The Joys Of Sleeping have always been steeped in mystery, without ever meaning to be. They’ve been perfectly happy to suddenly appear and release beautiful tracks, before just as easily disappearing for long periods of time. I was compelled to find out more, so on eve of their brilliant debut release, I set out to find out more about the band, and thankfully, I managed to track down members Sam Hatchwell and Dave Saunders to gain some answers.
I haven't been able to find many details or any interviews with the band, so I suppose there's no better place to start than the beginning. Where are you from, and how and when did you guys meet?
Dave: We’re a bit all over the place geographically speaking. Sam originally grew up in Long Island in New York, whereas I’m originally from Southampton. We met in the rehearsal rooms of our sixth-form college in Winchester back in 2009 and then both moved up to London for university. It was a pretty inauspicious start, musically speaking, but we bonded over my Foals t-shirt and a fanboy passion for math-rock, and we’ve been in and out of bands together ever since. Most of our fleeting side-projects have never come to light, but TJOS has always stuck.
Sam: I originally started TJOS as a solo project after everyone went off to university. I was stuck working night-shifts on a local hotel’s reception desk and needed a diversion from the boredom. We’ve always had a kind of musical soulmateship thing going on, so pretty quickly we were working on material together under the Joys moniker.
How does the creative process work between the two of you? Are ideas only thrown together in person, or are they worked on individually and exchanged online, given your distance at times?
Sam: TJOS has always been a bit of a long-distance relationship between me and Dave, so we do anything we can to get ideas to each other. Each track on the new EP was written slightly differently – I wrote some of the songs back when Joys was a solo project (the original riff for our track Reception has been around for years and years) and then realised the full thing when Dave was there, whereas some of the tracks were taken from Dave’s abandoned side-project, and others were hashed out during the recording process. It’s rare that we ever write whole songs over the internet though – the constantly interrupted back and forth seems to kill the creative vibe for us.
Dave: Because of the distance, we tend to write songs in really concentrated periods of time. All of EP1 was recorded within four days, spent at Sam’s home studio in South London. We already had the core structure of the songs down, but most of the tracks were works-in-progress right up to the moment we were laying down the final tracks for them. Both of us are at our best when we can bounce ideas off each other in person.
What serves as the inspiration for you? Do you set out to make a certain sound, or does it just happen naturally?
Dave: When we’re writing, we tend to steer ourselves in a certain direction by using a particular theme, idea, image, or piece of music as the foundation. For ‘Swiftly’ it was the view from Sam’s bedroom window in Brockley; for ‘Jive’ it was the lyrics to Owen’s ‘Coffin Companions’. Other than that, things seem to come together without too much planning.
Sam: The actual sound of each track comes together completely naturally. I think it’s just a combination of Dave’s styles and my styles, which click because we have such similar tastes in art and music. When we come together to write, nine times out of ten we’re already thinking what the other person is thinking.
Dave: Sadly that leaves us to fabricate stories of rock-star disagreements and punch-ups in the vocal booth, but it’s probably easier this way.
Talking of musical tastes, are there any bands/artists who inspire the music you’re making?
Sam: For me, Explosions in the Sky will always be my number one source of inspiration.
Dave: Agreed. Explosions were one of the first artists Sam and I bonded over, and they’re a constant point of reference in everything we make. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve resorted to scrubbing through Explosions tracks to find a particular moment that sums up what we’re trying to achieve when actual descriptions aren’t succeeding. On the poppier end of the spectrum, we take a lot of inspiration from bands like A Great Big Pile of Leaves and Phoenix. With Joys, one of our major goals has always been to unite that passion for the gigantic-sounding and atmospheric with an equal – and not opposing - love for well-crafted pop music.
Sam: The more electronic end of what we do is hugely influenced by artists like Caribou and Brian Eno. We started every morning by listening to Caribou’s ‘Crayon’, which set the tone for the day to come.
It's taken over 2 years to arrange this release, so what happens from now? What does the future hold for The Joys Of Sleeping?
Sam: Yeah, we are a bit embarrassed about that. I don’t think we have been able to come up with a better excuse than “life got in the way”, really.
Dave: That and we’ve got terrible time management skills. And occasional attacks of really unhelpful perfectionism that stopped us from ever actually releasing things when they were done. Our last failed attempt at releasing a single went through 50+ mixes before we gave up on it.
Sam: EP1 is a statement of intent though – that we are serious about the music we’re making as Joys and that we’re not going to let the old habits (namely procrastination) get in the way again. We’re already working on a follow-up to the EP at the moment, and then we’re just going to see where the wind takes us!
Are there plans to perform live at any stage? (Big hopes for this question)
Sam: Yes! We have a live band in the works and we’re getting everything together as soon as possible. It’s never sounded better. The people we are playing with at the moment are fantastic musicians and great friends of ours, so the atmosphere is great. I’ve never been more excited to finally play these songs live.
Dave: We’re hoping to have our first shows together by the spring and if all goes to plan, a tour of some sort this summer.
Who else makes up the band and contributes on the EP? It's a remarkable sound you guys have achieved, incredibly refined and polished.
Sam: On the EP, we have Lucinda Duarte’s backing vocals. Lucinda is a great friend and supporter of ours, one of my favourite people really (she sings on tons of music that I make!) Otherwise, the EP was recorded and produced completely in my bedroom by Dave and myself.
Dave: In the live band, we have our friends Duncan Geddes, Georgie Stott, and Greg Marriott, who we’ve been friends with and made music together for years.
We’re really pleased that anyone would describe it as refined and polished! Sam and I spent four straight days in his bedroom working on the EP on about 3 hours of sleep a night. Surprisingly, we didn’t once end up at each other’s throats despite all the sleep deprivation, although Sam did once raid the kitchen cupboards for percussion instruments. You haven’t tested a friendship until you’ve seen a guy spend an hour recording a five-second sample of a cheese grater.
Who wrote the string sections on Swiftly & Jive? They sound incredible.
Sam: We actually wrote the string sections together during the recording process.
Dave: We always had ambitions for the EP being a ‘bedroom record’ but at the same time reaching beyond the limitations that normally entails, and the string sections were a big part of that.
Finally, what were your favourite albums of last year?
Sam: My favourite album of last year was definitely Adult Jazz’s ‘Gist Is’, so beautiful.
Dave: I really loved the Adult Jazz record too, but ‘Present Tense’ by Wild Beasts steals the top spot for me. I also dug the new Caribou and Twilight Sad records a lot.
Many thanks to Sam & Dave for their time, I'm excited for what comes next, and you should be too. Follow & support The Joys Of Sleeping at the following: