Sweet Bike - Sound In The Signals Interview

I recently had the opportunity to interview Sweet Bike. We discussed how they formed the band, musical influences, writing and recording upcoming album ‘Ode To Coty’, a favorite moment from the studio, album artwork, collaborating with Sleepy Clown Records on a cassette release, and more. Check it out below. 

First, thanks for the interview.

Thank you for having us! Before we start we should introduce ourselves, Sweet Bike is Jacob Hallstrom, Chris Armstrong, Garrett Shafer, and Danny Behrens.

Can you tell me how you formed the band for those who may be unfamiliar with it? How did you initially become interested in music?

Chris: I’ve been writing music since I was in high school and have been inspired over the years from my friends around me playing music in different bands.

I met Danny when I was in high school and played shows where our bands would play with each other a lot. I think Danny’s writing abilities are unmatched not only as a drummer but as an artist himself and I feel really lucky that he’s interested in the songs I was sharing and was down to lay down a creative hand.

I met Garrett when I was playing folk-punk music in the band carfire. back in 2010/2011 and tbh we didn’t get to really know each other until closer to 2018/2019 but I’ve always loved his writing abilities from afar and I’m glad that he wanted to join Sweet Bike when I asked him if he wanted to play bass.

And Jake is a golden god among humans, he’s an amazing songwriter/musician and an even more amazing friend. Jake put it much better in his response but I’m grateful that he’s been down with whatever song I throw his way even when it’s a dumb goofy idea.  

Garrett: Chris asked me if I can play bass. I said, "I play guitar," Chris said, "close enough." 

Jake: Chris and I met over a decade ago when we both worked at a pet store together, found we had similar taste in music and started hanging out a lot. Since then we’ve played in a few different projects together, and I’ve mixed a couple of Chris’ older music projects… and honestly, I was just a fan of his song writing abilities. We had been messing around with the idea of starting something new after the unfortunate disbanding of his last project (Darkle), but it wasn’t until late 2019 that we started talking more seriously about what we wanted to accomplish. Early 2020 we started jamming with Danny and Garrett, and that’s when we became the entity known as Sweet Bike. 

Danny: Known Chris since high school  days; We had bands that played shows together. One day he asked if I could record drums on some songs he had written. After hearing them and learning them I wanted to stay on as the permanent drummer. As for when I became interested in music, the day that doctor smacked my baby butt, baby. 

Who are some of your biggest musical influences? Why?

Chris: Algernon Cadwallader, Brave Little Abacus, and Bomb The Music Industry are all bands that definitely influence me in the way I write songs, my favorite thing about all of these bands is that they all did their own thing regardless of scenes around them. That’s something I really want to encapsulate when writing a Sweet Bike song, that it doesn’t necessarily belong to a genre but that it borrows inspiration from all of our musical influences to make it our own. 

Garrett: Glocca morra, prawn, crash of rhinos. All 3 are scrappy, emotive, and they're pretty damn good at making dynamic songs.  

Jake: Sometimes I wish we were a doom metal band that wrote songs about the spiritual benefits of marijuana… *sigh* maybe someday. 

Danny: I think one of biggest influences to my style would be the DC indie scene. When I’m writing music or coming up with a drum part I always try and think of what will make this part in the song interesting. Sometimes that answer is taking a backseat and playing something simple as to not clutter a riff. Other times the rest of the riff is simple and you step up to make it creative. You’ll hear this kind of dynamic in a lot in those old DC bands. Additionally, I grew up listening to a lot of 90s hardcore bands which is probably why I like playing fast punk riffs and heavy breakdowns. Lastly, I’d like to just mention that there are hundreds of influences that go into the music I create. I think it’s important to listen to different types of music and genres so you’re not locked into one particular sound. Expanding your horizons this way opens up the doors to be much more creative and original.

You recently announced your debut album ‘Ode To Coty’. Can you tell me about the writing and recording process for the album?

Jake: For the writing process, we stood in a room and punched our instruments as hard as we could. For the recording process, Simon Small made us do that in front of microphones. 

Chris: Well we wrote most of our songs over the past 2 years of us becoming a band, though not all the songs made it to the album. In the summer I reached out to Simon Small (credits Inc. into it over it. MONO, black midi, apologies I have none) about a pedal I’m obsessed with (Deep Space Devices’ Dust) because they just got one themselves! After talking a while they showed interest in wanting to work with us for our debut album and the rest is history, baby. ;) 

Who did you work with and what were some of your favorite moments from the studio?

Danny: “That’s some fucked up violence”. 

Chris: When I screamed on Final Battle and I saw everyone’s eyes light up, that’s the moment for me. That and crying in the bathroom after and the rest of the boys were consoling me because it was hard lyrics to sing/scream about but the rest of the guys were there for me and I deeply appreciated that.

I just can't believe Simon still likes us, let alone talks to us to this day, after being in such close proximity for a couple weeks. Dude has the patience of a saint, and the skills of Satan. That's probably my favorite part.

Up to this point, you’ve only released your demo. Has there been any evolution between the demo and the album both sonically and/or with your writing?

Danny: One possible noticeable difference would be that the demo was recorded at warped-speed tempos. We tried to rein that in a bit with the album.

Chris: Much like Danny said, I feel like this time around we have a better idea for the tempos of the songs and a better idea of how we wanted the songs to sound recorded. 

Garrett: We started to let our heavier influences show a bit more here and there, which was fun. It was really interesting to play with some hardcore elements and experiment with how that changed up a song's feeling without going too overboard. 

Pall Mall Blart Cop 2” is the lead single for the album. Why did you choose it as a single?

Danny: Felt it was the most representative of how we sound. Has a little bit of everything we do. 

ChrisPall Mall is a song about being stuck within your head and feeling like your world is crumbling because of it. We felt like this message resonates with a lot of people and hope that people will listen to the rest of the songs on the album.

At what point in the album writing process was that song written?

Danny: Fairly certain we don’t have any singular writing process locked in… but like I think the song got written in late 2021? We played it live for the first time at our second show so somewhere around there. 

Chris: This is one of the first songs we really made together as a band, before that I had a lot of bones to songs we fleshed out in that time too but Pall Mall was the first song we each put into it to make it a song we wrote together. 

The album artwork is really neat looking. I like the collage look of it. Who came up with the concept for it and designed it?

Garrett: We all dabbled with some mushrooms and went to town on arts & crafts. Chris had fun getting some choice photos of Coty printed, brought this shitty book about Paul McCartney, and we just hacked em all to pieces. My partner is a preschool teacher, and they were kind enough to lend us some scrapbooking materials to tie it all together.  

Chris: Much like Garrett said, we got together at our practice space, got a bunch of arts & crafts, got goofy, and made this collage together as a band.

Can you tell us more about the meaning behind the album title?

Jake: Coty is a sort of religious prophet to us. Coty is both the beginning and the end. Darkness and light. An all knowing, all seeing enigma unable to be fathomed by the human mind. Coty has a kawaii energy and child-like smile, while also being a supreme force that should be both admired and feared. Coty lives within us all. 

You’re working with Sleepy Clown Records for a cassette release. How did you end up working with them?

Jake: We just really love clowns. We love clownin around, you could say we’ve always been down with the clown. 

Chris: Well I sent Ode To Coty to them and we hit it off immediately! I knew of Sleepy Clown Records from their release of Routine Fuss’ album and Avery’s experience of working with them, but I’m very grateful that they believe in what we are putting out and want to help us put out a physical release of this. 

Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

Chris: Thank you for thinking of asking us! Well our debut album “Ode To Coty” is out everywhere on 03/31/23 and Sleepy Clown Records will have tapes of this album on their webstore as well as at our shows. 

Danny: We’ll be playing an album release show at Sleeping Village on 4/12/23 with our friends in Strawberry Boy and Bottom Bracket! More details and official announcement to come but keep an eye out!

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