After the response from our interview with TJ of Sleep on It, we decided to do yet another interview, this time with Zech. Check it out below!
[Samantha Warren/AltWire]: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me today. I had the chance to do an e-mail interview with TJ back in May, and I’m sure a lot of things have changed since then. What’s the band been up to lately?
Zech Pluister/Sleep On It: Since back in May… Alright. Well, we just took the summer off. We were hanging out; we were getting ready for these couple tours. Getting ready for Riot Fest, finishing up the album, mixing, getting that mixed and mastered, finishing the artwork, just gearing up to put the record out. All that kind of fun stuff, so we might have been quiet but we were not low on things to do.
[AW]: You’re also the bands newest member. Was there any kind of negative stigma you had to shake after leaving Bonfires?
Zech Pluister/Sleep On It: When I left Bonfires it was a mutual thing between me and that band, and then it really just worked out with the Chicago scene being as supportive as it was, and it still remains to be. This band welcomed me with open arms, and their fan base did the same. Some of the fans from the old band followed over. I’ve had a lot of people talk to me and say they’ve been following me for a couple of years now. It was actually an extremely easy process for me to switch between the two bands. It was obviously stressful because they had a former fan base and they were used to how the old stuff sounded with their older singer so there was a little bit of expectation to be met there, but overall it was a fairly simple process.
[AW]: You just released your new single, “Distant.” What’s been the reaction so far from the fans?
Zech Pluister/Sleep On It: It’s been insane. It’s a little hard to put into words. I mean we’ve had the record done since February. I mean recorded since February. So we’ve been sitting on it for almost 9 months now. It feels on our end just incredible to have a new song out for the first time in over a year. The response has been incredible. A lot of people have been saying it’s the best song we’ve written to date, and everyone seems to love it. I’ve been blown away, and still everyday people are tweeting at us, mentioning us on Facebook saying how much they love the song. We’ve been incredibly grateful to get the response that we have.
[AW]: You’re getting ready to release your new LP, “Overexposed.” How has your sound evolved since “Lost Along the Way” and “Safe Again” ?
Zech Pluister/Sleep On It: I wasn’t apart of Safe Again, but obviously we carried some songs over for when I joined the band. From Lost Along the Way I think we kind of just dialed in a little closer to the heart of that sound, we kind of tried to use access to the three vocalists we have between me, Jake, and Tj a little more on this record. The thing I’ve been saying to everyone is it’s still going to be a Sleep on It record, we didn’t really do anything too crazy. At the same time we stepped a little bit outside of our box and we had a little more room to work the 12 songs so we had a little more space for creation and we didn’t have to make it so concise. We got to do a little more stuff, there’s some slower stuff, there’s some more upbeat stuff, so we got to do the whole circle of music in a way.
I’m a big fan of how it came out. I’m really proud of every song. We got to work with Derek from State Champs. He produced it again, recorded with Seth from ABG, we actually got to write a song with Will Pugh from Cartel for this one which was awesome. Just overall it’s a Sleep on It record it’s just kind of the next era in a way, so I’m excited for everyone to hear it.
[AW]: You also worked with Paul Levitt on that album, is there any chance we can see you on a line up with All Time Low or Have Mercy?
Zech Pluister/Sleep On It: They worked with Paul Levitt on Safe Again, so I’m not sure how much contact they still have left with Paul, but we would obviously love to tour with have mercy. Great band. All time low. Fantastic band. We’ve been fans of those bands for a long time. Who knows what the future holds honestly. That would be incredible.
[AW]: You and TJ write a lot of material together. Describe your typical songwriting session.
Zech Pluister/Sleep On It: Me and Tj it’s fairly simple honestly. One of us will kind of write a song and demo it out via garage band or pro tools or whatever we’re using, and then we’ll send it to the other and we’ll either finish it or change it. and once we kind of get to a final product we’ll just bring it to the band and practice it and sometimes things are organic at practice and they just kind of come together in a half an hour or it’ll take a couple of hours or weeks to nail a song down but that’s basically it. We share material with each other and what happens happens and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.
[AW]: How did you decide which songs to put on the new LP?
Zech Pluister/Sleep On It: Ooh. That was a process. It’s 12 songs and I believe we wrote somewhere between 16 and 18. We obviously had some favorites that we knew were going to go on, but there were a few songs we weren’t entirely sure of one way or another. So between the 5 of us, our manager, our A & R rep at the label Jonny Minardi, and Derek we all kind of whittled down to 12. It’s a really funny story actually Distant the first single that we just put out wasn’t actually going to be on the record. We initially decided to take it off the record.
Thanks to Johnny one day he gave me a call and he basically told me I’d be an idiot if I didn’t put that song on the record. So we brought that one to Seth and Derek and kind of changed things around, changed the key, and it ended up being so good that we decided to put it out first.
[AW]: Let’s talk about the current tour with State Champs. As you said you worked with Derek on your album. What’s it like being able to tour with him? Is there any chance we could see song collaboration?
Zech Pluister/Sleep On It: State Champs is an absolute fantastic band. They’re one of the tighter bands I’ve seen live. Derek is obviously an incredibly talented vocalist. I look up to him as a vocalist and a song writer. I’m very lucky to be able to call him a friend and a confidant in a way for song writing but touring with them has been absolutely fantastic and they’ve been incredibly good to us. It’s been really cool to be out with our friends in Homesafe, and we obviously just met up with Bearings since they’re from Canada so we met them for the first time and this whole tour is just gelled together very well.
All 3 shows we have played so far have been absolutely fantastic and we’re looking forward to this show it’s the first one in the U.S. so hopefully it’s going to be a great night. Overall every night has been great. It’s been a reunion in a way because we’ve known the Champs guys for about a year now, and we’ve been playing shows with Homesafe back home for a while now. It’s just been super simple so far, and having a great time.
[AW]: Is there any chance we can see song collaboration with State Champs?
Zech Pluister/Sleep On It: Well Derek is featured on a song on the new record and can’t wait for people to hear that one. We’re really happy with how that one turned out. It just kind of worked out that when he was in the studio he heard a part he liked and he asked if he could sing on the record. We’re incredibly stoked on how it came out and really excited to put that one out too.
[AW]: You’re currently on the road to Riot Fest. Since Chicago is also your home town, what are you most excited about being able to play the fest?
Zech Pluister/Sleep On It: Riot Fest is its own monster. With festivals it’s obviously a hectic day. You have to find everything when you first get there. You got to figure out where your stage is. With Riot Fest since it’s our home festival we’ve all been going for years. In a way it should be the most hectic day, but we’re also going to be the most relaxed because it’s a home turf advantage. Riot Fest is such a cool thing. Other than Warped tour it’s really the only other thing that the pop rock scene kind of has to itself which is awesome.
Riot fest has done incredible things for this band. Always helped us promote, backed us, so we’re incredibly grateful and humbled to be a part of the fest this year and the fact that we get to open up for an incredible stage with State Champs, and Mayday Parade, Story so far, it’s going to be the highlight of the year probably for us. We’re so incredibly excited to play.
[AW]: With the music industry constantly changing and evolving, what do you hate the most or like the most about it? What advice would you give to someone who’s trying to start a band or break into the industry?
Zech Pluister/Sleep On It: Hm, what do I hate most about the industry? That’s a good question. The thing I hate most about the music industry is probably just the stigma that the people who chose to follow this path of life get. You know like the stigma that we’re all irresponsible or we’re all out here doing drugs and getting drunk every night. It’s just like running your own business in a way. It’s just as stressful. It’s just as worrisome as that. The thing I love the most about the industry is the people.
I love meeting fans. I love meeting new bands. I love making new friends every day. I love seeing the country. I get to see a new city every day, a new part of each town, and also collectively probably as a band, we’ve had this discussion, I think our favorite thing about touring is food. We get to try amazing food in every city. Every show there’s always someone recommends us like a local spot that’s like the hot spot in that town so that’s always a good time.
One piece of advice I would give to starting bands is to support each other. Support each other and learn how to take criticism. The support is key because obviously the music industry is very competitive and it’s incredibly cut throat so it’s a hard thing to break into, but when you have the support of your other local bands and your friends in the scene that helps tremendous loads. Don’t play that often I always try and tell people to play a show one show a month or if not a month and a half. Maybe two months.
You don’t want to over saturate yourself on the market. You want to keep people wanting to come to your shows, and they don’t want to miss the show because you don’t play that often. Learn how to take criticism. If someone says you suck don’t take it the wrong way. If someone says oh you guys were good but you need to work on this take that and run with it.
One of the best things that ever happened to me as a musician was between managers and A & R just people kind of saying like oh you‘re a great singer but you could work on this you should do vocal lessons or stuff like that. Just also like kind of with the record Jonny Minardi was like this is the best song on the record you guys might hate it but its taking people’s advice and running with it instead of getting upset.
It changes everything because like I said with us one thing we always did was if someone said to do something a certain way or gave us advice that worked for them we thought about it and we figured out a way to make that work for us and that’s something that has helped us incredibly and also act accordingly. You’re representing your brand and you’re representing the band.
No matter what being on social media, via in person, and meeting fans just be grateful that you get the chance to do what you’re doing on any level. If you’re playing a show to 10 kids, give those 10 kids the best show you’ve ever given. If you’re playing to 1,000 do the same. It doesn’t matter how many kids are in the room. That one kid in the room could be the biggest fan you ever get.
Always give it 100%. Be gracious, act like a professional. Just take every bad day and make it as motivation to make tomorrow better.
[AW]: Any last words?
Zech Pluister/Sleep On It: Check out the record, check out the new song, pre order it, and hopefully we’ll see you guys at a show.