Okay, universe. Okay. I get it.
Every year, I convince myself that, no, I do not in fact want to attend the musical and cultural orgy that is the South by Southwest festival because the town’s going to be a huge explosion of people and craziness and carnival debris and I far prefer to visit lovely Austin when it is actualy lovely and see our dear friends that live there when they’re not being stretched thin by one million activities and out of town visitors. And then every year, SXSW rolls around and I’m like, ‘Crap. Why did I not buy tickets to South by Southwest. Every band I’ve ever wanted to see is playing and it’s super warm down there and I think they’re handing out money to people on the streets.’ So I get it, universe. I GET IT!
But, just to show both you and me, universe, that there IS quality music that is not associated with this year’s festival, we’re featuring a brief interview and Song of the Week from a new Portland, OR artist, Sleepyvillian—AKA, Akila Fields. We received his album, Arithmetic, recently and were totally pulled in by it’s sweet melodies, subtle beats, and quiet beauty. Not knowing a thing about the guy, we decided to talk with him a little about his music, living in the legendary city of Portland, and joining the circus. No, really.
Kindness of Ravens: So Sleepyvillian is basically just you, right?
KoR: Where does the name come from?
Sv: It’s kind of silly, but when I was in college, a jazz trio I played with opened for a rock band and they asked us for a name. Rather than something like “Akila Fields Trio,” I knew I wanted villain in the titled so we just went with “Sleepyvillain.” This project is not related to that, but I kept the name.
KoR: That’s fair enough. I don’t think any bands have ever been like, “Listen to this cool, amazing story of how we got our name….” Oh, except Minus the Bear. Have you been playing music long then?
Sv: Yes. I’ve been playing piano since I was kid. I started when I was ten.
KoR: Crazy. I think I was still playing with Transformers when I was ten. Is your album being put out by anyone or are you totally doing it yourself?
Sv: No, I’m doing it all myself. It’s the first time I’ve recorded myself singing and also the first time I’ve done anything like this, stylistically. A beautiful set of interesting circumstances has brought all of this on. It’s been a fun challenge.
KoR: Well, it sounds great. So, did you for real tour with Barnum and Bailey? We’re pretty…er…really anti-animal-involved circuses, but what was that like?
Sv: Mmhmm. Yeah I know it sounds odd, but on the music end of things, it was kind of like playing a broadway show or something. The travel aspect of it was incredible—I’ve been to almost every major city at least once, and I saw music of all styles whenever I could. People bring up the animals a lot. It’s interesting—at the time I didn’t think anything of it, my mindset was mostly, “Whoa, you’re going to pay me to travel and play music….and i’m gonna live on a train?!” It’s definitely not for everyone, and takes a certain kind of person to do it. The repetition of playing 800 shows can wear on you.
KoR: I bet. Yeah, even in the cases where circuses aren’t actively ‘cruel’ to the animals involved, we’re just really against the idea of keeping them confined and forcing them into performing for people. There’s obviously a lot online about this, but this is a pretty concise page if anyone wants to check it out. So, back to you—tell us what do you like about Portland, now that you’re all settled down. We’ve heard very good things…especially for the vegan crowd.
Sv: I really like Portland. Everywhere I go, there are talented people, the city is beautifully laid out. Coffee and beer are plentiful. I kind of moved here on a whim, which I sometimes question, but several times a week, I’ll receive an answer. I’ve met incredible people here. And yes, it’s a vegan’s paradise (I’ve heard).
KoR: Yeah, I need to check it out. Any plans to tour? We hear there are lovely places to play these ‘rock concerts’ in the New York.
Sv: Someday hopefully. Baby steps. It was an awesome yet herculean task just to get it finished finished so the first step is to translate the songs for live performance. I love New York. It would be a dream to play there someday.
Until that day, we’ll have to settle for the soothing sound of headphones and speakers. Check out Sleepyvillain’s “Closer,” this week’s Song of the Week. And then head on over to Akila’s BandCamp page to hear more.