Peter Hicks shares the secret to Sleepy Driver’s longevity.
Since releasing their acclaimed debut album, Steady Now, the members of Sleepy Driver have kept hold of the idea that making music should be something they all do for fun – first and foremost. Anything else that comes from their experience together is just an added bonus.
While keeping things fun seems like a pretty reasonable goal, countless bands have sealed their fate by systematically removing the fun from the process in hopes of adding some form of gain to the equation. It’s a slippery slope and one that has spelled the demise of far too many remarkable musical ensembles.
So, how is it that the members of one New Brunswick alt-country/rock group continue to feel fulfilled after three full-length records, and EP and few singles and nearly a decade of making music together?
“I think the secret to our longevity is that we love doing it,” said Hicks. “Yes, it’s a creative outlet but it’s also a social one. Playing in this band is like our Tuesday Night Poker Club. We get together, share some laughs, hammer out tunes, work on arrangements, and thrive on making music we enjoy. Playing live is the icing on the cake, when we get to share the things we do and hope that people are as excited about it as we are. The basement and the stage are two different beasts, but I personally love both of them and can’t imagine doing without either one.”
When the group first came together, the initial idea was simply to play original music. At the time, Hicks had a number of songs ready and things more or less grew from there. He joined with guitarist Ethan Young-Lai, bassist Mike Hathaway, and drummer Barry Hughes, later working keyboardist John Heinstein and pedal steel player Dave Palmer into the fold.
“I had a bunch of tunes and a rough vision but it wasn’t at all a mapped-out trajectory,” said Hicks. “Way way back, the idea was simply to make a record. A document. I think the way our first album was received helped fuel our excitement and expanded our minds to what we could do.”
In a lot of ways, Steady Now, came out of nowhere and caught a lot of New Brunswick music fans off guard. Many of the band’s members were known individually for earlier groups and recording projects but up until then, their identity as Sleepy Driver was relatively unknown to audiences outside their hometown of Fredericton. That album went on to receive award nominations from both the East Coast Music Awards and Music New Brunswick and most importantly it taught the members of Sleepy Driver a valuable lesson – you can find success writing and performing music without giving up your day job.
“Along the way we’ve had some great reception, reviews and respectable airplay,” said Hicks. “We’ve built a sound we can call our own. Sure, we’ve had pretty lofty dreams but that’s always tempered by the reality that we’re six working guys with families, and we tend to work within that frame when it comes to playing live. We’re regional, but the internet and radio has obviously helped us reach beyond that.”
Sleepy Driver recently announced an upcoming performance at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre on November 26. It’s kind of a big deal. They don’t play live all that often. From the get-go, touring was never part of the plan and as Hicks pointed out, Sleepy Driver is essentially “six guys with families”.
“Shows are really important to us. Especially when we play in Fredericton,” said Hicks. “They aren’t concerts – they’re social events. A gathering of fans and friends. There’s a huge positive energy and that can’t be replicated in the recording space. I love seeing smiles and laughter and people listening intently. It’s a whole other form of connection. And honestly, if we never played live we would have missed out on the community we’ve tapped into, the other musicians we’ve met and worked with, and the fans who have turned into friends.”
With a new album planned for 2017, fans of the band can expect to hear a solid mix of songs new and old when the band takes the stage on November 26 along with special guest Juanita Bourque.
“Over the last year we’ve been working steadily on a new album and have the bulk of it done, plus a bunch of other songs that will find a home somewhere,” said Hicks. “There will definitely be a release in 2017. It’s so close I can taste it. In actual fact, when we play on November 26, our set list is about a third new tunes, so that will be a lot of fun for us to share.”
Sleepy Driver + Juanita Bourque | November 26, 2016 | Charlotte Street Arts Centre | Doors at 7 p.m. – Show at 8 p.m. | $15 | View Event
Sleepy Driver Discography: