words by Liz Watts
A typical day of email answering consists of me being linked to a song/EP, skipping to the middle of the track, then listen to about 15 seconds of it. If I'm not feeling' it, I'm just not feelin' it and then I write a "I'm not trying to be mean but-" email back. In this case, the Sleeping Jesus case, I was feeling' it. I was so feelin' it. I even started the song "Cigarette Skies" from the beginning and proceeded to listen to it multiple times, surprised that I had never heard of this project before. To say the least, the music was so much more than just "good." This was the type of music that could easily pull me into a dreamy state of mind I often long for.
Sleeping Jesus started out with the brain behind it all, Nick Elstad, doing demos about six years ago while playing in other groups, mostly as a drummer. When the songs for the last EP, Perennials, started coming together for Nick, he realized they were "like a new found love in my personal life." At once, all the sounds and ideas started making a cohesive unit of tunes that he wanted to piece together and share.
I was able to chat with Nick for a bit, so read below and get to know this incredible talent a little better!
Do you like doing everything on your own and independently? Do you plan on keeping it like this or are you waiting for the right opportunity to come along and maybe switch over to a label?
Nick: Well, at first, that’s they only way I could do it. No one knew me or my music so it just made total sense that I could record songs to the best ability as I could at home and that’s how the first EP was done. On the second one, after people have more expectations, I wasn’t to do it “the right way.” So for the House Plants EP, I recorded that in a studio in Minneapolis. It's always been a dream of mine to record on tape so I got to do that! This is sort of a middle ground for me still because it's all DIY and self funded. I guess I want to just get my toes wet with that stuff and next time around I might start shopping for a label. So far, I've really enjoyed having complete control over everything.
How have you sort of navigated yourself through the music industry?
It's been a lot of learning as I go and making mistakes! I've met a lot of cool people but I feel like other like-minded individuals have been the greatest help for booking tours, finding out where I should send music, and where we should play. For the most part, people are just nice and want to help which sort of comes as a surprise because I feel like theres always this mindset that musicians are super egotistical but I've met so many wonderful and kind people the past year and a half that we've played.
Where you are now in Winona, is there a big music scene or community?
Yeah. I moved here pronably 7 years for school and I just finished here last December. One of the main things we were able to connect with were festivals. We have Midwest Music Fest which I went to my first year here and now I work for them! We also have a great venue in town which brings in a lot of great acts anda lot of that is the reason why I've stationed myself here. There is a small but tight-knit music community here that is definitely growing.
Do you want to stay there with your music or branch out to like, LA, Nashville or Austin?
I think for now it is definitely easy for us to stay. I've got a great group of guys that are willing to do longer tours so that’s important to me to get out of the Midwest as much as we can and just grow out. It feels like if we move to a bigger city it would be tricky for us because of costs of living and all that stuff. Where we are is super affordable so I can sustain myself by doing odds and ends jobs but still be able focus a lot of time on my music.
Speaking of tour, how was this past tour run you were just on?
It was amazing! It was our first time out of the Midwest actually and it was really eye opening. It restored a lot of our faith in humanity! We met so many nice people on the road. Tulsa was amazing, too. We played in Omaha, Nebraska a while ago and it was one of those places where we were just so blown away by one of the downtown distrcts and so we call it beong Omaha-ed. When we came to Tulsa because we were so surprised!
I'm glad you liked it here! What did you do?
We went to like a modern art museum (The Philbrook), a cigar bar (Classic Cigars + Lounge), and a beer arcade (The Max Retro Pub). It was also really cool to go into Texas. The Austin scene was crazy and California was amazing! It was my first time and going through the mountains and the desert was a dream . I couldn’t have asked for a better trip to get our toes wet.
I know the House Plans EP is being released soon, but are there any big plans after that? Maybe a full length?
That’s what I'm thinking about right now! I've liked putting out music in EP formats because it's more manageable to do and I think if I were to find a label a full length would come then. Doing a four or five song release is a lot more manageable for me though right now. My hope is that I can put out an EP every year.
The House Plants EP is like a lens into the last four or five years of my life. Basically, it's sort of me trying to take a step back after finishing school and being like “Ok this is who I am now.” I called it "House Plants" because the I love the idea of a house plant just quietly growing in the corner of your house, just going quietly unnoticed but still beautiful. All these songs have been written over the period of about five years. The third song on the EP, "Gold Shades," is one of the first songs I finished when I was 19, and I'm 25 now. So, this EP has one of my oldest songs and one of my newest so it's just kind of a quick look into my life.
You said that one is over 5 years old, why did you wait so long to put it out?
There have been songs that we've played and we are kind of like “this is probably never going to be recorded,” but with "Gold Shades" it’s a song I've just held near and dear. I probably could've recorded it on the last EP but it didn’t feel right. I feel like im returning to the first things I was inspired by in indie music and that’s why I decided to put it on this EP.
Is music who you are completely? Does everything kind of just work around being able to be creative?
When I discovered that I wanted to write and could write, it was eye opening and I haven't wanted to leave that. I hope it'll always take me somewhere else, but being able to write is an escape and opens up so many feelings about yourself when you create something new. I don't know who said it, but one of my favorite quotes is this:
"To consume is human to create is divine."
I feel like humans' ability to create sets us apart.