Sleepyhead recorded their forthcoming sixth album, New Alchemy, at the legendary Boston area recording studio Q Division with esteemed producer and Q Division co-founder Jon Lupfer at the helm. They are releasing the album August 19 as a digital download and via streaming platforms to be followed by a release on 12” vinyl LP later this year. They plan to play as many shows as they can manage after that!
The title track to New Alchemy was inspired by the exploits of the New Alchemy Institute, a utopian endeavor founded by idealistic scientists in the 1970’s in Falmouth, Massachusetts, the hometown of Sleepyhead guitarist/vocalist Chris O’Rourke.
The members of the New Alchemy Institute looked to nature as the ultimate designer of systems to support the human population of this planet. Careful observation of natural cycles and processes inspired their templates truly sustainable forms of agriculture and animal husbandry. They researched intensive gardening, biological pest control, cover cropping, irrigation utilizing fishpond water, perennial food crops, and tree crops. They raised fish in above-ground, translucent tanks; wastewater was used in hydroponic farming as well as irrigating greenhouse crops. For years, Chris had been wanting to write a song inspired by this special place that he’d visited as a child on school trips, and finally made it happen. Then the band decided it’d make a great album title.
Sleepyhead was formed in a basement room at NYU’s Brittany dorm in the fall of 1989 by drummer/vocalist Rachael McNally, bassist Mike Galinsky and guitarist/vocalist Chris O’Rourke. They released their first 7″ single, the Kramer-produced “Play,” in 1991 on Picture Book Artifact. Four full-length albums followed, on three different independent record labels. Punk Rock City USA was released by Slumberland Records in 1993, followed by Starduster (Homestead 1994), Communist Love Songs (Homestead 1996), and The Brighter Shore (Sealed Fate 1999). They toured the United States and Europe throughout the nineties, sharing the stage with such legendary bands as Polvo, Half Japanese, Yo La Tengo, The Grifters, The Dambuilders, Nation of Ulysses, Helium, Royal Trux, Antietam, Luna, Versus, The Magnetic Fields, and Dungbeetle.
Around the time their fourth album was released in 1999, Rachael and Chris got married, and Mike Galinsky moved on to a successful career in filmmaking. Dan Cuddy (The Special Pillow, ex-Hypnolovewheel) joined Chris and Rachael on bass. With Dan on bass, Sleepyhead did some touring for The Brighter Shore and began writing new songs. Rachael and Chris moved from New York to Boston in 2002 after having their first child. They had another kid in 2005. By this time, they had begun recording a new album, with Dan on bass, with producer Mike Deming (Pernice Brothers, Apples in Stereo, Beachwood Sparks, Lilys), at Deming’s famed Studio 45 in Hartford, and subsequently Enfield, CT. In 2004, bassist/vocalist/keyboardist Derek van Beever joined the band, and they started playing shows in Boston, Providence, and New York whenever they got the chance. In April 2013, this new lineup of Sleepyhead went into Q Division Studios in Somerville, MA to record the last three songs for their long-time-coming fifth album, Wild Sometimes, which was released on renowned Chicago indie Carrot Top Records on April 8, 2014. They played a bunch of shows in the Northeast, Midwest and Southeast to celebrate the release of Wild Sometimes in 2014, and then started writing a whole bunch of new songs with Derek. In the Spring of 2018, Drawing Room Records released a well-received deluxe double vinyl LP/digital reissue of Starduster and Communist Love Songs called Future Exhibit Goes Here.