Interview: Hey Sleeper

Following his gig at the House of Wolf’s HOWL last Thursday I caught up with Luke Roberts , aka Hey Sleeper and got a little bit of an insight into what makes the mind of Reading’s Lo-Finest Troubadour.

How was House of Wolf ?

It was good. A little bit of a struggle to be heard at certain moments, as I’m just a whispering solo singer and I think the folks there are used to louder things, but I enjoyed it.

If you were on Mastermind , what would be your chosen subject ?

I have a tendency to forget key information at vital moments, and remember things when they are least relevant, so I’d be useless regardless of the topic.

First Guitar you ever bought and first song you ever learnt ?

I actually played my Dad’s guitar for a long time before I bought my own – this lovely, huge old Italian Eko. Makes a lot of noise – it’s too big and heavy to haul to shows but I still record with it sometimes. I tried to learn a song off that first Coldplay record, but failed miserably so I started writing my own songs instead.

First CD/Tape ?

I think it was Shania Twain on cassette – I can’t remember which song, but it got listened to a lot more than it probably should have.

What was the first thing you did on your 8 track ?

How do you know I use an 8-track? The first thing I did was a song in 2010 called ‘Something Like Hope’. It’s about screwing things up and apologising. I recorded it in one take then spent about two days trying to make double-tracking sound good.

What influences your songs ? Is it personal experience ? If so – Do you think personal experience make for the best songs ?

I tend to ‘write first – think later’ so generally I don’t know what my lyrics are about until the song is finished and I have a chance to look over the whole thing. But it probably does come back to personal experience most of the time – a couple of my songs explore that through fictional characters, but generally it’s bare-bones stuff. In my opinion, a good song is a good song, it doesn’t matter too much if it’s genuinely personal or not, but if it is, there’s a sense of honesty that’s certainly worth something.

How would you describe your music ?

Long slow death music.

Describe yourself in one word ?

Reluctant.

Dream collaboration ?

I’d love to work with Kanye West, but I doubt we’d be on the same wavelength.

Do you get nervous before a gig ?

Not often. Usually the gigs I’m nervous about go terribly, so if I feel like I’m going that way I talk myself down.

Who’s on the iPod right now ?

Beach House – Bloom. I’m a huge fan, and I can’t get enough of this record. It’s also in my car, and waiting for me at home on my computer.

Was music always a part of growing up ? Was it always in the blood ?

My whole family is musical – it’s really the only thing I’ve ever known much about. Social skills, employable attributes, that was all secondary.

When did you know that music is what you wanted to do ?

Honestly, it’s not what I want to do. I don’t necessarily enjoy playing, but I do feel like it’s an outlet of some kind.

Obviously music has changed with social media and internet platforms – Is this a good thing ?

For me , as a fan it’s fantastic and allows you to listen to so much diversity although nothing beats an intimate live gig. However , I can see it being harder to make money from doing the thing you love ? If the last point is true, personally I take the less mainstream music much more seriously as I know people are doing it for the love of music ?

Although I’d consider myself a capitalist, I’m not really interested in making money from my music – when I do, it’s only ever from gigs or the occasional generous pay-what-you-want download. I don’t feel like it’s work, so I don’t feel like I should get expect to get paid for it. On the other hand, I know plenty of artists who rely on every penny they get through their music sales and gigs, and I hope there are enough fans out there who realise it’s an income for those artists.

What makes you happy ?

My family, and incredibly sad music.

What makes you sad ?

Most things, once I’ve left the relative safety of my house. I try not to appear downtrodden as I’ve got a lot to be grateful for, but I look around and realise life is full of sadness.

What makes you angry ?

Nothing much. I was an angry teenager but I’m pretty relaxed now.

Why music ?

It’s a wonderful, universal language. I think for many people it’s one of the only ways to express what they’re feeling, whether they’re listening to something or creating something new.

What can we expect from Hey Sleeper in the next year ?

I’m going to push myself to write more songs than I did last year. Some of them may never make it ‘out’ but if a few do, I’ll be putting out an album. I’m also thinking of attempting to face the terrifying prospect of co-writing. Other than that, my sister Bethany – who plays violin and vocals – and I will be doing some really small, really quiet gigs around the country.

Words: Ross Emerick