Sleepy Eyes of Death
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Sleepy Eyes of Death

Seattle, Washington, United States

Seattle, Washington, United States
Band Alternative EDM


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Bands to Watch in 2008"

Sleepy Eyes of Death's impeccably crafted cinematic electro-rock sculptures are notable on their own, but what really sets the band apart from their peers is their remarkable live shows. The band deliver their dramatic instrumentals through a thick cloud of fog, eerily lit with flashing blue, red, and yellow spotlights. With a slew of amps, Moogs, keyboards, and synths, their performances are so draining on club's electrical systems that they've been known to blow a fuse or two. Or, as they did at a Vera Project show last year, set off the fire alarm.

"Thirty seconds into our set, the alarms go off and everyone has to evacuate," remembers Sleepy Eyes' guitarist J. Andrew. "They were really nice about it, though. They let us play a couple more songs."

Their best sets, though, are seamless, with songs flowing into one another through layers of ambient noise.

For 2008, the band are working on a sophomore album.

"It's gonna be really rad," says Andrew. "We're honing in on our sound, making it more original and less about drawing from influences. The new stuff is a little darker and more cohesive—it's feeling more like an album."

There's no date set yet, or label (hint, hint), but they're shooting for a fall release. As for their performance at the Young Ones showcase, Andrew says that the band have added some new tricks to their arsenal to ensure a stellar performance. Prompted for more info, he coyly replies, "It's going to be a surprise." What can be said is that you might want to bring a pair of sunglasses, as one possible addition to their lighting rig is something usually reserved for arenas.

-MEGAN SELING, 4/16/08
- The Stranger

"Recommended at Holocene"

Sleepy Eyes of Death achieve a perfect level of volume extremes on their debut album, the textured 'Street Lights for a Ribcage', which sparkles with a wondrous array of keyboards, thumping drums, and enough atmospheric hum to channel Kevin Shields' most creative moments and M83's early shoegaze haunt. All that is missing here is drugs and earplugs, both highly recommended.

-EZRA ACE CARAEFF, 11/6/08 - The Portland Mercury

"Synth band pits man vs. machine"

They brought the fog machine. To a radio show.

Sleepy Eyes of Death brought the machine but they aren't allowed to use it. Something about excessive condensation and thousands of dollars worth of microphones in this hermetically sealed studio worries the engineer.

Even if they can't switch it on, that the fog machine is here in the KEXP studio — that Sleepy Eyes practices with it on in their rehearsal space — demonstrates at the band's dedication to setting a mood. Surrounded by synthesizers, the band — keyboardist/drummer Keith Negley, keyboardist/guitarist Andrew Toms, keyboardist/drummer Joel Harmon, and guitarist/drummer Cassidy Gonzales — is set to play four songs from their about-to-drop EP "Dark Signals" on "Audioasis," the station's long-running local music show.

"God, that sounds good," gushes an intern as Negley warms up his vintage Roland Juno-60 synth.

The sound of Sleepy Eyes of Death is defined as much by their instruments as the musicians playing them. The Juno-60 — and a slew of similar keyboards used by the band — provided the luscious, deep-space soundtracks for countless '80s synth-pop bands, B-movies, and planetarium shows. They're still immediately evocative: "Dark Signals" is all sci-fi noir atmosphere, minimalist synth melodies intricately woven behind quickening guitars and drums, explosive tension drawn from subtle transitions. It's a soundtrack minus the movie.

"It makes sense that we'd be cinematic when half, if not the majority, of our influences stem from film scores," says Negley, gathered with the rest of the band at Dad Watson's in Fremont the night before their Audioasis set. They cite the inspiration of director John Carpenter ("Escape from New York," "Halloween"), Vangelis ("Blade Runner"), Tangerine Dream ("Risky Business") and Italian horror movies.

"I pretty much rip those guys off on a daily basis," Negley says.

Playing instrumental, sans singer, is a bold move. A singer is an automatic entry point for most listeners; lyrics literally tell people what a song is about.

"I think playing without a really bad vocalist is bolder than being an instrumental band," Negley counters.

"We've really built the live aspect," Toms says. "We're self-conscious about that. Since we're an instrumental band, we realize we have to make up for stuff." Hence the fog machine, the seizure-inducing strobes, the fuse-blowing lights. For their concerts, Sleepy Eyes has a full-time light-and-sound guy.

Off the stage, graphic song titles such as "Shattered Limbs" and "Crushed By Stars" build vivid imagery in lieu of lyrics. (Not to mention the band's name, taken from a 1960s Japanese samurai serial.)

"We labor over song titles almost as long as some of the songs," Toms says.

"My only goal with the song titles is to basically reflect the juxtaposition of human organic versus cold technology," Negley adds.

That juxtaposition is the music's greatest quality, both in how it's made and the way it sounds. The band recorded "Dark Signals" to a digital click track and added live drums at the end, reversing the typical recording process. Some songs were developed through live jams while others were created android-like via individual components contributed by each band member. There is no bandleader, no primary songwriter.

"It's tough having four people play who are trying to contribute equally," Toms says. "I know the majority of bands, there's one guy who's like, OK you're playing this now, and you're playing that."

The egalitarian approach works. The songs on "Dark Signals" suggest a shifting narrative, built one synth-driven crescendo to another. It's massive, elegant, sinister music magically rendered in succinct, 4 ½-minute songs.

It's dark stuff — sort of robo-samurai horror tragedy, maybe — haunting and, at times, beautiful.

"I would love it if every song I wrote was beautiful," Negley says. "My goal is basically to make people cry. I wanna make people cry at our shows."

-JONATHAN ZWICKEL, 1/16/09 - Seattle Times

"Dark Signals - Record Review"

Dark Signals by Sleepy Eyes of Death is fantastic. We all know, or should, that Sleepy Eyes put on extremely visual live shows. I was surprised to find their new EP equally visual, but in a completely different way. The same songs that dance through strobe lights and fog when performed live evoke thunderclouds and deep forests shot through with blinding shards of sunlight on Dark Signals - to me, anyway.

I’m rarely wowed enough by every track to pick up an entire album. I knew Dark Signals would be the exception it is and I can’t name a weak track among its six. The brilliance of “Crushed By Stars” and “Final Heart Beats Black” with its haunting vocals and drums that seem to stall time make them my favorites, but every track holds wonderful conflict and beautifully contained chaos.

“Shattered Limbs” takes me back to 80s arcades where I played too much Tempest – its pulse driving in a way that probably would have raised my score if I could have listened to it then. “Pierce The Air” builds, adding layers of robotic synth that Cassidy Gonzales’ guitar humanizes and warms. “Metastatic” begins and ends crashing, with Tron-like vocals leading into utterly satisfying drums. “Pulse From Breath” is a bright gallop through the aforementioned deep forests and trails off into thoughtful silence.

Sleepy Eyes of Death create such unique music that if Dark Signals disappointed I couldn’t simply shrug, toss it aside and choose from several others by bands who sound enough like them to satisfy in the same way. Sleepy Eyes needed to do it right and they did, with a beautiful recording engineered by Matt Bayles (Minus the Bear, Mastodon, Isis) and SEoD member Keith Negley that showcases the efforts of each musician while blending their sound seamlessly. I highly recommend Dark Signals.

-Amelia Gyde, 1/19/09 -

"..Where are your Moogs?"

Hypnotic techniques are at the disposal of local band Sleepy Eyes of Death, who will celebrate the release of their new Dark Signals EP this Saturday, January 17 at Neumo's. Watching the four-piece (five, if you include "Industrial Light and Magic" charge and erstwhile Scarecrow Video employee Brandon Lanich) methodically build layers of chilly synth and celestial samples over thick drums (both organic and manmade) while impaling themselves occasionally on shards of Gibson and Fender guitars is essentially like watching a team of scientists build a futuristic Frankenstein before your eyes. Should Seattle music fans ever find themselves lamenting the lack of Mogwai or My Bloody Valentine–flavored bands in the landscape, they clearly haven't been to a Sleepy Eyes of Death show.

"We had all been in traditional rock bands prior, and I think we were all ready for something different right around the same time," explains Moog master Keith Negley. "We didn't know of too many bands playing rock music with synthesizers in Seattle, and I think we all like being left-of-center in terms of the scene."

Part of being left-of-center means assigning great worth to the atmospherics created by the band's elaborate lighting rig and fog machine, effects which could seem gimmicky if they weren't so obviously intrinsic to the live experience for the band as much as for the audience.

"I think the lights and fog came about initially because we wanted to push the live experience as far as we could," Negley continues. "We all had an appreciation for how visuals can enhance what you're hearing, but now that we own our own light rig and have gotten in the habit of rehearsing with them, it really does seem to enhance our playing. It focuses us; all the trivial details fall to the wayside when the room goes black and the strobes come on. I think if every band tried it, they'd never play without them again."

-Hannah Levin, 1/13/09 - Seattle Weekly

"Sleepy Eyes of Death's Fuse-Blowing Scores"

Not long ago, Sleepy Eyes of Death couldn't seem to get through a show without suffering crippling technical difficulties. At the Showbox Sodo's lounge, they blew a fuse three times in one set, killing everything but drums and guitar each time. At the Vera Project, their fog machines set off a fire alarm, forcing the venue to be evacuated until the fire marshal arrived to give the all clear. At King Cobra, during the 2008 Capitol Hill Block Party, they played for 30 minutes before the sound guy was even able to get their synthesizers dialed into the mix.

"It was just too much," says Keith Negley (drums, keyboards), of the Block Party incident. "Too much gear and not enough time [to set up and sound-check]. Apparently we had more gear than they had actual lines, so they couldn't even run all of our setup."

Not bad for a band that started in 2004 with longtime friends Andrew Toms (keyboards, guitar) and Joel Harmon (drums, keyboards) toying around on just a couple of keyboards and one drum machine, making music that Harmon describes as "a little on the poppy side." The group expanded to include Negley and guitarist Cassidy Gonzales (live, the band are also assisted by Brandon Lanich on colored lights and fog), and the solidified quartet began steadily amassing an alarming array of electronic equipment.

"At one point, it was just insane," says Negley. "We had like seven or eight synths synched up with MIDI. It was so much work to plug all those keyboards in together onstage in the dark. Half the time you didn't know if you set it up right before you started playing, so you start the show and just hope everything is plugged in properly, 'cause you don't find out until later, when a certain keyboard is supposed to come in but doesn't."

Still, Sleepy Eyes have always tried not to be too much of a headache for sound guys. "We understand that we're a burden," says Negley, "and we try really hard to be extra diligent about that." And since the Block Party incident, the band members have endeavored to greatly simplify their live setup, eliminating several synthesizers and much of the MIDI synching, and using far fewer effects pedals.

"It seemed like a lot of it goes over people's heads live," says Negley. "People respond to energy, stage energy, the drums, and the tones—they're not going to notice, like, if it's an analog reverb or a digital reverb."

Wisely, Sleepy Eyes now save their most meticulous sound design for the studio, where they most recently completed their new EP, Dark Signals, (out January 20 on mass.mvmnt/Sleep Capsule) with veteran local producer Matt Bayles. Like their 2007 full-length, Street Lights for a Ribcage, the EP's six songs are largely instrumental, layering precisely arpeggiating analog keyboards, sweeping synth pads, vocoded vocals, alternately blurry washes and sharp stabs of guitar, and both programmed beats and pounding live drums. The songs range from the aggressive autobahn night-drive of "Shattered Limbs" to the suspenseful stalking of "Pierce the Air" to the breathtaking final liftoff of "Crushed by Stars." It all sounds rather like an M83 record with just the vocal pop songs sucked out.

Indeed, the most recognizable lyrics on Dark Signals come via "Final Heart Beats Black," whose dozen or so words are vocoded into what may as well be Hopelandic, the consonants clipped by the synth treatment, the vowels stretched out untethered into space. I'm pretty sure I heard "final... no more... only," and I may have heard the words "parking," "begging," and/or "sleep"—it's hard to say. (The few snatches of vocals on the slow-swirling song "Metastatic" are much the same.) In any case, though all band members contribute lyrics, they approach vocals as just one more instrument in the mix. Their processed singing is meant more for mood and texture than textual meaning, and its trembling, melancholy tone comes through clear enough.

The band aren't aiming to make a pop record anyway, and Negley, who recorded much of Dark Signals himself before taking the tracks to Bayles for polishing, is totally satisfied with the record. "This EP is probably the first time where it actually sounds like it's supposed to sound," he says. "Before, we were letting the technology, like, run us, but now we have a better grasp on how sound works."

The band, whose name comes from a samurai film series (Toms and Lanich both work at the U-District's beloved Scarecrow Video), take their inspiration from such film-score legends as Tangerine Dream, Goblin, Vangelis, and John Carpenter (the Dark Signals album art, created by Negley, was inspired by Tron). But they're quick to dismiss the idea of them as strictly soundtrack buffs or synth nerds or, worse, vintage M83 clones (a band who also wear their cinematic loves on their sleeve).

"I still take a lot of influence from old post-rock bands," says Negley, "like Mogwai, to name one. [Guitarist Gonzales, absent from this interview, is a big fan of Isis.] It's almost less about whether it's keyboard versus guitar, and more about how to layer tones, how to layer melody and harmony, structuring—things like that."

Live, their rockier tendencies can be felt in the band's hard-hitting drums and heavy bass (though they have no bass player, they get plenty of bowel-rumbling low end out of their synths), as well as in their adept transitions from delicate quiet to big, crushing crescendos. All of which, along with the band's much-discussed light show, helps make the lack of a lead singer seem like no great loss.

"We do take into consideration how people see us live," says Negley. "And that is an issue—that we completely negate that element that's supposed to traditionally connect with the audience. But we try to be as engaging as possible without having that person right up front, you know, pointing and looking at people and grinning."

In fact, Sleepy Eyes of Death are overwhelming enough without a lead singer or an overly complicated stage setup, and they're bound to have plenty of people right up front at their show, looking and grinning—the ones in the audience.

-ERIC GRANDY, 1/15/09 - The Stranger

"Performers of the Year"

Performers of the Year 2008

[#2 of 10]

December, 2008 issue - Sound Magazine

"Most recommended Friday event"

Four men stand onstage among a mess of wires, synthesizers, drums, and guitars. With a heavy blast of fog and well-timed flashes of multicolored spotlights, the lines between man and machine become blurred. Layers of fast-paced keyboard stack on top of fuzzy guitar and airtight drumming. The beat buzzes below your feet and threatens to knock you down. You'll walk away intact, but your idea of what a live show should be will never be the same.

Saturday, Jan.17, 2009 - The Stranger

"Street Lights - Record Review"

Street Lights for a Ribcage, the debut full length from Seattle quartet Sleepy Eyes of Death, is an album that sounds exactly like it should. There is no mistaking the band's intent to create a powerful mood through their sound, and they follow through on it unequivocally.

Banks of vintage synthesizers, guitars drenched in washy shoegazer effects, and explosions of apocalyptic drums make for an intense and fully saturated sound, so much so that the silences between songs are somewhat startling.

"Mean Time Till Failure" and "Eyes Spliced Open" start the disc with a propulsive torrent of sound. Of the 10 songs on the album, only "In Parallel" and "Tired Channels" have vocals, and even then they are heavily processed through a vocoder. The band tones down the bombast for a few ambient tracks: the slightly dissonant "We Are Safe" and the zero-g drone of the connected tracks "No Panic" and "Capsule/Collapse." "Separated by Circuits" remains relatively low key until some cathartically heavy drums kick in, and "Cells Divide" is a slow builder that features drums by former Carissa's Wierd member and current solo artist Sera Cahoone. Any trance induced by the album's mellower moments is fully obliterated as the album's closing track "Static for Blood" fades in and then bursts into a sustained sonic supernova.

For listeners of a certain age, the retro keyboard sounds will awaken memories of the movie Tron or Carl Sagan's public television series Cosmos, and the wind tunnel guitars will jack directly into the pleasure center of any fan of the shoegazer sound perfected in the early '90s. Yet somehow these decades-old sounds transcend their period associations to create music with a timeless quality and an immersive, powerful, almost primal effect on the listener. Play loud. (Sleep Capsule)

November 2007

- West Coast Performer Magazine

"URB 'Next 100' artist 2009"

Selected as one of the 'Next 100' artists for Urb Magazine's prestigious list of 2009 up and coming acts. - URB MAGAZINE


Toward a Damaged Horizon - May 2010
Dark Signals - January 2009
Street Lights for a Ribcage - July 2007



Sleepy Eyes of Death fill the gap between ambient shoegaze and computer-damaged instrumental epics. Creating a wall of analog induced sound thick enough to bury their listeners along with free ear plugs, smoke machines, industrial strobes and racks of vintage synths, Sleepy Eyes of Death have made each live appearance an event.