No one is quite sure how to qualify my people sleeping’s distinct sound. Their MySpace page calls it psychedelic visual pop while other publications toss around descriptions like “pop filtered through an opium den” or “gleeful doom pop.”
The truth is that it’s a mix of all those elements. But James Irwin, who sings and plays guitar in the band, explains they never set out to create a dark, new genre of pop. “At a certain point we realized that we had written what were essentially pop songs, but that our attitudes, our abilities and limits, the timing, and the process we chose, gave it all an atmosphere of doom, space, dreams, and psychedelia.”
Irwin and Ruby Kato Attwood, the band’s founders, met almost eight years ago while planting trees in northern Ontario. While attending Concordia, Irwin in creative writing and Kato Attwood in studio arts, they created a zine together, and collaborated on mixed art shows. When Kato Attwood came back from a stint in Halifax, she joined a band Irwin had started. Before long, they split off and formed their own band. “Music combines everything we were interested in8212;performance art, singing, writing, friends, visuals,” Irwin explained.
The line-up was in constant flux before settling on the current incarnation in 2007. The line-up includes John Ancheta, a fellow Concordia graduate on guitar and bass, and percussionist Pat Bastedo, who is currently finishing a doctorate in immunobiology at McGill.
Katherine Peacock sang, played piano and accordion on their debut album, but she has since left the band for undisclosed reasons. Her departure led to a change in the band’s focus and style. “In earlier times we had a far looser, folkier, choral approach where we all switched instruments and included more junk elements. Recently it’s been a strict four-piece with more space, more reverb…the goal was always to trance out, but now it sounds…more pointed, more capable…perhaps less playful,” Irwin explained.
It was Irwin who proposed “feye”, a Middle English word, for the name of their debut album. Feye is defined as “destined to die” and “possessing elfin-like power.” It may seem like a bad omen to name a debut album after a word that foretells its death, but Irwin sees it differently. “In certain ways the band we were when we started broke up, so it was fitting to call it dead, but it was more the hidden positive element8212;the acceptance that what you’re making, how you’re spending your time, all the work you’re doing, will all eventually be destroyed, but that’s ok.”
feye was released last December. Recorded at The Pines recording studio in Griffintown, Kato Attwood says it was a learning experience. “Recording our EP was more like hanging out8212;casual, and the process was fairly quick. Recording feye was a heavier undertaking, both technically and artistically. We learned how important it is to have sturdy songs going in, and an open mind.”
Elliotmaude is the name they’ve given to their style of singing, what Irwin calls a “melded vocal style.” Named for Irwin’s maternal grandmother and Kato Attwood’s cat, it involves Irwin and Kato Attwood singing facing each other, with their eyes closed. Irwin explained that the idea was to create “an androgynous single voice that was ego-less because it didn’t belong to either of us. It was a way around gender, and a way to trance out because it takes a lot of focus to sing exactly like someone else.”
After playing four shows since releasing feye, Irwin says there are a few things on the agenda for my people sleeping. “A much-needed nap. Solo recordings. Then tours and taking over the world, if we wake up from the nap.”