Subtempo Guest Mix 019
An alias of London-based composer Adam Stokes, Sleepertrain’s music conjures a surreal dreamscape of hazy field recordings, nostalgic piano melodies and ghostly, introspective vocals that lead to contemplation and self-reflection.
Surrounding the release of this mix, we spoke to Sleepertrain, aka Adam Stokes about his influences as a songwriter, what drives him to create and his latest album soon to come out via HushHush Records from Seattle.
Hi Adam, first of all, thank you for taking the time to put together this mix and interview for us. I wanted to start by asking you about the mix itself: how, where and when did you record it?
Hey Rocco, no problem, I really love your mix series and it's a pleasure to be a (small) part of it. So, I started putting together this mix a couple of months ago, with the aim of studying, and paying homage to the music that inspired me throughout the writing of this EP. Rather than a live take, I went for a more refined approach, putting the tracks into my DAW, adjusting, pitch-shifting and chopping the music so that it fit together in a really nice way.
As I understand it this is a special type of mix? Not your usual arrangement? Is there some kind of theme to this mix?
Personally, this collection of music is really special. It includes some of the music that has inspired me most, not only throughout the creation of this EP but in a much wider sense. So, upon listening, it can seem sporadic in terms of genre and mood, but I've tried to blend them together effectively.
Walk me through some of these influences. Are these tunes or artists you grew up listening to? Or did they mark you in a particular way?
Sure, so this EP is something that's really focused on the physical spaces that surround us, our own intangible thoughts/feelings, and the way the two relate between one another. In my case, this is very autobiographical, so the mix is based around music that strongly influenced me and the creation of the EP itself.
I hear a lot vocalists/songwriters in your mix. Besides producing, do you also sing on your tracks? Or do you rather tend to sample other vocalists?
Previously, I've found that I've always been drawn to sampling vocalists rather than use my own vocals in my music. It also allowed me to utilise the innate, expressive qualities of the human voice without having to embrace the vulnerability myself!
However, it's only recently that I've started recording my own vocals, and this EP features mainly my own voice, with the exception of occasional points, and the last track "I Don't Need You". I think this has been a real turning point for me, in which I've become confident to express myself in this way, and start writing the music that I've haven't been sure enough to write previously.The emotional depth of the London based producer reflects on his influences for the new record.
After listening to some of your music on Soundcloud, I’m surprised to discover a lot more acoustic influences over electronic ones. Did other more electronic influences not fit well within this mix, or do you feel more strongly influenced by these more acoustic acts?
There's a lot of amazing electronic artists that are major influences on me, however, as this EP features a lot of my own voice and 'songs', for this mix, going down a more folky acoustic route felt right.
What would you say are some of your strongest electronic music influences?
I find that I'm getting influenced a crazy variety of music all the time, but if I had to pick out a couple: Balam Acab's "Wander Wonder" swept me up in the dreamscape really sparked this project, Shlohmo's "Fine, Thanks" taught me how to see beauty in the dirt and Burial's "Untrue" is one of the most beautiful records I've heard, the way he weaves together sounds from his environment is something that inspires me constantly.
Tell me about your upcoming release on Hush Hush. This is your first release with the famed Seattle based label?
It certainly is, in fact, it's pretty much my first release on any label! I've been making music for a long time, but lacked the confidence to put much out into the world. As my first release, this EP's quite special to me, and I'm ever grateful to Alex at Hush Hush for the support in releasing this.
This features 6 tracks that I've been writing on and off for the past couple of years. It's something that's really autobiographical, and personal to me. From the recording of my commuter train combined with the piano in my family home on "Empty Carriages", to the thunderstorm recorded from my bedroom window on "A Gift", to the sound of my own voice on many of the others.
Thematically, I created this EP with the aim of sonically documenting my physical world, thoughts and feelings, and in turn, creating some kind of a weird, surreal dreamscape as a result.Oniric, surreal, twilight, intimate, all words that could describe Sleepertrain's music.
How did you and Alex meet?
I emailed him after stumbling across Hush Hush on a late night Bandcamp binge, but I'm pretty sure we'd met in a dream before then...
Do you feel like this is a continuation from your previous releases somehow or is it departing in any major way from your earlier material?
Definitely, as I mentioned previously, with this EP I really felt confident enough to express myself using my own vocals, I feel like I'm a lot more sure of myself, and what I want to communicate with my music.
I feel like I'm being inspired by new things every day, and I'm sure the next Sleepertrain release will tell an entirely different story.
The title “The Gift”, alongside the cover art, leave me with a lot of questions. It’s got a very deep and mysterious undertone. What kind of story were you trying to tell, if any? Or is this more of a collection of tracks with no particular theme alongside them?
Good question. So, I don't want to reveal too much as I think that the ambiguity and mysteriousness is an integral part of it's essence. It's definitely telling a story, but I'd like listeners to develop their own meanings behind it, without being clouded by my own personal take.
However, some of the themes I wanted to explore is the cloudy state between sleep and wakefulness, surrealism, and the relationship between our physical world, memories and dreams. So take from that what you will. :)
It’s A Gift, from me, to the wider world.
When is the release going to come out?
It's out on the 25th of October! I can't wait for everyone to hear it.
Well good luck with it and all your future endeavors! Thanks again for putting this together.
Thank you Rocco, it's been a pleasure.
The Gift is up for pre-order now via Hush Hush on casette and digital.
- Catherine Howe - Prologue [Numero Group]
- Linda Perhacs - Hey, Who Really Cares [Kapp Records]
- Cults Percussion Ensemble - Circles [Trunk Records]
- Carlos Walker - Via Láctea [Trunk Records]
- Isao Tomita - Clair De Lune [RCA Red Seal]
- Bobby Wright - Blood of an American [Melodies International]
- Love Maximum - I've Been Trying [Numero Group]
- Doug Firebaugh - Alabama Railroad Town [Sugar Records]
- Marj Snyder - Rain [Discovery Records]
- Yamaneko - Sleep Navigator [Local Action Records]
- Acronym - Mu 1.1 [Northern Electronics]
- Keith Jarrett & Jack DeJohnette - Pastel Morning [ECM]
- Morelenbaum² & Ryuichi Sakamoto - Bonita [Sony Classical]
- Jóhann Jóhannsson - Odi Et Amo [4AD]
- Jon Lucien - Rashida [RCA Victor]
- Loren Connors - Out in the Woods [Chapter Music]
- DJ HARRISON - My Frainds [Self-Released]
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Most tracks are available on our Guest Mix Playlist available on Spotify and Apple Music until we update it with the next guest. Follow the playlists to get fresh tunes curated by a different artist every month.