We caught up with Sleepy Tom on a roof top patio in Miami the day before he was set to play the Fool’s Gold WMC Showcase. The Vancouver based producer gave us a small history of his career, how he learnt his trade, and what life is like on the West Coast of Canada.
THUMP: Sleepy Tom! Let’s start with the name, where does it come from?
Sleepy Tom: Well I could give you a cool story about how I went backstage at a Kesha concert and saw Tom Arnold, yes the Tom Arnold, asleep on a couch but that’d be a lie. My middle name is Thomas and I just thought it was a good fit.
Genre bending would tend to be an understatement with you, do you plan on continuing in that vain? What’s the Sleepy Tom sound?
Yeah I think all my music up to now has just been a learning process because realistically I have only been putting out songs for two years, and I’ve been testing the waters with a lot of different genres. I have some new music coming out on Fool’s Gold this year where I feel like I'm honing my sound and whether or not I stick with that sound we’ll see; but I like it for now. It’s kind of booty based with a little more breaks and high energy.
The earliest track on your SoundCloud is from only a year ago, what was Sleepy Tom up to before that?
I grew up playing in bands and writing songs on guitar, rock music is kind of my roots. When electronic music blew up around 2007 to 2008 I started listening to that more and more. I had played around with computer music and making electronic music for fun but then it kind of hit. I wanted to start taking DJing seriously. I guess it was six years ago that I realized I wanted to do this full time.
I went to a good audio engineering school in Vancouver to get my mixes and my tracks sounding professional, and after that I was interning with Steve Bays the singer from Hot Hot Heat. He was producing bands and I was able to watch him mix and I picked up a lot of knowledge from him. I think that had a lot to do with why people like my music, the fact that it hits hard and that it sounds well mixed.
Born and based out of Vancouver, what’s the electronic music scene like on the West Coast of Canada?
I’d say it’s pretty good. BluePrint events basically run Vancouver’s dance music scene, they’re constantly bringing in really cool acts. When I was coming up…. Wait, I’m obviously still on the come up haha, I would just go to their shows and get inspired.
There are a lot of cool DJs from Vancouver like Felix, Cyril, Lazy Rich, and then there are a lot of guys that aren’t that well known like the ASL Singles Club that are doing really cool things. Just in terms of every kind of music there are a lot of musicians out in Vancouver, it’s a smaller scene than Toronto but it’s a nice way to live.
How did you link up with Fool’s Gold?
I’ll give you a little back-story, A-trak did a boat cruise in Vancouver in Summer 2010 and they sent an email out saying they wanted people doing street promo. I was super stoked on the label so I hit them up and they were like “We need someone to be the Gold Bar, their mascot, in Vancouver” so I did that. To be honest, that’s only one of two times I tried being a mascot but I’m never doing that again; you get harassed pretty heavily. That was my first connection with Fool’s Gold.
The music stuff came around two or three years later and I sent Fool’s Gold and a bunch of other labels my song “The Currency”, the next thing you know my favourite label got back to me within a month. They were pretty excited to do a record so I was like “Hell Yeah!” I didn't have a lot of original material back then, just a couple songs, so I really started working on my Currency EP.
Your video for “The Currency” with Fool’s Gold is amazing to say the least, what was the inspiration for it?
That video took a little while to make, I think it looks like it had a higher budget than it actually had and we had to pull a couple favours to make it happen. The director, Kheaven Lewandowski, had done videos for Hot Hot Heat and Steve. I think Steve posted one of his new videos and I knew that I needed that cinematic touch on my project. We bounced ideas back and forth for a while and he said “What if we do this wall street party gone wrong?” I thought that sounded great.
I wanted to make sure that the video wasn't too reliant on the title of the track, which is already a pretty ambiguous word, and when Kheaven sent me the treatment for the video I loved it. He made it happen exactly the way he said it would.
You set the bar pretty high with that video, any idea what you’re going to do next?
I’d like to work with Kheaven again. I have some songs I’ve been working on that should be a good fit and hopefully we can get another video out by the end of the year. We got a MuchFACT grant for that video so I’ll have to try and get another one of those because these projects aren’t cheap. Hopefully this time we can get an even bigger budget. I’d like to get in on the video editing process; adding graphics and do some more animation sort of stuff but we’ll see.
You’ve done remixes for some of the biggest names in music today, from A$AP Ferg to Diplo, do you prefer remixing or creating all original tracks?
I like doing both. When I complete an original I’m normally more proud of that compared to a remix, but the remix is definitely a bit more fun and a little easier. You already have material to work with when you’re remixing so you just pick a direction and go with it. When you’re dealing with an original it can be difficult, just because internally you’re being pulled in all kinds of different directions.
What’s next for Sleepy Tom?
I have a single and a b-side coming out, both are collaborations with different Vancouver based artists. The single is with a guy named Krusha, he’s a drum and bass producer that I know from back home and that single is called “Jobless.” The b-side is a track with my friend Wonton, that track is pretty much an aggressive techno banger…it sounds Euro underground, like stuff that you’d hear at a Berlin rave, that’s pretty deep.
Does Vancouver really rain as much as you say.
Yes it does…My girlfriend is complaining about the rain right now as I’m chilling in Miami. I think eventually I’d like to spend some time in LA but I don’t think I’d ever move away from Van for more than six months.
Look out for Sleepy Tom's new release on April 29, 2014.
World Ski & Snowboard Festival, April 19, Whistler, BC
Squamish Valley Music Festival, August 7, Squamish, BC
You can follow Zach on twitter: @Myronsfinest