INTERVIEW: Questioning Self-Existence With Sleepwoka

Sleepwoka is a London based Ukrainian electronic artist who has recently released the catchy and foot tapping track All I Hoped For. The song focusses on topics such as questioning his existence and his place in the world. I caught up with the musician to discuss the latest single, art house cinema and the up and coming EP.

Hello Sleepwoka tell us three unknown facts about yourself?

#1 – My main instrument is actually a bass guitar and not synthesizers. Despite the fact that I am a much better bass player than I am a keyboard player, my music has no bass guitar in it. It’s all synthesizers. I definitely want to bring more guitar and bass sounds to my future songs

#2 – Before moving to London I used to live in the Netherlands where I really got into electronic music. The raving and electronic music culture in the Netherlands really inspired me and that’s where my main influences for Sleepwoka started forming

#3 – I am a huge fan of Soviet poetry, literature and cinema which definitely influenced the visual style and lyrics of Sleepwoka a lot.

How did you get into music?

I started playing bass guitar when I was 12 years old. I was taking part in a school band and the school management was really supportive of our music and they bought the drum set and provided a school bus for our concerts. Unfortunately, when I moved to Kiev to study in the uni, our band broke up and since then I always dreamed of working on music again. Fast forward 8 years, and I finally started the project I always dreamed of – Sleepwoka. 

Who do you find your inspirations?

My main artistic inspirations are movies and books I am reading. I am a huge fan of art house cinema and soviet writers. Strugatsky brothers are definitely on top of the inspirations list. For those who are not familiar, they were Soviet sci fi writers, who wrote thought provoking and sophisticated sci fi novels. Although these books are usually about the future, they show us who we really are and problems we face as human kind.

Tell us all about your latest single All I Hoped For?

The song leans into the common notion of not fitting in to an already overcrowded and loud world. There is a frustration and disappointment in the lyrics revealing a regret of things both done and not done. It is a continuation of my previous singles and explores the topic of whether after all these years we are actually true to the beliefs we had when we were younger.

How long did it take to write the song? 

“All I Hoped For” is definitely an outlier. I had some rough ideas at the end of 2019 and throughout the whole 2020 I was trying to finish it. Although I liked the main motive, I struggled a lot to finish the lyrics for the song. But once the lyrics were done I was actually super happy with the end result.

Where does the inspiration for the song come from?

“All I hoped for” is a tribute to my favourite Russian band called “Splean”. They have a song called “The stone” which tells a story of a stone that keeps on rolling, but that doesn’t feel like it belongs to the world it is in. The song is much more than that, but I really liked the idea behind it and wanted to create my own take on this topic.

Tell us about how you have been making music in lockdown?

Honestly, the process is pretty similar to what I used to do before the lockdown. I write my main song structure at home in my bedroom and later I go to my friend’s studio where we record the whole thing properly. The access to the studio was not as easy as before 2020, but I managed to have several productive sessions and record as much as I could.

Did it surprise you the reactions that you have been receiving for your music?

I am always very positively surprised by the reaction to my music. When you share something very personal, you don’t expect that so many people would relate to what you are doing. I received a lot of DMs on Instagram with very kind words about my music. It really helps not to forget what this is all about.

What is the most challenging thing when it comes to producing a record?

For me vocals are always the hardest. I am a self taught singer, so I always feel quite insecure about my vocal skills when I am in the singing booth in the studio. But it’s the skill that you can learn, and in the latest singles I feel much more confident than in my early work.

How do you warm up for a show?

Most of my warm up is usually vocal exercises. I really feel a big difference and I try to be quite strict before the show or even rehearsal. It usually sounds really weird and annoying for everyone around me, but it’s a must before starting singing at all. I also tend to think about it as a sort of meditation and it helps me to relax the busy mind.

Also let’s talk tour – will there be live shows soon?

Honestly, it’s really hard to tell at the moment. So far we don’t have any plans for touring at all. It seems like things are getting at least somewhat better here in the UK, but our gigs have already been cancelled twice since the start of the pandemic, so I am really hesitant to plan any tours.

Have you missed performing on stage?

100%. It’s really weird to perform live on the internet and not feel any feedback from the crowd. It feels like you are singing alone in the shower. The energy of real people standing right in front of you is a magical thing. That is why I am not worried that live gigs will bounce back quickly.

What is one of your favourite songs to perform live?

I feel like the songs that I will enjoy the most playing live are the songs from the upcoming EP that are not even released yet. But it could be that I am just super excited to share and play new material with our listeners.

What are the toughest songs to perform live and why?

The latest single “All I Hoped For” is pretty hard to perform. The hardest part in this song is vocals. The verse gets quite energetic and high pitched and I find it quite hard to get the right balance of expressiveness but still keeping the melody in tune.

Our site also is about improv – in a music sense, what have been some of your favorite improvised melodies that you have created and been able to use in songs and why?

I am not a great keyboard player so I find it quite hard to improvise melodies on the fly and tend to think about melody in advance in my head. However, with synthesizers the improvisation part is actually not about the melody that you play, but about messing around with the actual sound of the synths. That’s my favorite part and I try to always do something unique in one take in the studio. I love adding a lot of noise in random places, cranking up resonance on the filter or just randomly twisting the knobs to see what happens.

What are your plans for the rest of 2021?

The rest of 2021 is planned to be really busy. I plan to release several singles from the next EP that will be called “The Lockdown Ghosts”. COVID and isolation really left a huge mark on my mental health and the next EP will be all about reflections and internal demons that COVID woke up. Each single will be followed by a music video and I am really excited with what we have in mind.

And finally why should people check out your music?

Strong use of analog synthesizers brings a nostalgic 80’s vibe and the dream-like atmospheric visuals add a surreal tone to the projects. The lyrics are personal reflections and experiences of dissonating everyday life through the eyes of a Post-Soviet immigrant. I believe that my music is thought-provoking and often nostalgic scenarios of everyday life accompanied by captivating and catchy electronica soundscapes. Influenced by surreal art and film, the visuals often carry the story of the songs into a fantastical dimension that somehow still speaks to our realities

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