Guitarist Tony Smith and
drummer Justin Wilson — founding members of alt-rock outfit Sleeper
Agent — found that they lacked a spark after a couple of lackluster gigs
around their hometown of Bowling Green, Ky. But upon discovering dynamo
frontwoman Alex Kandel at an open mic night singing Adele covers,
Sleeper Agent soon became the toast of the town.
a really good community there,” Kandel said. “Bowling Green is a great
place to incubate before heading out into the real world because
everyone there is really honest. If they don’t like the music or your
performance, they won’t come out, and it’s fine because it makes you
want to be a better band. It’s conducive to being creative and improving
as a band.”
That’s exactly what Sleeper Agent did … and fast. The six-piece recorded its 2011 debut Celebrasion with
producer Jay Joyce (The Wallflowers, Emmylou Harris), who discovered
and fell in love with the band in neighboring Nashville. A record deal
with Mom+Pop Music (Metric, Sleigh Bells) was inked, and tours with Fun.
and fellow Bowling Green rockers Cage the Elephant soon followed.
two straight years of touring, Sleeper Agent is gearing up to release
its sophomore album, which is indebted to that whirlwind and constant
“You can see
what being on the road for that long as a band does,” Kandel said. “You
evolve a lot quicker. We’ve been working our asses off, and you hear
that in the record.”
The timeline for recording the sophomore album (the title of which is not yet announced) couldn’t have been much different than Celebrasion.
“We completed that album in, like, seven days and then signed a record deal. That was all that went into that record,” Kandel said. “We stretched this one out over a year, and it was a lot different. Forty different songs were written for this album and narrowed down to a record. Instead of just going on gut instinct, we wanted to see how far we could push outside of our comfort zone.”
It also marks the first time Kandel’s vocals factored into the writing of the material, with much of the debut written before she was active in Sleeper Agent.
“This is the first time the whole album was written for my voice,” she said. “With our debut, most of those songs were written before I even joined the band … and for a male singer on top of that. This time, we wrote for me, and I think that really comes through.”
Playing Sunday at The Conservatory before heading off on a national tour with New Politics, Sleeper Agent rests easy at night knowing that it didn’t just rehash the same old mission over again.
“It’s the best possible direction we could have grown as a band,” Kandel said. “Instead of making the same record twice, we really pushed ourselves.”