Track-by-Track: Inside Sandman Sleeps’ Stirring, Honest, & Climatic Debut Album, ‘Crisis Actor’

Sandman Sleeps © Parisa Farbakhsh
Sandman Sleeps © Parisa Farbakhsh
Charming, churning, and twelve years in the making, Sandman Sleeps’ debut album ‘Crisis Actor’ is an invigorating collection of songs full of upheaval and energy that promise to enchant, inspire, and light a fire inside.
Stream: “Soaked” – Sandman Sleeps




An air of cool defiance permeates Sandman Sleeps’ debut album.

Passionately post-punk with a penchant for insatiable hooks, the Florida rock band beat to the tune of their own drum in more ways than one. Their cinematic, searing songs hit hard and leave a mark, whilst their provocative, poetic lyrics offer plenty of food for thought. At the heart of this emerging band is an undeniable zeal for that seismic release that only raw rock music can give. Charming, churning, and twelve years in the making, Sandman Sleeps’ Crisis Actor is an invigorating collection of songs full of upheaval and energy that promise to enchant, inspire, and light a fire inside.

Crisis Actor - Sandman Sleeps
Crisis Actor – Sandman Sleeps
I am soaked in light – I
I hope it cures me
In light… I hope…
Did you hear that?
Did you feel it?
Everything once said, invented
And the time goes, overlap
She wants to hurry did you mean it?
Did you mean it?
– “Soaked,” Sandman Sleeps

Released March 26, 2022, Crisis Actor is the long-awaited full-length album from Fort Pierce, Florida-based Sandman Sleeps. Formed by sisters Cristina and Alex Peck in their teenage years, the alternative/indie rock band reconvened “with passion” and a vision in 2019, adding to their lineup drummer Karsten Andersen and guitarist Zack Jones and formally debuting in 2020 with their singles “Your Specter” and “Icy Jungle,” both of which – while not on this year’s album – hint at all that was to come.

Sandman Sleeps © Parisa Farbakhsh
Sandman Sleeps © Parisa Farbakhsh



“This record has been written over the course of 12 years and recorded essentially over the course of 2 years,” vocalist and guitarist Cristina Peck tells Atwood Magazine. “Alex, my sister, and I began the concept of Sandman Sleeps in 2009 and some of the songs on the album are that old. Some we wrote together and others I wrote and then brought to the band. We weeded out songs based on how the band responded to them. Overall I’d say songs that were more energetic fit the sound of the four of us.”

“Documenting the songs and the sound of the band was the main intent of Crisis Actor,” she continues. “I felt like we were racing time, having started this project during the beginning of COVID and recording during this time, we didn’t really know what obstacles we were going to face next so it was literally about documentation and moving forward as a band without being able to play out at the time. I think the more time we spent recording the more we found synchronicities between the songs and developed our style. We started recording not too long after the four of us began playing together so it is a young and raw documentation of our band. Although the sound quality is pretty polished.”

“I think the overall sound of the album is very forward, clear and energy packed. ‘Clear’ as in you can literally hear everything happening and ‘forward’ as in deliberate. I feel like the album does a pretty honest job of conveying the momentum we carry as a live band as well as our songwriting craft.”




The members of Sandman Sleeps and their extended team lovingly refer to Crisis Actor as a “best-of” collection based on the sheer amount of time the band has technically had to hone these songs into the musical gems they are today, but the term can also faithfully speak to the irresistibly catchy nature of every last one of this album’s tracks. Whether they’re about angst and self-doubt, inner turmoil, shame and regret, heartache, loss, or more, the upheaval in Sandman Sleeps’ music channels into massive musical reveries that are as cathartic as they are simply memorable.

“Our drummer, Karsten, came up with the title ‘Crisis Actor,’” Peck explains. “Since the songs were written over the course of 12 years we were looking for more of an umbrella term – in this case relating to heightened anxieties, and facades.”

Sandman Sleeps © Parisa Farbakhsh
Sandman Sleeps © Parisa Farbakhsh




The scene is set from the start with album opener “Soaked,” an instant standout that sweeps high and swoops low, taking listeners on a roller-coaster through intense, intimate emotions and equally visceral alt-rock warmth. Follow-up “Feet” keeps that spirited entrance alive with its own high-energy beats and charismatic melodies; Peck sings her heart out as guitars and drums churn all around her. Previously released singles “Fellini” and “Portrait of Jennie” remain worthwhile listens (not to mention earworms) off the record, but when it comes to assigning favorites, Crisis Actor is a choose-your-own adventure of captivating, dynamic indie rock.

“I really love how ‘Spiral’ came out on the album a lot,” Peck shares. “That song has been a work in progress for 10 years and having our friend Greg Quadagno play synth on it made me fall in love with it again.” As a lyrically forward artist, she further cites two of her favorite lyrics from the songs “Induced” and “Spiral”:

    • Leave me inside this feeling so new, frail as the lining of a balloon” from “Induced”
    • I’m sipping in the dust and light, it’s just another way of keeping you close to my side” from “Spiral”




Sandman Sleeps hold nothing back on their debut, delivering 41 minutes of uninhibited and immersive indie rock that dazzles the ears and warms the soul.

“I hope that Crisis Actor offers some entertainment, maybe a pep talk energy wise and songwriting wise – hopefully something that makes you think, ‘I didn’t know this was going to go here,’” Peck shares. “For me personally, releasing Crisis Actor is a relief and somewhat scary. Since it’s purpose mainly was documentation of the songs and how we perform them as a band live- it’s very matter of fact. The live show, for me, completes the songs, so I do hope the album encourages listeners to see our live performance.”

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Sandman Sleeps’ Crisis Actor with Atwood Magazine as Cristina Peck takes us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their debut album!

— —

:: stream/purchase Crisis Actor here ::
Stream: ‘Crisis Actor’ – Sandman Sleeps



:: Inside Crisis Actor ::

Crisis Actor - Sandman Sleeps

— —

Soaked

What excited me the most when writing “Soaked,” why it even became a song at all, was the way the piano sounded in a particular space. The reverb was amazing – single notes carried a weight and depth to them. It was easy to evoke a mood without doing much. I got stuck in an ominous feel playing two notes in a lower octave. “Soaked” didn’t turn into an actual song until jamming on it with Tina & the Goose (trio I played in Rome, GA with Manning Burns and Jeremy Ollis) where the piano melody was translated to guitar. Then in 2020, playing the song with Sandman Sleeps, the song became more solidified and a driving force. Being the opener of our album, I feel it does a decent job of setting the stage for what to expect next – as if to let you know what train you just boarded. There are many times I feel like playing these songs feels like playing one of those video games where once you start you have to chug as fast as you can because if you stop you’ll get eaten by the left side of the screen.

Feet

“Feet” spawned from feelings of dissociation and a recurring image of seeing myself standing at the edge of a cliff looking down at a wold full of busy people living their lives with purpose and direction. I felt so far away from everything back then, living in Brooklyn, NY at the time, and I didn’t know what decisions to make or how to even jump in. It was supposed to be a comforting song to myself- to remind that even in times of experiencing emptiness – that this feeling is living too and an experience all in it’s own. “Feet” was actually the first song we played together in Sandman Sleeps. Alex’s bass is my favorite part of the song which moved it from a very personal space to something more expressive and energetic.



Opaque

Opaque was written on my acoustic guitar and an Omnichord after a breakup with my partner in 2019. It was about being so heart sick you felt physically ill all the time. Playing this song with Sandman Sleeps was very special. The band brought a liveliness to the song, definitely ramping up the dynamics and making the climactic moments that much more intense. Everyone wrote such perfect parts too; Zack came up with this droning guitar riff which later soars away into a hopeful dreamland at the end,Alex digs in with a heavy weighted bass, and Karsten (responsible for turning the song into a ballad) throws in this weird tom hit in the verses which feels like a heart palpitation- it was perfect.

Fellini

Fellini (Fettuccini as we call it at practice) began in 2009 when Alex and I first began Sandman Sleeps, with her then partner and our good friend, Gavin McAlexander on drums. This song was derived from Alex’s bass line she wrote. Most of it she had laid out already and I just came in playing single notes on the guitar and the vocal melody organically flowed from there while jamming. Lyrically, the song is inspired by the shame one may feel in result of behaving recklessly at a party and deeply regretting it later on. AKA, making a legit a** of yourself publicly.



Induced

This is probably the heaviest and most personal song on the album. It is also about three different subjects (which I won’t touch on). At practice we call this song ‘People’s Court’ (because it sounds like the intro to the show, so the guys say) so appropriately, Karsten usually starts the song off with a double (gavel) click. The guitar communication in this song is really exciting to me as well as how the bass and kick meet up and skip around each other. It’s an interesting interaction. Space (musically) is also a theme in the song. There was a focus on what should be played, where specifically, and when it would be striking to have silence. We have a part of the song as well which we call the ‘crab walk’ where Zack and I angle around like dancing crabs while playing our guitar riffs. I can say as a band we intuitively insert humor when we can. High energy and humor combined with heavy subject matter has always interested me.

Spiral

This song was my mission for so many years. I think there’s about three different recorded versions of this song, none which have been officially released. It began with a jam which Manning (collaborator in Tina & the Goose) and I recorded back in 2012 where he was on a Magic Genie organ and I was singing through a distorted Turner mic with a tremolo effect. He started playing this catchy single note intro and later wrote the main bass hook while I wrote the lyrics and melody. Years later introducing the song to Sandman Sleeps, we all took it a bit further and wrote a second half to the song which was catapulted by Alex’s bass line. It began feeling like more of a narrative which pulled lose ends of the song together, finally reaching a sense of completion.Then our friend, Greg (secret fifth member of Sandman) put this gorgeous synth on the song which captured that celestial feel I had always imagined. Although this song has taken many forms it was always about the same subject- a subconsciously manipulative black hole devouring a spiral galaxy. You can do as you’d like with that.



Five Bell Alarm

This song, written in 2020, was essentially an experiment with lyrics. I was researching Dadaist poetry and began writing down words on signs I’d see around and putting them together. I knew the song was about urgency and a need to escape so I wanted the lyrics to form in a way to convey that but at the same time I didn’t want them to be descriptive of any particular event. Even though the lyrics developed somewhat randomly it was surprising in how I’d relate to them emotionally afterwards versus writing them from a more intimate spot to begin with. As a band, this song makes all of us sweat when playing it and if one of us gets off time it is the worst thing in the world, but you can dance to it when it’s done right.

Portrait of Jennie

This song, written in June, 2020 on my acoustic, transformed so beautifully with the band. Karsten essentially reconstructed the rhythm of this song. We all followed suit and fell in love with it. Alex chooses notes carefully which hit with an impact and Zack’s dreamy guitar coincides with the theme of time travel and a dream-like realm which we had aimed for. Greg is also on this one with synth and textures. Lyrically, I was inspired by the movie “Portrait of Jennie” for it’s concept of love and time travel, but more truthfully the film worked more so as a strainer for words to form through-the song at the end of the day is more personal.



Summer Rain

This is probably the most formulaic song on the album as well as probably the oddball on there but it is one of my favorites none the less. It began on an acoustic guitar and with the band it adapted more of a punky feel which I love. The song ventured into different territory stylistically a bit for us and it was fun to see how we’d make it our own.

Rare Cloud

“Rare Cloud” is another old song which underwent different surgeries. I was trying to reach for chords that I typically didn’t use together in attempt to break my usual routine of writing and a routine malaise. Alex heard a live recording of the song we had played in Tina & the Goose and loved it so we brought the song back and introduced it to Sandman Sleeps. The way Alex played bass to the song made me fall in love with it again and then the band just pushed it even further where it needed to be. It’s anything but a bore for us to play which is all I can hope for with any of the songs as well as how they are received.

— —

:: stream/purchase Crisis Actor here ::



— — — —

Crisis Actor - Sandman Sleeps

Connect to Sandman Sleeps on
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
📸 © Parisa Farbakhsh

:: Stream Sandman Sleeps ::



More from Mitch Mosk

Premiere: The Dynamic Euphoria of STAL’s Anthemic “Fresh Blood”

STAL's dynamic new anthem "Fresh Blood" taps into euphoria - a glorious,...
Read More