Vancouver’s Sleepy Gonzales deliver a beautifully cathartic, emotionally charged experience in their new EP ‘Mercy Kill,’ a breathtakingly intimate and raw indie rock record that aches from the inside out.
Stream: “Skylight” – Sleepy Gonzales
If you find yourself in the presence of death, make as much space for it as you can.
Sleepy Gonzales’ latest record is a product of the visceral and the volatile: “I am a skylight seeping in,” vocalist Ally Lowry confesses in the record’s opening moments. “I don’t wanna be someone who never lets the sun in.” But the Canadian band are neither dancing in the dark, nor basking in the unadulterated light; there’s a haze about their new EP – a sonic mist that engulfs the senses in a myriad of intense sensations all at once.
The head and the heart, the ethereal and the real, the fragile and the feverish; opposites collide and coalesce on Mercy Kill, a breathtakingly intimate and raw indie rock record that aches from the inside out as Sleepy Gonzales spill their souls in song. Exploring what it means to be human, the group offer songs full of darkness and light, pain and passion, weight and warmth. All we can do is sit back and hold on tight as the feelings wash over us and through us.
I am a skylight seeping in
I don’t wanna be someone
Who never lets the sun in
What am I so proud of?
My little accomplishments?
Where am I even going?
Who’s really listening?
But I have to keep my head on
I can’t be wandering
I’ll see where I end up
If it’s right to begin with
What does it mean to feel so complete?
We’re a passage of time
I’m just passing the time
But in this life I still hold light
I notice the leaves and the way that they fight
to grow an arm or two in the dark
they wither and dance and hold onto chances
Released June 30, 2023 via Light Organ Records, Mercy Kiss is a beautifully unfiltered record of tenderness and turbulence. The latest EP from Vancouver’s Sleepy Gonzales finds the four-piece of Cristian and Beni Hobson-Dimas, vocalist Ally Lowry, and bassist Nick Moniz working together with producer Colin Stewart to create a record that hits hard and leaves a lasting mark. Honest and unfiltered, unapologetic and unrelenting, Mercy Kill hurts in all the right ways as Sleepy Gonzales reflect on life’s big and little pictures alike, exploring everything from the concepts of mortality and our own inner evil, to harmful and toxic cycles, letting go of long-held pain, and the simple bliss of living in the moment and enjoying life for what it is, here and now.
This marks the first time the four-piece have worked with an external producer to record their songs, having previously self-produced all their own material. Getting to Colin Stewart’s based on Vancouver Island, it turns out, brought on its own fair share of adventure stories.
“One of the four times we took the first ferry over to Colin Stewart’s, we got into a car accident,” vocalist Ally Lowry tells Atwood Magazine. “Some guy backed into us in bumper to bumper traffic right outside of Tsawwassen, then got out of his car and started yelling at Nick for rear-ending him. When he saw five of us adamant the accident was his fault, he got back into his car and drove away. We found out he tried to blame us to ICBC, but his plan didn’t work, and he ended up needing to pay Nick’s $300 insurance deductible for fault in the incident, which, now that I think about it, is an uncannily recurring metaphor in our lives — when people try to fuck with us, the universe has something else in store for them.”
Accidents aside, the trek was well worth it and contributed to the band’s considerable artistic growth, which can be felt throughout these five very distinct new tracks. “We realized how much valuable experience and structure someone like the Van City legend Colin Stewart could bring to our music if we opened up our creative process more,” Lowry reflects. “The mutual trust we built allowed for Colin to anchor our chaotic spontaneity with his lifetime of refined taste and technical supremacy. We started more than double the number of songs on the projects, and simply allowed for our excitement to guide us towards the work we felt most passionate about.”
I’ve said it before
But what did I say? What did I mean?
What’s it all mean?
I see it blue
In all I love
All I say
All I make
I’ll see it through
It’s all in me
It’s in the rain
It’s here today
I see it
– “Skylight,” – Sleepy Gonzales
Lowry beams with pride in talking about the new EP. “There’s a lot more experience behind it, and maybe that’s a sound you prefer,” she says. “But preference is subjective, and comparison is the thief of joy, so I will leave comparisons to the critics.”
We’ll give it to you straight: Sleepy Gonzales are wide awake on Mercy Kill. These songs mark a staggering evolution in the band’s sound as they merge seeming opposites into a cathartic, cohesive, and utterly enthralling journey for the mind and body alike.
The story behind the EP’s title is kept close to the chest, but it takes its inspiration from the song of the same name, in which Lowry sings of “holding onto something you should have let go a long time ago, to the point where it’s upsetting.”
“The real answer to this is an absolute trauma dump,” she says. “All I will say at this point is that I am losing my faith in the concept of mercy killing. If you find yourself in the presence of death, make as much space for it as you can. There’s no reason to rush the process along quicker than it’s taking, because if you do so, you are only thinking about your own discomfort, and you are failing to fully respect a very sacred part of our existence.”
From the intimately expansive, philosophically intense opener “Skylight” and the seductive slow-burn fever dream “Destrøyer” to the fierce, percussive explosion “Freaking Out” and the aching, emotionally charged “Couch Song,” Mercy Kill is captivating from end to end.
“‘Skylight’ embodies light in a dark world and ‘Freaking Out’ is the evil inside us demanding validation,” the band says. “Maybe they balance each other out, or maybe one eventually destroys the other. That depends on you.”
For the band, “Destrøyer” will always hold a special place in their hearts. “While we were making ‘Destroyer,’ Colin went to eat lunch and left some mics armed, so we asked Ally to go into the live room and gradually go from light shouting to bloodcurdling screams, and she did what ended up on the recording in `a single pass,” Cristian Hobson-Dimas recalls. “And it bleeds into a synth/drum pad combo that was also improvised in a single pass. The feeling of stillness that washes over me every time I hear the last minute of ‘Destroyer’ continues to confound me.”
Angus says that i’m sick
It’s all in my brain
N i need to talk with some one
So there i am standing over the cliff
My cigarette burnt my finger tips
Cuz i was pretty worried about jumping
To conclusions and if i’m sick
I wanna black casket and screams from the rafters
Lemme outta my black straight jacket
I wanna see the tears in the waiting room
when the dr says he couldn’t do much more
and they zip u up on the operating floor
Isn’t this just like you asked for?
Lyrically, the band highlight a shared favorite line from the title track, “Mercy Kill”:
“Remind me what I am
seeing. Lobster body,
becoming a ceiling.”
The moral of the story? “Be mindful of your relationship to other living beings, because eventually you go from being the consumer to the consumed.”
Sleepy Gonzales held nothing back in bringing Mercy Kill to life, and the result is 22 minutes of achingly raw reckoning. Fragile and feverish, these songs dwell in the depths of words unspoken: They are the manifestation of all those turbulent, churning emotions we so often keep to ourselves; the ones we’d rather save for the dead of night, when all is still, and there’s nothing to stopping our minds from racing.
That Sleepy Gonzales could bottle that experience up on record is a testament to their talents as songwriters, as recording artists, and as performers. Again: Mercy Kill hurts in all the right (and probably some of the wrong) ways. It’s a product of the visceral and the volatile, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
“There’s no way to take everything we put into this record in one listen,” Sleepy Gonzales share. “We hope people will sit with this, and take it in at different angles, different moods, different speakers and different contexts, because we try to allow room in our music for change, which is tricky to achieve because the completion of a project suggests it’s done changing.”
“But when you allow for yourself to be changed by the process of creation, you can inject an elusive element into your art that can never be pinned down, an element that never stops growing. Just as the world continues to change every second, we hope you enjoy how our music changes with you as you listen to it.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Sleepy Gonzales’ Mercy Kill EP with Atwood Magazine as the band goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their latest release!
Stream: ‘Mercy Kill’ – Sleepy Gonzales
:: Inside Mercy Kill ::
“Notice the leaves, and the way that they fight to grow an arm, or two, in the dark—they wither and dance…” says more about where “Skylight” comes from than I could ever hope to describe. Playing this song comes with feelings of redemption, which are only possible from letting go of anger and resentment.
“Destroyer” is about how easy it is to end up loving what harms us most, whether it’s a toxic upbringing, substance addiction, abusive partners, and even a self-destructive lifestyle. “They really don’t see it; where we’re from, this ain’t an issue, it’s just home.”
“Freaking Out” is how we coax our inner capacity for evil to the surface so that we may confront it and sublimate it into something worth celebrating. The more in denial we are of the shadows we cast only makes them darker. We must confront our biggest fears, so that they lose their power over us.
“Couch Song” is how we connect with the more laid-back side of ourselves, the part of us that isn’t concerned with anything other than having a good time and making the best of any situation. It helps us remember to appreciate simple things, like seeing dad on the couch watching conspiracy content, or listening to your mom spout off about Chemtrails and Big Pharma.
“Mercy Kill” is about holding onto something you should have let go a long time ago, to the point where it’s upsetting. But when you find something that means more to you than anything ever has, what else can you do? For better or worse, some of the most important lessons must be learned in the bitterest way. “I was working towards a mercy kill, you were already bleeding out.”
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:: Stream Sleepy Gonzales ::