Thursday, June 11, 2015
(Photographer: Teresa Pham)

The last time the Art of Sleeping played in Sydney it was to a meagre crowd of 50. This time round the Oxford Art Factory was heaving with fans packed shoulder to shoulder.  This five-piece, indie band from Brisbane are known for their impressive live show, which they claim is “by far our favourite part of the musical process!” We headed down to check out what all the fuss was about.

If you are looking for a wild night of dirty dancing then The Art of Sleeping most certainly aren’t your ticket. A far cry from their hometown buddies Dune Rats, the Art of Sleeping are reverent and sincere. Their set was an emotive flood of ethereal sounds and heartfelt lyrics. 

In a swirling mass of dry ice and deep red light, the band emerged as mysterious, shadowed figures to the eerie echoes of abstract guitar wails. The deep pendulum of a tom drum rang out and silenced the crowd as front man Caleb Hodges softly howled melodies into the air. Opening with their big hit Empty Hands set the tone for the night. Caleb’s euphonious voice soared whilst the ringing, high-pitched guitar pierced the air.

Their second song The Cage opened with a gentle guitar melody whilst atmospheric shafts of white light illuminated each band member in a ghostly glow. A loud intermittent bass pounded a slow, ambling rhythm with Jean-Paul Malengretdrumming a loud, marching beat. The song’s simplicity showcased the Art Of Sleeping’s impressive synchronicity. The sound is tight; flaunting Caleb’s notable vocal abilities whilst still focusing on the prominent, thundering guitar and drums that give them their signature sound.

Voodoo, their latest release, was markedly succinct. Unlike the recording, the boys started the song with heavy drumming that thumped like a racing heartbeat through the crowd. Caleb’s vocals had the cool nonchalance of Chet Faker with a stunning vibrato that tingled many a swaying spine in the audience. The bass was gritty, building up the to clamourous chorus with its rhythmic strikes from Jarryd Shukeron the keys and grungy guitar chords. 

Win Your Heart was loud and upbeat with synthy keys and fast drumming. In contrast, the singing was still drawn out and soft like an aching groan, the ending notes of each line lifting up into a yowl. This song beautifully displayed the band’s noteworthy harmonies; delicate and understated; a quiet voice purring along contentedly. I Could Make You Happy and Above the Water both featured high pitched atmospheric guitar echoing like distant whale song. The band were steeped in a blue light, as if their songs were generating a great emotional ocean for the audience to immerse themselves in. Caleb’s melancholic tones washed over the audience as they stood solemnly still in awe.

One of the defining features of the Art of Sleeping’s song structure is their use of a crescendo. I Could Make You Happy, Above the water and their new song: Burning Bright  all possessed a slow, surging drum beat that climaxed into a crest of crashing and heavy strumming.

The last leg of the set varied slightly from their formulaic sound with Jefferson livening up the crowd with psychedelic-rock intro similar to Wooden Ships. The pace changed innumerable times with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard style instrumental interludes between each vocal. The bass was groovy, with slow-pysched out drumming like a fuzzy Portishead beat.

Their final song Crazy was bluesy with a slightly reggae beat. The crowd sang along fervently. This was the last epic climax; large white bulbs lit up the stage, Caleb’s lamenting lyrics soared into the microphone as he bent his knees and closed his eyes emotively. Every last emotion was poured into this final ballad. The drums crashed, a rocky guitar solo wailed reminiscent of a Smashing Pumpkins epic. Everyone heaved every ounce of energy into this celebratory crescendo: both band and audience.

I walked away from the set emotionally drained as if I had just watched a tremendous narrative of emotions play out before me. Witnessing the Art of Sleeping’s formidable performance of their sincere subject matter and weighty melodies was like indulging in a Shakespearian tragedy for its catharsis. The overriding sense of impassioned melancholia and jubilation converging and rupturing on stage was like observing a band bare their very soul. 

Written by Cosima Wood 

Featuring: Sunbeam Sound Machine
Photographer: Teresa Pham