Interview – Art of Sleeping’s Caleb Hodges

– by Alice Mod

Art of Sleeping are a Queensland indie group who are smashing their way into the minds of every guitar and lyric lover around the country. They’ve just started a sweet nine stop tour and we had a quick chat to frontman and guitarist Caleb Hodges about how they’ve got to where they are, how they make their music and about this awesome tour.

Tell me about you guys, is this what you’ve always wanted to do? How did you get started? How have you got to where you are today?

We’ve all played music since we were young and some classically trained, some not, we kind of started playing music together just for fun, just for a laugh and we didn’t really think too much of it and had no intention of starting a band or a group as such. We did some recordings and the response was much better than we first anticipated, we were just kind of doing it for fun. And we thought, maybe we should start playing some live shows. We booked a few in, and it was the funnest thing we’d ever done! Things kind of went from there really, it was pretty natural.

What’s the writing and recording process for you all?

It’s different every time really, as it is with any creative venture really; there’s no one way to do it. Just because a formula works once, doesn’t mean it’ll work another time. We’re always in flux with creating music. A lot of the songs start as me working on the melody and lyrical ideas or a concept and then we’ll kind of expand it as a group and it becomes an Art of Sleeping song when we’re in preproduction or when we’ve played it through a few times together and worked out some parts together. I guess there’s no one way we stick to, it just kind of happens when it happens.

Your older tracks like ‘Empty Hands’ and ‘Shoulders‘ are much rawer than ‘Crazy‘ or ‘Voodoo’. Was that intentional when recording these newer trackers or did you change your production style?

A couple of factors, I’d say.

One, I’d say was that was our first EP and we literally had no money and we had to walk into the studio and play the songs from start to finish and track it live and that’s just how it was. Financial and time-wise…I guess that’s just how it ended up. Also, I guess the sound was exactly how we were sounding at the time (laughs).

With ‘Crazy’ and ‘Voodoo,’ we hadn’t worked with a producer before and we worked with Tom Iansek and a guy called Yanto Browning for the recording of the album, and I guess working with two producers, we kind of explored our sound and had some more time to do some pre-production.

We didn’t have a long time this year, but we had a little more time to further explore some aesthetics and areas of sound that maybe we wouldn’t have had time to in the past.

The other thing is that we got this really incredible mix engineer to mix the latter two songs. He’s called Lasse Mårtén, over in Sweden. He’s worked with some incredible people like Lykke Li and Peter, Bjorn and John. He’s actually incredible. Every time he’d send something back he was exceeding our expectations.

So yeah, I guess a little bit of all of those factors. And I guess we’re just moving in a bit of a different direction with sound and creativity and exploring some new areas as well as far as song writing goes.

Have your influences changed for these songs compared to the last releases?

I would say no, but keeping in mind, our influences are always in flux. We have such a massive variety of influences and music that we listen to across the board; there’s no one style, we’re just like “this is what we like, this is what we listen to, this is what we write.” You know, everything from hip-hop to orchestral music is cool with us and I guess as a songwriter myself, I get inspired by the weirdest bits in music, or something obscure that no one would think could inspire me but that sparks and idea for me.

Some of the music you make is so haunting music, but you manage to combine it with these almost sing-along lyrics. Was that intentional?

As a songwriter, I guess I endeavour to work really hard on the lyrical content of our music and that’s primarily up to me. Some of the guys in the group are super talented and intelligent musicians and on the lyrical side, I’ll spend a long time making something right, or making sure it’s saying what I want it to say or saying what the music feels like. I guess things that inspire me about music is when the music sounds like what the lyric is saying, that’s something really magical that happens there. And that’s the beauty of music and why it transcends all languages and time.

At the end of the day, you want your song to translate. You could write a song and it means so much to you, but you perform it and it means nothing to the audience. I guess, unless it translates to the audience, it’s a pointless piece of art, unless it’s self-indulgent and just for you. Our music is for other people and we try to make that translate to everyone.

Are there any themes that you’ve been writing about recently or is just what you’ve been feeling at the moment?

It’s the same as with our influences, it’s always in flux too. You know there’s no one theme that I stick to while I’m writing songs or creating ideas. You know it might start with a chord progression or something may spark an idea, or I’ll be inspired by something that happens to me or someone else and sometimes I’ll start with an idea and go from there. There really isn’t one theme at one time.

You’re all over everyone’s playlists on Triple J. Home and Hosed, Richard Kingsmill, their Hit List. What’s it like to have that kind of backing?

It means so much to us. When our first single that we released a couple of years ago, ‘Empty Hands’ started getting some radio play, you know it just makes such a difference; it means you’re accessible to the whole country. That’s something you can do on social media, but there’s so much online that it’s hard for you to stand out from everyone else or get a head start. And I guess a platform like Triple J, or a platform like that or local radio stations, means heaps for an artist. You couldn’t do what we do without that support.

You’re on a pretty wicked nine stop tour. What are you looking most forward to on tour and why have you chosen to do three stops in WA?

Funny story, and I’m sure you know this, so many artists don’t come over to the West Coast because it costs so much to fly and the band and the sound guy and…. The last time we were in Perth, and I think we went to Bunbury too for Southbound and we just had the best time and everyone was so cool and everyone at the shows were amazing and we had such a good time. We actually got in a big argument with our management about coming in case we made a loss but we were demanding to come because we had so much fun, we just want to be there and connect with the people there. Especially on the verge of a new album, I thought it was really important to be there. So we’re hoping ticket sales are good so we can say “I told you so!”

What’s the dynamic like when you guys are touring?

We’re so excited! You know, you spend so much money on gear and recording and the time invested in all of that and the writing, I mean you do it because you love it, but the ultimate payoff is being on the road and then performing that music and sharing that experience with people. There really is nothing quite like a room and the vibe is right and you’re all there for the music and you can really share that experience with people who have come to see you.

That’s really important for us. You can always watch and listen to people on Soundcloud or YouTube but it never quite translates the way a live performance does because the soul just isn’t there. We’re kind of flipping out a bit ‘cause we’re so excited…we haven’t been able to tour much because we’ve been writing and recording and working on the album.

What made you choose Jesse Davison for your support?

I’ve liked his music since like, forever ago, since he released his first EP. There was just something so beautiful about it. I was like this is so cool, such a good voice and such a nice vibe in the production and I guess you have to hear your support artists set 13 time on a tour or however many shows you’re doing, so it always makes sense to tour with someone who you enjoy listening to. I’m really looking forward to watching him live.

What can we expect from your shows?

Like I was saying before, our favourite part of being musicians is sharing that with the people that come. You know, you’ve paid and I want to give you a great experience with our music, in the best way I possibly can. It’s a really dynamic, expansive kind of set and we really strive to make more of an experience than just getting up on stage and playing through the eight or 12 songs, however long your set it. And I love it when the crowd’s really engaged and people yell out and get fired up and get into it and feel part of it. We want to make it interactive, that’s our hope, anyway.

What have you guys got planned after the tour?

After this tour, we’ve kind of got a whole album burning holes in our pockets. We’ve released two singles already and we’ll release another single very shortly, just after Splendour, I believe. We finish this tour and go straight to Splendour, which will be insane. After that, we have another national tour booked in; we’ll be supporting a larger artist than ourselves. Doing a support tour will be really cool.

And then the album will be realised and we’ll do a massive album tour…then hopefully overseas at the very end of the year. A whole lot of touring and new music releasing.


Art of Sleeping will grace our shores again from the 18th. With tickets on sale now, the immersive five-piece is not to be missed.


Photo Credit: Art of Sleeping

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