Sleepy Vikings: Tampa's favorite shoegazers keep winning new fans
The term often used to describe Sleepy Vikings’ signature sound seems as oxymoronic as boneless ribs or business ethics.
But as fate would have it, when this Tampa band marries Brit-originated, reverb-y shoegaze and Southern-style jangle rock, the result is one blissfully excellent union. Fusing disparate styles, sounds and even personalities — as they did on the band’s 2011 debut album, They Will Find You Here — is where the humble Vikings best excel.
Speaking of, guitarist Julian Conner and vocalist Tessa McKenna recently got married. Joining the ranks of bands like Mates of State and Arcade Fire, McKenna and Conner now share life, stage space and songwriting duties.
In an adorable exchange, they sum up the roles they play in the band:
“I just recently started helping with harmonies, but I pretty much just do what I’m told,” McKenna says bashfully. “Even if I did try to write the words, my lyrics wouldn’t be as good as his.”
“Tessa doesn’t give herself enough credit,” Conner chimes in. “She helps a lot! I write the lyrics but everyone shares in the songwriting. Usually we’ll start with a piece of a song, typically a guitar riff, and work on it from there. Everyone more or less writes their own parts and then we comment on all parts. Everyone is great about giving and receiving feedback.”
The “everyone” Conner is referring to includes Sandi Streppone, Ryann Slauson and Sandra Covin, a few names tbt* readers might be familiar with, had they read about former Ultimate Local Band Giddy-up, Helicopter! a few years back.
Together as Sleepy Vikings, the group has forged its own unique identity with a throbbing, swooning sound rooted in country-folk. They’ve received Twitter shout-outs from the Vivian Girls, opening gigs for Ra Ra Riot, Deer Tick and Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, a South By Southwest VICE magazine feature, a live studio session for Paste magazine, a remix of their first single Calm by Her Space Holiday, and props from punk queen Exene Cervenka of X.
In spite of the accolades, most local musicians and scene enthusiasts know the drill. Playing music doesn’t necessarily pay the bills.
By day, McKenna is a nanny, Conner manages a restaurant, Streppone is a high school math teacher, Slauson works at a café and record store (“Ahem, hipster,” McKenna chuckles) and Covin, a.k.a. “2.0,” is a freelance translator.
“I think that all of us kind of look at the band like we’re working two full-time jobs,” Conner says. “Sleep deprivation is a problem, but I think otherwise we have a great time.”
Looking forward, Sleepy Vikings have begun recording new tunes, including the iridescent Horse Song, a mid-tempo drone tune with bright folk bursts.
“It’s exciting to me to think about another release,” Conner says. “But we need a music video. If anyone is into shooting films or music videos and wants to help, please let us know. We have barely any money, but we will feed you beers and Tessa will cook for you. Also Sandi will do your math homework, 2.0 will speak Spanish or something, and Ry will paint you a picture.”
-- Carole Liparoto, tbt*. Photo/video: Carolina Hidalgo, tbt*