Although most of what graces our pages relates to heavy music, we’ll occasionally dip into lighter territory. Right near when we started, I saw a band called Hello Mexico open for one of ambient metal outfit The Elijah‘s final shows. A little at odds with the rest of the bill, they nevertheless distinguished themselves admirably with some deftly-written piano-driven rock songs and a fantastic set of pipes on the vocalist – and then fell off the face off the earth.
But they’re back – in a manner of speaking. It’s a case of goodbye Mexico and hello St. Sleep, a new project featuring exactly the same members, but a brand new set of songs and a sharp focus on quality. We caught up with guitarist Nick Calafato and vocalist Myles Pereira after their first live show at Hoxton Bar & Grill, which we covered here.
Read on to find out the reason for the change of name, what they’ve been up to, and why it’s taken so long to return to the stage.
So what happened between Hello Mexico and St. Sleep?
Nick: it’s a bit long-winded, but the long and the short was that we were writing new stuff as Hello Mexico and the Gulli [Gunnarsson] our keyboardist moved back to Iceland for about a year or something, so in that time we didn’t do anything as a band.
Nick: By the time he’d come back and we started to become active again, our sound had kind of changed and we hadn’t released anything as Hello Mexico for so long…we didn’t really like the name that much, so we just thought – shall we start afresh? Start a new band? And I’m really glad we did; I think it was such a good move.
Myles: The music was so different and we were all in such a different place when we came to write this new stuff, it didn’t make sense to continue with something that it wasn’t, and what we felt like that we were pushing ourselves past and the image that we had wanted to give at that point in time just wasn’t something that we were that interested in any more. We were less kind of a rocky band and I guess our music tastes had all matured? We all grew up on metal, punk and stuff like that, we grew up in those scenes, and it the earlier stuff we did with Hello Mexico – even before I came in to it – there were elements in the music, and it’s slowly phased itself out until it got to the point where it wasn’t there any more, so it was like…we’re just doing something different.
Nick: It seemed like the right thing to do at the time, to change the name, and we’re glad we did, cos…yeah, the name sucked as well!
Myles: It’s a different band, basically. Same dudes but different.
Nick: I mean our drummer joined very close to the end of Hello Mexico as well, so he was never really a part of that.
It was completely by coincidence, but I think I saw your last show as Hello Mexico. I don’t know if it was the very last, but supporting The Elijah?
Nick: Yeah, The Underworld. That was the last London show that we played as a band.
Obviously you were completely different from The Elijah, but it fucking blew me away.
Nick: That was a really weird bill because we were on there with our mates’ metal band Black Shapes, but it was a good crowd; it was good fun that show, really enjoyed that.
So you’ve been a band for two years, but this is your first show: how come it’s taken so long?
Nick: We spent a long time in the studio. We spent a long time recording new stuff, honing our sound. It wasn’t really until earlier this year that we started working on our live set, and we’ve now got a manager who wanted to hold things back a little bit until he really thought we were ready, which was a good thing to do. So we’ve been playing and practicing the set for quite a long time now.
Myles: We’d also been doing a lot of stuff on the back end of it as well; so, we had music ready and we had a lot of feelers out with regard to the industry, and we were just making sure that we were in a place that we were ready to present ourselves to everyone.
Nick: We were happy with how we sounded on record but there’s nothing worse than hearing it then seeing a band live and thinking [sneers].
It just changes your whole perception of the band and we didn’t want that to happen, so we just bided our time a bit and practiced a lot and we’re starting to play now!
So why now?
Myles: The time is right!
Nick: The time is right!
Myles: Gulli’s back, we know he’s back. Obviously that was quite a big thing for us, because we were still writing while he was away, back and forth from Iceland – he was recording grand pianos in Iceland and sending them to us and all that kind of shit – but we’re now at a point where we’ve all got a little more time, we’re more able to put a little more into it, so…we’ll just crack on and see what happens!
As far as the band’s concerned, do you think it’s been easier launching a second one, as seasoned performers, rather than coming to it fresh?
Myles: I guess so? Obviously it’s a different vibe with regards to a fanbase, because Hello Mexico had been around for a while so there was a fanbase there, but it was a different kind of music; we may not appeal to those people. They may not be as into it, so it wasn’t really…on a music level it was fine, it was a new band, a brand new thing, but on a personal level we were musicians who’d played with each other and we knew each other as friends; I’ve not Nick for, I don’t know, eight years, maybe ten, so it felt pretty good going into a band and just being comfortable.
I suppose the main link is your voice. I mean, the music is so…not wildly different, but it’s different enough.
Nick: I think the main difference with Myles is it’s lower in pitch. Myle’s voice has matured quite a lot and Mexico is obviously more like…poppy, more happy and commercial sounding. I think Myles’ voice has just matured over the last couple of years and we’ve written music to reflect how his voice has changed.
Do you feel justified in waiting now that you’ve seen a show like that where there’s that many people who’ve come and you’ve got that kind of reception?
Nick: Yeah, I think so. I’d rather us have done this than played a few dodgy shows in the summer when we weren’t really properly ready, so yeah it feels alright.
Were there a lot of friends in there?
Nick: Yeah, I mean we’re all from London so we’ve got a bunch of mates around.
St. Sleep’s debut 3-track EP - mixed/mastered by Magnus Lindberg of Cult of Luna
So for anyone who hasn’t heard you yet, how would you describe your sound? It’s almost a lazy question, but who are your influences or sonic touchstones?
Nick: I think we’d probably all give a different answer to that.
You mentioned punk before?
Nick: Yeah, I mean I don’t think that has an influence on how we sound, but it’s always still there, entrenched deep in you somewhere!
Myles: We all listen to such a variety of music.
Nick: I was massive of post-rock about three or four years ago and I think that comes through in our music; like Explosions In The Sky, Sigur Rós, all that kind of thing. It’s pretty obvious with the amount of reverb I have on my guitar. I love all that sort of stuff and so does John [Martinelli], our other guitarist so that comes through a lot. Dan [Mayers], our drummer, is just incredibly talented; he’s into a lot of rootsy sort of music, blues and stuff. He’s probably the most talented out of all of us, and he’s the youngest by far! Myles is into a lot of country and rockabilly stuff.
Myles: Yeah, I grew up more on the punk thing – I love shit like Danzig and Pentagram, bands like that. I absolutely love that style of music, I love heavier stuff, metal; I listen to everything…powerviolence!
Myles: Everything! But this is just a different thing. A lot of country, a lot of folk. A lot of like, horror punk and stuff.
Nick: Foals and all that kind of twiddly guitary sort of stuff.
Myles: I love Drake too man! There’s music in every genre that I love, and I think that’s a big part of the music now. We’re old enough to listen to music in different genres and appreciate it and pull it into what we do, rather than before where we’d be like “oh, I really like this kind of band, maybe we should be vibing along this/this is where we want to put ourselves”; now we’re pulling in influences from everywhere, and we don’t give a fuck!
It’s kind of the second band schtick isn’t it? You’ve done the first one and made your mistakes, but there’s so much going on and it really does come across to the audience.
Myles: Thank you.
So you’ve mentioned you’ve done some new stuff this year, recently; is that coming up to another release?
Nick: Yeah, we’re not too sure yet. We recorded a few new songs earlier this year and released one of them a few weeks ago, and then we’ve got two more we recorded from that session that we haven’t yet released. We just recorded another too so we’ve got three more in the bag. We’re not sure when or how we’re going to release them yet; it depends what happens with various things, but we’ll probably release another probably one quite soon, and then after that we’re not too sure yet. We like being in the studio, so we’ll probably be back in the New Year, quite early on and record some new stuff. John, our guitarist, he’s like a machine, writing; he has so many demos and brings them to practice and we’ll see what happens.
That was my next question – what’s 2016 gonna bring; are you gonna gig more, or…?
Nick: Yeah, we’ll be gigging more regularly. More gigs, more music – yeah!
Good, I’m glad to hear that!
Nick: This, but more.
Myles: We’ll be busy man, we’ll be busy.
Nick: This year we’ve been finding our feet, and I think now we’re ready to do more.
Myles: We know what we’re doing now, and we’re ready to just do it basically!
Nick: It’s hard on a practical level. We’re five guys with full-time jobs and being in a band is fucking hard; organising five people is not easy!
Nick: Five dudes all doing their own thing all the time…we’ll do as much as we can.
Myles: We’re realistic with it as well. We know we’re not gonna be like One Direction any time too soon. We can shoot for it!
Myles: Who knows?!
Well that’s pretty much all for now. Thanks a lot guys!
St. Sleep are included in our Shape Of Music To Come 2016 edition. Keep your eye and ears peeled for more shows and music!