“a shambolic teenage riot”

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Sleepyhouse was my first proper band.  We were, as one of our friends put it, “a shambolic teenage riot”.  We were barely proficient with our instruments, with three of us playing ‘seriously’ (I use that term loosely) for a matter of months, while our drummer, Adam, was a very talented guitarist.  As shambolic as we were, though, we had some good tunes and an energy, camaraderie, and swagger that you’d attribute to the best bands.  For us, though, those qualities came with being in our late teens.  We were great, though; a mess of a band, but for about 2 years – 1998 to 2000 – we were on a wave of enthusiasm that made us the best band out there.

How did it start?  Well, Kev, Alan, and myself were school pals who listened to the same music.  The odd kids in our year.  Kev and I had been making a bit of a racket for a few months much to the chagrin of our parents.  Tuneless strumming and abstract words strung together.  We even performed two songs as an interval side attraction at a school show thing as Sulk (named after the Radiohead tune and we thought it was clever cause we were teenagers, innit).  My girlfriend at the time was our drummer cause she could actually play a little bit (she could also read music… though that wasn’t something that she could teach me, cause, well, who needs to read music?) and, well, we really couldn’t play (undisputed fact) and we didn’t perform in public again.

Alan picked up guitar pretty easily and joined us a bit later.  Bringing his Slash inspired licks.  We left school and attended different colleges.  But we wrote some songs.  The Robster, who I met at college, completed the line-up and we set about polishing our songs.  The problem was that, despite saying he was, The Robster wasn’t a drummer.  We established this quickly.  His departure was memorable thanks to a crash symbol near enough scalping him.  Our next attempt at securing a drummer was simultaneously more and less successful.  A drummer more talented than each of us at our chosen instruments who helped us through a gig as the entertainment during a fashion show.  Kinda like playing the Superbowl, I guess.  But on a much smaller scale… and with fewer people… and with people playing dress up rather than American Football.  Fun times.

Anyhoo, it was a chance meeting one night with a busker and his pal Adam that changed things.  Y’see, Adam was a guitarist, but he said he played drums a bit and he was interested.  I don’t remember the exact details, but I assume we sold him on our band being pretty brilliant and complete with a songwriting team to rival that of Jagger and Richards, Bacharach and David, Leiber and Stoller, King and Goffin, or, dare I say, Holland, Dozier and Holland!  Truth be told we had none of that.  We three had hijinx and ideas a plenty, though.  So we jammed.   We got along.  We wrote songs.  Well, we jammed ideas that would eventually become songs and we all contributed.  We had a laugh and Adam fitted in.  Within a short space of time we were a gang.  I can’t quite remember when we named ourselves Sleepyhouse, but we did.  Sleepyhouse, y’see, was one of our (Alan and I) favourite Blind Melon songs.  I don’t remember there being any big discussions or objections around it.  It just seemed to fit us.

Heady times with The Hoose. At The Arena in 1998, I reckon. L to R: Kev, Jim, Adam, Alan.

Our songs were an interesting mix of ramshackle rock riffery and shuffle.  We had the usual influences for guys our age – Nirvana, GNR, Reef and a sprinkling of Blind Melon.  Lyrically, it was improvised and dealing with the kinda things teenagers dealt with – y’know, the emotional cycle of change, relationships, angst, indifference, drinking, and other more abstract stuffs.  Rehearsals were great, too; productive and with just the right amount of hijinx.  We left the studio as a group with some walk and talk and stop and chat about the night’s work.

My way of ‘writing’ was established in those early days… improvising and repeating until a line, phrase, or melody stuck.  Ranting… jamming… whatever you want to call it.  I just sang and caught words that stuck with me.  Alan had a style that was heavy influenced by Slash and Joe Perry.  He had that swagger, too… Les Paul slung low and dressed like he was straight out of a forgotten 70’s outfit.  His playing had a distinctive jagged edge… like a carpenter working on wood.  Kev’s playing was also distinctive (still is) with him pulling notes and, whether following the guitar or not, punched his way through the song’s landscape.  Adam was a guitarist first, but his drumming style was integral to the Sleepyhouse sound… the cymbol crashing and its incessant whispering adding a layer to the songs that complimented the jagged edge of the guitar and much needed treble to the punch and distortion of the bass.  It was like the sound of water running while the toms rumbled and all that jazz.  Man, it was busy.  In a Bonham way, I guess.  It was a marriage of styles that worked.

We played pretty much every other weekend.  Often at Glasgow’s The Arena (seriously, bands that play a venue as often and as regularly as we played there, would be considered a resident band), Strawberry Fields, the odd appearance at Fury Murry’s or Strathclyde Union, not to mention our very own SleepyFest at The 13th Note and a memorable night at the Cathouse.

Y’see, Sleepyhouse was at its best when we were a gang and the gigs could be the best thing ever, but also the worst.  But, y’know, no matter how bad we were on stage, we enjoyed being there and playing the songs.  We had set staples and threw in the odd cover.  We had a bunch of folks who would come out to see us play.  It was like one massive party (and there often was one later at Alan’s gaff after gigs).  We recorded a couple of our tunes (Bob Dylan’s Grandmother, Spend The Night and The Bridge) and we were riding a wave.  Then things changed.  The dynamic between us changed.  Alan had become a focal point and his view of what Sleepyhouse was and should be was absolute…

Sleepyhouse Mk III rocking yon Strawberry Fields (L to R: Alan, Jim, Danny, Kev)

Like any band, there were line-up changes.  Not the likes of Deep Purple or anything, but a few.  Kev’s mate Pete joined in early 2000 or so and though he was a smashin’ guy and a proper good guitar player to boot (a considerable upgrade on my rhythm guitar chops), it didn’t really bring balance to the Force.  Adam left, cause, well, cause he had another band and other commitments.  Truth be told, that was really the shift from Sleepyhouse to something new.  We just didn’t know it at the time.

Alan’s pal Danny joined and things were actually moving along okay.  Pete left, but by this time our sound was established and we were proficient players.  We recorded a couple of songs (Jack D., Heavy-Eyed and Tee Ah Millahtoona) and considered it to be an EP.  We did nothing with it, right enough*.  Stuart joined soon after, cause despite hearing loads of guitar things, I just wasn’t a guitar player and Pete’s stint really highlighted that the extra guitar could lift the band and fill out the sound.  Stuart’s arrival was a difficult one for Alan, I think.  Two of them being lead players, but our relationship, certainly musically, with Stuart was better as his influences were more in line with those of Kev and I.  I’m not sure they really hit it off and, quite honestly, I don’t know that they ever really spoke, or got a chance to, cause their time in a band together was actually incredible short.

As much as we all liked Danny, I don’t think he ever felt part of things when Alan moved on.  By that time Sleepyhouse was done and we were guys who played music together without engaging with each other much away from it.  We transitioned from Sleepyhouse to something different sometime around 2001 and I dare say there was a bit of a power struggle in there.  In the end I walked away.  The others jammed with Danny’s brother, but for one reason or another that didn’t work out.

Sleepyhouse Mk IV (L to R: Alan, Danny, Jim, Kev, Stuart). This one is from The Cathouse. Note the jumper…

I haven’t really given much thought to Sleepyhouse for a long time.  I can’t even really remember the last time I mentioned or discussed it.  So why am I thinking about my first real band and those early days of a rich musical journey?  Well, Adam dropped me and Kev a line in December asking about an old video and being keen to see it.  I hadn’t thought about the Sleepy Tape for a long, long time.  This is a tape made up of hours of footage captured by my Sharp camcorder with the help of my brother (mostly) and a tripod.  Among the rehearsal and gig footage are snippets of chat and hijinx.  I haven’t seen that video cassette since the last days of the band.  It transpires that Kev had it.  Now it’s in Adam’s possession and he’s digitising that thing.

I’ve been engaged in a series of messages with Adam and Kev over the last few weeks and it’s been good to reminisce about it all.  Adam relayed a quote from a clip of his pal:

“Sleepyhouse is an absolutely fucking silly band that shouldn’t work… at all.  And yet I find myself having more fun at their gigs than Dinosaur Jr or any of the other truly great bands I’ve seen”.

I think that summed us up.  We were the best worst band on the scene.  Which made us the best band ever.  Revisiting the songs, I don’t know that they’d win folks over now, but then… then was different.  It probably wasn’t ever really about the songs.  As much as we were teenagers with a bit of arrogance and whatever, we were a welcoming bunch.  If you came to see us you were one of us.  Heck, we even invited other bands on stage to sing or whatever… we gigged with pals or bands we formed friendships with through gigs.  Jings, our drummer, Adam, was a stranger who became family overnight.  I think that sums up Sleepyhouse.  It wasn’t just a house, but a home.

Anyhoo, I’m glad we thought to document the journey of Sleepyhouse.  Or at least the early years before it started to fall apart.  I can honestly say that as messy as it was at times, it was pretty great.  Most importantly, I’m glad that we’re planning on meeting up to give the Sleepy Tape a watch.  I haven’t seen either of those guys in a while and, well, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with them.

*the Voodoo Dolls & Diamond Rings EP did eventually see the light of day.  The timeline is all a bit skewed, but this was recorded in 2001, as the band transitioned from Sleepyhouse to Glitterball Vegas (we think).

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50 Comments Add yours

  1. Thanks for sharing!! The songs are really great. I have had it cranked and I am enjoying it while I am going through people’s posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Thanks, John – appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. jhubner73 says:

    Love hearing stories of the first real band experience. Sounds like a great first experience. I had a couple in high school(played the Junior year talent show to much acclaim.) it wasn’t till I was in my mid-20s that I had a real band. We wrote songs, played covers, and toured the area for about a year before it all fell apart. I miss the jams and writing with others, but not the shady gigs so much.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Thanks, JH. It was a great time… loads of gigs, hijinx, and drink. I’m in agreement with you about the jams and writing with others… probably the thing I like most about being part of a band.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jprobichaud says:

    Awesome. Sounds like good times. I’m going to have to give those tunes a go later.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      The best of times, JP. Hazy… but the best. Hope you dig the tunes!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. DanicaPiche says:

    Love this!!! J, I was just able to give these a listen and will download shortly.
    I was mildly jolted by Jack D. — in a really good way — and it made me smile. For some reason I was expecting something…quieter? I don’t know exactly what gave me that impression from your blog.
    Genuinely loved it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Thanks, Danica. Really pleased that Jack D. made you smile… and gave you a bit of a surprise!

      Sleepyhouse was definitely a bit noisy… especially compared to where I am now.

      I actually enjoyed revisiting those early years, so I may write more about my journey.

      Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. 80smetalman says:

    You’ve tingled my curiosity. Is there any footage on the Tubes of You?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Not yet, but the plan is to review the whole tape and get some of the live and rehearsal footage uploaded. I dare say I’ll keep you posted!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 80smetalman says:

        I shall keep an eye out.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Really enjoyed reading this. Sounds like a fun time. Going to get the whole Sleepytape online?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Cheers, HMO. The plan is to edit it down to a watchable feature of some sort. Perhaps upload some individual gig or rehearsal footage.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Chris says:

    Useful in a band that you’re girlfriend can step in and play drums 🙂 I had no idea you sang in a band. Sounds like you remember those times fondly and hope you enjoy the Sleepyhouse reunion. Listened to the first two songs (at the bottom of the post) and liked what I heard. Feisty music!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      It was fairly useful! I dare say we would have called it a day had she not sat in to help us during those early days.

      Anyhoo, there was a lot of madness back then, but the good times outweigh the negatives!

      Glad you liked the tracks… thanks for listening!

      Like

  8. mikeladano says:

    This was cool. And I’m with Scott. Sleepytape should go online.
    Playing live in a big sweater though…you must have gotten really warm up there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      You can expect something to appear at some point.

      … and yeah, there were definitely times when I was cooking!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. mikeladano says:

        Aye, I imagine those stage lights don’t cool one off!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. stephen1001 says:

    Nice one J!
    I was wondering where I’d heard the name before, excellent call naming the band after the Blind Melon tune (a fine album incidentally).
    The EP is playing as I type – good energy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Thanks, Geoff. Although I was obsessed with that album (and Soup) for a good while, I actually don’t revisit it that often! Been thinking I need to give it a listen.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. stephen1001 says:

        I too haven’t listened to either album in ages – but I did hear Galaxie recently, and it was wonderful as ever!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. J. says:

        Galaxie is as good an opener as you can get, eh? I listen to the album a whole lot and I honestly don’t think there’s a bad song on there.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. stephen1001 says:

        And speaking of it as an opener – I love the horn intro before the tune kicks in!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. keepsmealive says:

    Man, this reads like the synopsis of a great short story – and you LIVED IT! Damn, being the best worst band out there must’ve been great times, truly wonderful memories!! Thanks for sharing!!!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Haha… thanks, Aaron; they were the craziest of times, but yeah, truly wonderful.

      Like

  11. Jay says:

    I love this little reminiscence! We’re peeking behind the curtain and it’s so tantalizing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Hopefully there’ll be a ‘mini-documentary’ so you can get a glimpse of the hijinx!

      Like

  12. Loving the vibes of the tunes and would have loved to jam with you guys on drums back then. Heavy Eyed, yes! It’s good you chronicled the band in writing like you have. In my last band in the UK I was always taking away posters, flyers and badges after gigs to keep for myself, ha. Also saved a lots of demos, gigs and radio stuff we recorded, plus photos and some video. Now, like you guys, if I can only find some time to make some kind of chronicle with all that. One day yes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      I used to do the same, though the posters, flyers, tickets, etc. all appear to be gone. Only left with a handful of photos and video (which is priceless, I guess).

      However, finding time is the real challenge, eh? I had digitised loads of audio cassettes a few years back, but haven’t split tracks or increased levels in the years since.

      I hope you find time to chronicle your own musical history… I’ve found it really pretty great remembering things I’d long forgotten and finding an appreciation for things that I maybe didn’t at the time… be it good or bad.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. For sure finding the time to do it is the challenge among so many other projects. The last time I went through old band tapes and CDs I found the whole day had passed so quickly and I’d done nothing really but made some lists on paper. But as you say it’s great remembering these past things. I’d forgotten we used to sometimes play a fast cover of OutKast’s Hey Ya! until I found a few versions of it on CD, so funny to hear that again.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. J. says:

        Ha! Hey Ya! That’s a great tune. Good energy in that track already, so you have me intrigued by your fast cover!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, we doubled up the beat and gave it a drum and bass feel. Was good but a bit knackering to play. Sandwiched between two slow songs and with a can of Red Bull I could just about make it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. J. says:

        Haha! I can imagine!

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Mr. Bobinsky says:

    What a story, man. Really! Thanks! It reminded me so much of those days when I used to play too…
    Do you have older records? I guess you don’t, but just in case…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Thanks! I’m glad there was something there you could relate to.

      I have some old cassettes of the earliest bedroom recordings (1996, I believe), which are really poor, but make me smile.

      What do you play? Or, what did you play?

      Like

      1. Mr. Bobinsky says:

        Absolutely… It’s a sad and beautiful world. And as see from what others say here, in the comments section, I’m far from being the only one whose experience and feeling were similar to yours…

        Drop me an email, J 😉 indiescifi451 at gmail 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. J. says:

        I will do!

        Like

  14. 1537 says:

    Brilliant J, I enjoyed this a whole big lot. I was much more of a fan of the Mark II Sleepyhouse line-up, before they sold out. I really like the last track there too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Thanks a bunch.

      Okay, I admit it… Adam left cause we sold out. He couldn’t stand our abhorrent commercial whoring. Truth’s out!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Jim S. says:

    Great story here J. So much to unpack here as they say. Firstly, you fucking blew it by not calling the band Shambolic, but ok. Secondly, just listened to the one tune, sounded great. Good energy. Glasgow, eh? I had no idea where in the world you were. Now I know. You had a Meg White and you let her go? Damn. Love the sweater. That must have attracted the ladies in droves. 🙂 Is the video posted and I can’t find it? I think that everybody should be in a band at some point. It’s like a rite of passage. They always end up in some kind of power struggle no matter how well-intentioned. If only you had split the songwriting equally like U2.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Thanks, Jim. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to reform for a 20th anniversary tour and form an off-shoot after finding the enthusiasm and enjoyment in playing again. One of us will inevitably not want to continue and so the only way forward is to rename the band. After some deliberation, we settle on Shambolic an start recording our debut album, Shambolism. That could work, right?

      Like

      1. Jim S. says:

        As your self-appointed honorary manager I concur.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Hackskeptic says:

    haha, awesome tale J. I listened to that tune and it’s darned good, full of the energy of youth. It reminds me of an Irish band I liked a lot called Therapy. The second song sounds very much influenced by The Black Crowes. I had a buddy who I’ve lost touch with now and I used to travel up to his home in Mauchline and see his band playing Glasgow, Cumnock, and Sanquhar in the mid 90s. They had a female vocalist and I was smitten. Keep on rockin’ J. Fine times!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Y’know, there’s maybe a wee bit of Therapy? in the first one, as I was into Troublegum and Infernal Love for a while (though I never quite took to Semi-Detached)… and The Black Crowes was definitely an influence on Heavy Eyed.

      Anyhoo, a musical trip around Scotland, eh? Nice. I imagine there were a few dashes to catch the last train to Ayrshire, eh? Especially any Glasgow gigs!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hackskeptic says:

        Yeah, I remember getting in the transit with gear loaded, searching for fried food in the early hours of the morning to soak up the beer.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. J. says:

        I don’t imagine you had many problems finding fried food in Scotland!

        Like

  17. That is good stuff J. Reminds me of a band I used to dig ‘The Four Horsemen’. Lots of others others also. Listening to the second cut ‘Heavy Eyed’ right now. Great piece and real good tunes. I’m hearing all sorts of good stuff in this. CB will be back for more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Thanks, CB. It was a long time ago and it’s strange listening to that stuff, but I’m awfy proud of it all the same.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You should feel good about that. Not that CB has the last word on music but what i heard can stand up on it’s own. I heard some Zep and Black Crowes on that second cut. I’ll be going back for some more listening.
        (CB tries to keep his comments away from trashing anything because listening is a personal thing but like Zappa said “a lot of that shit out there puts a hurt on my ears”, actually he said nose)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. J. says:

        A definite Crowes influence on there (we were all into them). And nose and ears are pretty much the same thing… shit can hurt them.

        Liked by 1 person

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