Collaborating from across the pond, with Sleep Party People
I've never worked so closely with someone so far away...
I was not familiar with Sleep Party People prior to a very kind email sent to me on September 20, 2016. Included in this email was a playlist with "12 songs of a pool of 22 songs in the running for the new album". So, the first 12 songs of a total of 22 songs this band was recording, any of which might make it onto the new album.
I learned that Sleep Party People is in fact one guy: Brian Batz, a Danish multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer, who makes beautiful music and wears a funny bunny mask when he plays live.
Over the course of the following months I got to know Brian's work very well. I worked closely with Brian to trim his 22 songs down to 12 songs, each meticulously arranged in a compelling sonic arch... which was not an easy task. You may not know this yet, but Brian Batz does not write shitty songs. So the task was not simply to separate the good songs from the bad (or the "catchy" songs from the more esoteric songs); the goal was to determine which songs best fit the artistic identity of the album. In fact, I think we ended up cutting a few songs that were arguably better than those that made the cut—because we were not thinking of this as a "best of" collection... we were working to create an album that took on a life of its own (but not to worry, we are planning to release all of the cut songs at a later date).
Curating this album was a particularly challenging endeavor because of the type of music Sleep Party People creates. Some bands write the type of "stand-alone" songs where the album can be listened to on random and the listener will get essentially the same effect. Not so with Sleep Party People. In my opinion, SPP is on the other end of the spectrum, where the context of the songs within the tracklisting, and the overall trajectory of the album's mood is extremely important for fully understanding the music.
All of this is to say I was involved with crafting this album even more so than most JNR releases, and I am very grateful to Brian for trusting me and JNR to contribute to his album.
Now begins the work of letting the world know about this amazing artist! This is an interesting task, as JNR has never worked with a band that is infinitely bigger outside the US than they are within the US. Sure we have a few bands that do better overseas, but SPP's popularity in places like Poland, Istanbul, Mexico City, and Taiwan is almost inexplicable... When they play in such locations, Brian and his live band will routinely draw 2000 people who all show up in homemade bunny masks. No foolin'.
I can't say for sure, but I attribute that the band's popularity in these remote regions of the world to the increased access to information and music that has occurred over the last couple years. With the emergence of streaming services like Spotify and YouTube, portions of the globe which never had a local record store now have access to all of the music in the world. This is life-changing for the culturally-starved youth in those regions. And in this atmosphere, Sleep Party People is somehow rising to the top. Which is pretty fucking cool... It's like an accidental success that stemmed from the will of a disenfranchised populace, without any strings being pulled by labels, marketing dollars, or anyone with a financial incentive. It's like the "American dream", but it's now happening simply because Spotify became available in Istanbul.
We hope the US catches up and appreciates this band as much as we do.
Dr. Dre (yes, THE Dr. Dre) apparently knows who Sleep Party People is... He sampled them on this track. Weird, right?