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The Gradual Awakening

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Astronauts Anonymous
with Unifier and Virgin Lung
Saturday, April 27th • 8 p.m.
Calico Room, 107 S. Front St.
$5 over 21, $7 under 21
(910) 762-2091

SMOOTH, KEEN ROCK: Astronauts Anonymous will release their first full-length album, ‘Still Sleeping’ on Sat., April 27th. Photo by Chelsea Dove

SMOOTH, KEEN ROCK: Astronauts Anonymous will release their first full-length album, ‘Still Sleeping’ on Sat., April 27th. Photo by Chelsea Dove

When the lead singer’s vocals of a progressive-rock act can be described as 311 meets My Chemical Romance, listeners are in for a sumptuously smooth yet keenly rocking sound. Such is the case for vocalist Shane Nickle and his bearded band of musicians in the locally based group Astronauts Anonymous, formerly known as Sirens for Sleeping.

Nickle, hailing from Charleston, SC, joined forces with NC rockers Hazley Carter (bass, vocals), Nick Sellers (drums), and Zac Simoneau (guitar) in the late aughts. At the time they boasted a heavier sound than the group brings about today (some of the members started out in a metal band). Sirens for Sleeping produced an EP, “Lorelai,” and then fizzled out in 2010.

Simoneau moved to Tennessee, finding himself writing songs often in his new mountain-clad environment. After a year’s hiatus, the group reconvened in Wilmington, with the addition of Matt Evans (guitar). The reformation was unveiled as Astronauts Anonymous, a more refined version of an act which already had an underground following.

Much of the group’s success—even its founding—can be attributed to another local act He is Legend (HIL). Nickle combined with his fellow musicians after bumping into them at a HIL concert, and HIL invited the young band to share their coveted practice space at Pyramid. Aside from once being neighbors in downtown Wilmington, the debut full-length from Astronauts Anonymous, “Still Sleeping,” was produced by HIL’s bassist Worth Weaver.

These days, a continuous yet not overpowering drum presence lends a clear, head-rock-inducing beat. Guitars and bass mingle effortlessly while following the drums’ driving direction. The alt-rock possesses bewitching lyrics, such as in the track “Body Language”: “She flashed a smile of a dangerous kind/made of one part passion/and one part out of her mind.” Lines emphasizing the sultry moves of a woman are amplified by including the haunting vocals of Chelsea Dove, Nickle’s girlfriend, throughout.

“Still Sleeping” will be released with a show at Calico Room on Saturday, April 27th. encore caught up with Simoneau to discuss the hiatus, the changes, and the making of the record.

encore (e): Tell me about your band dynamic. What’s the songwriting process like between you all, and how do you guys vibe on stage?
Zac Simoneau (ZS): The songwriting dynamic is totally different now than it used to be. Nowadays, I can go into the practice space with just a feeling and write a song with the guys, whereas most of the “Still Sleeping” songs began as just guitar riffs that I wrote while living in the mountains. It seems our writing process is constantly evolving. Either way, it’s fun writing with the guys, and what’s even better is the energy we get to build up playing these songs live. We get so caught up in re-living the song—I kind of forget that we’re playing in front of people.

e: What effect did the 2010 break have on you all?
ZS: Musically, it was a maturing process. We’ve all been able to explore our tastes and abilities. I really like the direction we moved in when we recorded “Still Sleeping,” and it seems to get better every time we write a new song. Everything is starting to smooth out more and instead of trying to go as hard as we can, now we are really starting to explore our dynamic range.

e: It’s no secret that He is Legend played a part in the formation of Sirens for Sleeping—do you feel it’s come “full circle” to have Worth Weaver as your producer? What was it like recording with him in Red Room studios?
ZS: Oh, absolutely. We started working with Worth around 2008 when he first started playing with Adam [Tanbouz], Matt [Williams], Schuylar [Croom], and Steve [Bache]. Nick and I lived above Worth and Adam in a house on 7th and Grace and would go downstairs to track with Worth. His studio was set up in the very back of the house in Adam’s room. We tracked guitar and vocals in Adam’s room and drums in the living room. Last year we were able to go out to Worth’s Red Room Recordings studio to track “Still Sleeping.” Everything he uses is top-notch out there, and the studio is ridiculously comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. It is inspiring to see how far both Worth and this band have come since we started.

e: Tell me about the meaning behind your album title, “Still Sleeping.”
ZS: Hazley named the album. No matter how much some things change, some things stay the same. No matter how much we change, part of us will always be those kids playing in Sirens for Sleeping.

e: How is this record different from your sound in previous years?
ZS: We’re constantly evolving. We used to be kind of heavy—”Still Sleeping” is a straight up rock album—and recently we’ve been exploring a smoother, prettier side of music. It’s one of the perks of basing a band around having fun. We can do whatever we want, and I love it.

e: If you guys could share the stage with any act, who would it be and why?
ZS: I’m sure Shane might say Incubus, Dredg, or Glassjaw. Matt might say something along the lines of Menomena or possibly explain that all the best acts in the world are going to want to play with him soon enough, so why worry about something like that (I kid, I kid). Haze would say someone like Jaco Pastorius or Phil Collins, and Nick would probably say Deftones or even Local Natives—but if I’m being honest, I’d just like to go on the road with some of the current regional talent. I’d love to showcase North Carolina to the rest of the world: one big show with bands like Ordinary Men, Mood Mechanics, Pretend Surprise, Unholy Tongues, Virgin Lung, Villian, Unifier, House of Fools, HRVRD, Sugar Glyder, Most Golden, and Libraries—seems like a perfect day of music to me.

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