If you haven’t heard of the band Sleeper Agent yet, you will soon. This young, bubbly rock outfit from Bowling Green, KY. is gaining serious traction. Since its first album Celabrasion was released in September, it has toured the country with friends Cage the Elephant and made many “best-of” lists, including Rolling Stone’s feature on the “50 Best Singles of 2011.” For the band’s six members — singer and guitarist Tony Smith, singer Alex Kandel, bassist Lee Williams, guitarist Josh Martin and keyboardist Scott Gardner — it has been a whirlwind year and it doesn’t look like life will be slowing down anytime soon.
Sleeper Agent performed last night at The Haunt. The Sun spoke to Tony Smith before the show to talk music, touring and … Battlestar Galactica.
The Sun: For people unfamiliar with your sound, could you briefly describe your music and what listeners can expect from your album Celebrasion?
Tony Smith: Our sound is really just rock and roll. It’s very fast and energetic and there are short bursts of sort of poppy sound. But ultimately, it’s just a really fast, energetic rock show.
Sun: I know that you write the music yourself. Where do you find inspiration? And is it challenging trying to write lyrics from not only your perspective, but also from the perspective of [female singer] Alex?
T.S.: I think I take a lot of inspiration from everyday life … conversations I have with people and certain emotions or feelings I have. If an interesting thing happens to me, I’ll just sort of pretty it up in a poetic way.
And I guess when it comes to writing for Alex, the challenge is to make sure she’s comfortable saying certain things, and that the lyrics convey what she’s feeling too. A lot of times I’ll just talk to her and show her the things I’ve written; if she agrees, then we’re good to go.
Sun: So even though you’re writing the songs, you still have a very collaborative atmosphere?
T.S.: Yes, I would say so.
Sun: You guys have been getting a lot of press since last fall. How does it feel being a so-called up-and-coming band? And what are the major changes you’ve experienced?
T.S.: At home there hasn’t been too much of a change, I don’t think. People are friendlier to me at bars. [Laughs.]
I guess we’ve kind of seen our band grow stage by stage … so it hasn’t been that much of a shock to us. You get your first show write up on some small blog, and it’s just constantly building and building from there.
We’ve been touring for over a year now and we still love doing it. We wouldn’t want to do anything else.
Sun: You toured most recently with Cage the Elephant. How was that?
T.S.: We’ve known those guys for so long, it’s kind of like taking a home show out on the road. It’s a lot of fun.
You know, touring has its ups and down. You have very little privacy and you can be in a van for 20 hours with six or seven other people. But it’s a good trade-off for the experience you get. I’ve seen a lot of the country, plus Mexico and Canada. So it’s worth having to give up some privacy and personal space for that.
Sun: Will this be your first time in Ithaca?
T.S.: Yes, I believe it will be.
Sun: I saw something online about the name of your band being inspired by [the television show] Battlestar Galactica — is that true, or just hearsay?
T.S.: It’s totally true. [Laughs.]
It’s a name I came up with in college years ago. I always thought it had a good ring to it for a rock band. I was a really big fan of the remake of the television show that aired on the [Syfy Channel].
The name pretty much comes from these things called “Cylons,” who look and act human. They’re unaware that they’re actually cybernetic organisms. But when they wake up, they turn against fellow humans and they’re called “sleeper agents.”
Sun: That sounds a little insidious for a band name.
T.S.: Right. Well I think the way we spin it now … the way we feel about the name now is that somebody you’re in love with might be a “sleeper agent.” Or you could have a “sleeper agent” in your bed. It addresses the complex emotions that everybody has.