sound Records on September 6, 2011. In the ever-expanding musical universe that is Sleeping in the Aviary, asking what they're up to now will often reward the questioner with an unexpected response – and be accompanied by some great music, genre boundaries be damned.
Originating as a trio based in Madison, Wis., Sleeping in the Aviary has evolved into a Minneapolis, Minn., quintet including Kozel (vocals, guitar), Phil Mahlstadt (bass), Michael Sienkowski (drums, backing vocals), Celeste Heule (accordion, keyboards, musical saw), and Kyle Sobczak (guitar). All the members have roots in southeastern Wisconsin, and have been playing music for a decade and more in a near-countless number of bands and one-off projects. Those varied experiences and experiments have resulted in the bouillabaisse of sounds offered in their discography – from the power chord-fueled pop-punk of Oh, This Old Thing? (2007), to the mostly acoustic indie-folk of Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel (2008), to the soul-influenced pop of Great Vacation (2010). For You and Me, Ghost the band's sound takes on the influence of an earlier era but still sounds undeniably like Sleeping in the Aviary.
"The 'golden oldies' from the '50s and '60s had a major conceptual influence on this particular album," says Kozel. "The simple romantic themes and short and straightforward song structures were elements we attempted to steal from it." And it wasn't difficult to focus on themes that dwell on affairs of the heart since the songwriting followed the end of a long-term relationship for Kozel, who says, "It's the old tried and true 'break-up album.'"
You and Me, Ghost was recorded in Science of Sound's studio over five days on a short break during several months of touring in the first half of 2011. For the most part, reversing the very layered and complex production style used for Great Vacation, here the band keeps the arrangements simple, limits superfluous or textural tracks and keeps the reverb to a minimum. Kozel and Sobczak produced the record (with assistance from all), aided by the engineering skills of Ricky Riemer.
Sleeping in the Aviary has shared stages with Califone, Ra Ra Riot, The Thermals, The Von Bondies, Elf Power and many others; they will be heading back out on the road in September with their newest release. In the meantime, they'll be releasing new tracks and video teasers for the new album.