Chicago has been the birthplace of many great bands – and Sleep On It are a very worthy addition to that lineage. Yet the five-piece – who pour every ounce of blood and sweat, heart and soul into their songs – almost didn’t happen. It was only coincidence and chance that led to the band forming. The seed for that was planted at Riot Fest in 2012, when guitarist/vocalist TJ Horansky met guitarist/vocalist Jake Marquis by chance. With bassist AJ Khah and drummer Luka Fischman in tow, the band began rehearsing and writing in Logan Square and released a couple of EPs with their original vocalist. But it was when Zech Pluister – the only member who actually comes from […]
Chicago has been the birthplace of many great bands – and Sleep On It are a very worthy addition to that lineage. Yet the five-piece – who pour every ounce of blood and sweat, heart and soul into their songs – almost didn’t happen. It was only coincidence and chance that led to the band forming. The seed for that was planted at Riot Fest in 2012, when guitarist/vocalist TJ Horansky met guitarist/vocalist Jake Marquis by chance. With bassist AJ Khah and drummer Luka Fischman in tow, the band began rehearsing and writing in Logan Square and released a couple of EPs with their original vocalist. But it was when Zech Pluister – the only member who actually comes from Chicago – replaced Sleep On It’s original vocalist in 2016, that everything truly fell into line. It was all a very happy accident, but the chemistry was undeniable.
“It all came together so organically,” remembers Horansky. “We had our original vocalist for the first couple of years, and Zech was in a different band. When our singer left, I knew I wanted Zech in Sleep On It – and it just so happened that he’d left his band too. The timing and the way we immediately vibed with Zech was just incredible to me. It was a natural fit. We wrote our first song together at our second practice.”
The five-piece has been carefully crafting and honing their identity ever since, and that chemistry – which only came about due to chance and coincidence – is stronger than ever. The culmination of it is the band’s debut album, Overexposed – a remarkable first record that, from beginning to end, teems with meaning and intent. And as much as its 12 songs fit the pop-punk mold, they also subvert them, elevating this record to something that sits outside the usual confines of genre while also emphatically showcasing their ties to Chicago. It’s also an album that whose songs are deeply rooted in the insecurities that go along with just being alive – and one which thrives off the various dilemmas and difficulties its songs confront – while simultaneously being very self-aware reference about laying all those insecurities on the line in the form of a record.
“To me,” explains Horansky, “Overexposed is about being vulnerable and a lot of the anxieties that come with that, of exposing yourself and your insecurities and inner demons, but it’s also very liberating. There’s a lot of freedom that comes along with that.”
“We always talk about the vulnerability that comes from being someone who’s in a band,” adds Pluister. “People know everything I’m going through because of these songs. But it’s an amazing thing. I started writing music because I didn’t have an outlet for all my anxieties and the things that keep me up at night, so music is helping me through that, but it’s this weird double-edged sword.”
Recorded in 5 five weeks at Always Be Genius in Indiana, these are songs about loss and devastation, hopelessness and abandonment, but also ones that address the feeling that comes from revealing those very things to other people and laying it all on the line. There’s the wistful isolation of “Window” and the pained nostalgia of “Photobooth”, the life-affirming hope – and formidable riffs – of “What We Stay Alive For” and the huge pop-punk anthemics of “Distant” which twists and turns with defeated self-reproach before ending with an all-important sliver of hope. And then there’s the high-octane energy of “Fireworks”, and its indefatigable strength in the face of adversity.
That song features vocals from State Champs’ Derek DiScanio, who co-produced the album with Seth Henderson (Knuckle Puck, Real Friends). The pair previously worked with the band –– on their 2016 EP, Lost Along The Way. This, then, is as much as a continuation of that relationship as it is a deliberately bold tour de force of a first impression.
“When we started writing this record,” says Pluister,” we’d just finished recording the EP and had already booked time to record this album. But we went in knowing we didn’t just want to write a record that people are just going to want to listen to. We wanted to write a record that was going to make a statement about who we are as a band, what we believe in and what we like.”
That much is clear from very first notes of opening track “A New Way Home”. Pluister’s voice trembles with both anxiety and defiance before the song explodes in a rush of guitars, confused emotion and catchy, high energy melody. Brimming with impassioned urgency and intensity, it sets the tone for the rest of the record and the raw, honest stories it tells. It marks Sleep On It out not only as one of Chicago’s brightest bands, but as one which is also able to offer solace to whoever listens to this record’s songs.
“One of the reasons I started writing music,” says Pluister, “was to help myself through whatever issues I was going through. Over the last couple of years, I had a lot of mental health issues and struggles I was going through in my personal life. But if I can help someone going through a tough time with the words and melodies that I’ve written, I’ve done more than I could ever ask for with music.”
He doesn’t need to worry or wonder about that – as the reaction, both at home in Chicago and beyond demonstrate, that’s something this record does with aplomb. Not bad for a band that almost didn’t happen and almost never was.
Zech Pluister - vocals
TJ Horansky - guitar/vocals
Jake Marquis - guitar/vocals
AJ Khah - bass
Luka Fischman - drums
Big Picture Media
Big Picture Media