By James Lanik
With the rise of music sharing sites such as Bandcamp and Soundcloud, the once cost-prohibitive barriers to recording and publishing an album have all but crumbled. In its ashes has risen a new wave of bedroom-based recording artists with their own musical ideas, seamlessly blending familiar sonics together while simultaneously creating entirely new genres in their wake.
In the past several years, this resurgence of homegrown music culture has thrived in the Austin scene, a city long known for the pride it takes in the sheer breadth of its local live music repertoire. sleep well., in the two or so years under their belt as a collective, has taken their blend of rock and bedroom pop to iconic stages all over Austin and surrounding areas, including the Mohawk, House Johnson and Paper Tiger. They released their debut album “Pictures of Dogs” at the tail end of the last decade; and in 2020, they plan to not only take their sound to adventurous new heights, but reform the status quo of the central Texas local music culture while they do it.
sleep well. consists of Andrés Garcia (singer and frontman), Marco Martinez (keys, guitar), Dominic Gomez (bass), Ricky Olivares (guitar), Mark Fountain (drums), Adán Silva (drums, Photoshop expert), and visual artists William Baker and Sohrob Fatoorechie. After several releases on Bandcamp, the group released their official debut album “Pictures of Dogs” to streaming platforms on December 19, 2019.
James Lanik: What was the thought process behind naming your band?
Andrés Garcia: Our original band name was Twin XL when we were first toying around with ideas and releasing some rough material online, but it turned out that another band shared the same name, and so to avoid legal troubles, we toyed around with some alternative names until we settled on “sleep well.”, which is an homage to my late grandfather who would text me “buenos noches duerme bien” before bed, which translates to “goodnight, sleep well.”
JL: How would you describe the music you make, with genres or otherwise?
Marco Martinez: Bedroom rock would probably be the best way to describe it, but our sound has already developed significantly and I feel like it can be kind of difficult to pinpoint. When we were first uploading music we had a much more lo-fi sound than we do now, but that was mostly due to a lack of recording resources. It feels good to be in a position where we have the equipment to be more in control of our sound. Going forward, a lot of the material we’re working on now is going in more of a dreampop direction and I’m excited to see where it takes us.
JL: What inspired you all to make music together? Simply good friends with a mutual passion for music, or something more?
Ricky Olivares: I knew Marcos and Andrés separately, and they were the two to initially form the band. We went through several instrumentalists that didn’t last too long before I joined in the middle of 2018. Then we met Mark at Southwestern, and picked up Adán and Will shortly after. We’re all originally from San Antonio with the exception of Sohrob. We have a bunch of collaborators as well such as NATÁSSIA, who we featured on the record, which is why we kind of think of ourselves more of as a collective first, and a band second.
JL: Can you think of a particular experience in the past you would consider to have been the band’s biggest challenge?
Dominic Gomez: Definitely recording the album. It was a new environment and it felt like a watershed moment for the band. We were rehearsing for literally hours upon hours a day, and for a while we set all our other priorities aside to get this thing done.
AG: The summer leading up to the recording, I was living in D.C., and Mark moved to London temporarily. We had about two weeks to finish up all the writing and recording we hadn’t completed, and those two weeks were dedicated entirely to sleep well. Which we discovered was pretty difficult to do when all of us are in college. Separate colleges, too.
JL: You all have been making music together for a couple of years now, and already your sound has matured and evolved a great deal. What did your initial recording environment look like?
MM: Oh God, me and Andrés would produce our own songs using the couple of guitars we had, and we would hold a Snowball mic above the drumset and drop the tracks straight into GarageBand. Eventually we started using MIDI sound packs to replace the drums because of just how awful that setup was. We had no idea what mixing was either; we’d record and release instantly. We would just write songs reflecting our experiences in life at the time, and we were complicit with not making them sound as good as they maybe could have. It just wasn’t about that for us. We were having fun making music in our bedroom.
Once Ricky, Dominic and Mark joined, they started speaking up about the songwriting process and it helped us to work together to start taking songwriting much more seriously. Everyone had their own input on sounds and themes, and that’s when the band really started to blossom. This specific producer we’re working right now is amazing at what he does and has really helped us to define our sound further, and he’s one of the reasons we’re leaning towards more of a dreampop direction with the music we’re working on now.
JL: What were some of your biggest musical inspirations for your debut album? Conceptual or lyrical inspirations?
AG: Once the band lineup started to solidify and become pretty permanent, I know that all of us bonded over James Mercer of The Shins. Most of us were fans of him and the band’s music already, and their songwriting and narrative focus was a big source of inspiration for us once we started writing songs more intentionally.
But aside from that, all of us have pretty wide ranges of music tastes that differ from one another, and that feeds into our music too. Marc is the only one of us with a background in music theory, which has helped a ton. Marco is a huge 80’s rock fan, and Ricky is our resident punk rock boy, but he’s also into plenty of synthwave and dream pop music too, and all of those influences can be seen to varying degrees in what we do.
JL: Given your humble beginnings in terms of recording equipment and space, what would you say to prospective musicians who are too afraid to put themselves out there due to a lack of resources?
AG: GarageBand is free! So is YouTube.
MM: Something that our sound engineer said that stuck with me is that the material we’re putting out right now doesn’t have to be perfect. Moreso, it should be a snapshot of where we are as a collective.
AG: A big part of the anxiety you get while putting out music comes from not knowing how it’ll be received, what I told Marco is that I think it gets easier the more music you put out, you learn how to deal with the anxiety better. I was really happy with how the debut turned out, because even though it has its flaws, it exemplifies who we were at the time and how we functioned together.
JL: Is there a central Texas venue that has been your favorite to perform at? Why? Crowd engagement? Relevance to local music culture? Acoustics?
DG: It was wild to say we played a sold out show at the Mohawk, with Dreamgirl too! I mean that’s not something we were expecting to be able to do within a couple years of being together. The most surprising thing was that the crowd sang back the lyrics to us, it was one of the coolest things ever. It wasn’t even our crowd, we were an opener. I remember that happening and looking at my bandmates and getting goosebumps. I feel like we were put on several local music promoters’ radars after that show, and I’m really grateful for that. That Jasper Bones crowd at Paper Tiger had to be one of my favorites too. We didn’t know what to anticipate, but we had a ton of fans we weren’t expecting.
AG: The Brick at Blue Star in San Antonio, hands down. They’ve always been incredibly welcoming and allow us a ton of creative control that many other venues probably wouldn’t be comfortable with.
JL: Least favorite?
AG: That has to be the gig we played at a family owned tamale shop in which two random fans and our family showed up. We tried to mix things up and give them a great show, and we even did a cover of Gary Come Home as part of our setlist, but it was hard to keep the confidence up when the energy was so low.
JL: Your band received attention from several prominent city news outlets for your work in organizing Besito Fest in San Antonio. What is Besito Fest? What experiences led you guys to feel this was an appropriate, if not highly necessary movement?
MM: Andrés organized Besito Fest during my senior year of high school, which was around when Ricky and Dominick joined. When we started playing our first gigs at local venues, it didn’t take us long to start hearing about several local bands and artists being outed as sexual abusers. We had no idea how bad it was until we were in the scene ourselves, so Andrés put together Besito Fest with the idea of creating a local music festival full of creative and diverse acts while also being a safe place. We screened all of the acts we chose for the event pretty significantly, and staff security was given a list of known abusers just for double measure.
Like I was saying earlier, the Brick at Blue Star gives us a ton of autonomy compared to other shows, so it was the perfect venue for something like this. They’ve always been excited to host this event and because of that, we plan to keep hosting it at the Brick for as long as it can contain it. Since we don’t always have agency over matters like this, it’s really special to us when a venue has the confidence in us to let us do something this ambitious, and we don’t want to waste such an opportunity. And we’re not trying to virtue signal by doing this, honestly. This idea only really landed on our radar when we started realizing how serious the situation was in the central Texas music scene.
JL: Do you have any plans to expand upon the concept in 2020?
AG: Oh yes! “Be-3-to Fest” is gonna be wild this year with the lineup we have. I will say that if everything goes smoothly, this lineup is going to be the most diverse one we’ve had yet, both observably and sonically, and it’s been one of the things I’m most proud of. We don’t have a date nailed down quite yet, but it’ll for sure take place late July to early August, so keep a lookout for it soon.
JL: Any other upcoming shows?
MM: We’re trying to play in Dallas and Houston because we have so much support there. We don’t have concrete plans for that yet because booking smaller local events like we do here is a lot harder in those areas. As big as it is, Houston has a real lack of dedicated music venues which makes it difficult, but we hope to land some shows there soon.
AG: We’re pumped about a lot of the shows around Austin and San Marcos we’re playing in March because a bunch of them are some of our biggest shows yet. Due to booking concerns, a lot of them we can’t talk about publically yet, but I’d say to keep a lookout towards the end of March, because we’ll be all around San Marcos then. Among other appearances, we’ll be at Other Side Live hosted by KTSW at The Coffee Bar on Feb. 27.
sleep well.’s debut album “Pictures of Dogs” is available now on most major streaming platforms.
Featured image via sleep well.