photography Katie Small
words Zarah Cheng
Sleepercub’s first release, EP 1, is a triumph. David Richmond and Angelique Ngo have created a beautiful 5-track record that perfectly conveys the somber and complicated path of recovery. Although Richmond and Ngo use categories like ‘electronic ambient’, ‘shoegaze’, and ‘dream pop’ to describe their sound, Sleepercub is much more complicated than that. Their emotions are complex and the vocal harmonies of the duo are at once beautiful and heartbreaking. Listening to EP 1 is like floating through space, afraid of not knowing what’s out there, but somehow at peace with the fact that sometimes drifting aimlessly is the only thing you’re meant to be doing right now.
Who are we talking to right now?
Hello there…this is Angelique (vocals/guitar/synth) and David (vocals/guitar/computer).
How has living in Ventura, a Pacific Coast town, influenced your songwriting?
ANGELIQUE: It’s been a big influence. Ventura is a great place to live and write music, socially and environmentally. We are framed by beautiful mountains and the vast ocean, which is conducive to the tendency of creativity. Whether I’m sitting on the beach staring at the ocean or surrounded by nature, there is a lot of space to think, which allows the music to flow much more organically.
DAVID: The ocean has always captivated me from a young age. I can see how it has played a role in music creation. The patterns of a tide rolling in and out to the rhythmic loop of waves crashing on the beach. I have always found it mesmerizing. There have been countless hours spent waist-deep in salt water, watching the ocean’s mysterious ecosystem do its thing… it’s quite beautiful to observe. Not to mention looking up and being surrounding by gorgeous mountain ranges. It is quite geographically diverse, which almost parallels our diverse musical influences.
You guys describe sleepercub as “an attempt to deter a treacherous path of addiction and to fill a spiritual void…” Can you tell us more about this?
ANGELIQUE: David and I spent a long time searching for the right “fix” to fill an emptiness we carried in the core of our being. Our music is an attempt to escape the reality that plagued our path. Turning to a spiritual way of life and music has been the “fix” for us. I guess we found our medicine that’s less destructive!
DAVID: We realized that in order to change our lives in such a drastic manner, we had to find ways to treat our malady. There are some universal principles that work in regards to healing through spirituality and we latched on to them. We use our music and writing to review unfortunate events that we were involved in and to create a new future from them. It’s a great opportunity to review what went right/wrong and to gain wisdom from the experience. Another example would be to look at a situation that may be coupled with a heavy emotion and to get it all out through a song and have that pain live in the music rather than carry it around with me.
Once we learned how to work through life without turning to harmful things and we became brave – learning to reach out and to entrust higher intelligences for guidance, love, and support – that void was filled with something beyond gratifying, almost in a metaphysical way. That magic and light that life had when we were young finally returns, but in a way our maturity allows us to appreciate more.
As a whole, your first release EP 1 has a very cohesive sound – it’s moody and dark at times, but there’s also a beautiful sense of hope throughout the songs. How would you personally describe the theme or mood of the EP?
ANGELIQUE: It’s like when something absolutely painful is going on in your life. The kind of pain you can’t shake. The only way out is to go through it and you are in the depths of the darkness. Then you see that one butterfly fluttering by, or hear the pure joy coming from a child laughing. It gives you that glimpse of hope and happiness that everything will be okay.
DAVID: The theme of EP 1 definitely covers the spectrum you accurately described. The first two tracks, “An Introduction” and “Rain Through”, are closely related…they are about experiencing failure, but being able to pick yourself up and try again. There is always another chance to get things “right” in life no matter if it’s with a lover, a friendship, or any relationship for that matter. While at the same time, when life seems devoid of pain, how that can be frightening as well. Vulnerability can be scary at times. But in the end, the friendship, human connectivity, and love are all very beautiful things.
Right there in the middle of the spectrum is “Those Lights”. This song is about having an encounter with an angelic being. It’s about your maker telling you that everything is going to be OK directly in your ear. That you are good and they are with you at all times and there is nothing to be afraid of.
And finally, “Most of Me” and “My Hands, Your Shape” are both songs that look at death but from both sides. What it may be like for the one who have departed. What might they be going through having to leave our physical realm.
Although the EP covered different themes, we wanted it to feel like a journey for the listener. Creating an experience that may induce an opportunity to explore emotions and possibly create an opportunity to heal were also in our minds while writing. Most of these themes are personal reflections for both of us, but general enough to be versatile in applicability and interpretation.
“I used to be good at dreaming when I was young” from “Rain Through” is the powerful line that starts the record. What is the significance behind these lyrics?
ANGELIQUE: When I was child, I would play out in the orchards near my house. I vividly remember how I would daydream and play make-believe with my cats. I would dream up these beautiful and grandiose scenarios. One that has stuck with me was being a goddess of nature. Being able to talk to the plants, trees, insects, and animals. As I got older and got into ways of escaping, those days of dreaming had left me. So in a way, I’m revisiting the days of childhood bliss.
DAVID: I feel there may be a lack of optimism in comparison from when I was a kid… playing an adult in life these days obviously takes a lot of effort when it comes to optimism and a wild imagination. I’m sometimes tempted to stop dreaming and succumb to monotony.
“My Hands, Your Shape” from EP 1 definitely gives me the feels. What is this song about?
BOTH: Yeah it gave us the feels when we were writing it. The song is about both our fathers passing away and not knowing them. David’s father passed away when he was 6 years old. Angelique’s experience was at age 13. This song was very healing for both of us.
ANGELIQUE: The line “My hands your shape” is talking about my hands that are very similar to my father’s hands. He was also a musician, a pianist. Now when I sit to play, I get the feeling he’s right there with me guiding the way.
DAVID: It was definitely a song we used to unravel pain that we have been tangled with in the past and possibly put some things back in the past. It is a continuation of the prior song, “Most of Me,” that deals with the same subject matter. It’s basically about having to live with the inherent qualities of a parent who is no longer with us in one way, while having many physical and psychological attributes that are passed down. For me, it sometimes feels like I am carrying my fathers’ ghost in a way. He is with me and I am with him metaphorically speaking. Whoa, that got weird. Never mind lol.
A lot of our writing, in terms of lyrics, is based from a shared concept. We have writing sessions together, with an array of ideas and potential avenues and then fuse together an outcome. Interestingly enough, we find out so much about each other and how much we have in common during this very intimate process. It always astounds me what subconscious information lies beneath the pen and what there is to be discovered once it materializes.
Spirituality comes up a lot in your band descriptions. How would you describe the relationship between your music and spirituality?
DAVID: Spirituality has definitely played a huge role in the both of us turning our lives around. Not that we claim to be experts on the matter, but rather we see ourselves as humble beginners to the practice of nurturing the energy inside ourselves. Music has definitely been a vehicle in mending a lot of wounds, while finding forgiveness in ourselves and discovering a new perspective on the world around us. We had some deep seeded hurts and misunderstandings to repair. We discovered that creating music around these themes is magic in terms of personal growth and understanding ourselves.
You guys describe a use of both analog and digital tools to create your sound. What is sleepercub’s setup like?
DAVID: Our setup is always changing and expanding slightly. We have a lot of the basic songwriting tools… guitars, pianos, bass, drum kit etc. We definitely like to explore ideas in a live fashion and switching things up. We have tended to cycle analog gear through the space…whether it’s a piece of classic analog synthesizer like a Prophet 5 or a Moog synthesizer, we like to get our hands on outboard gear.
That being said, when we write or record, we have a good amount of software that is very convenient and sounds really amazing. We really like utilizing the best of both worlds when writing and recording.
On your one-way trip to Mars, you are allowed to bring with you 3 items. What would you bring?
2. Camera (film)
3. Tarot Cards.
3. iPhone (loaded with memories)
Jurassic Park or The Mummy?
ANGELIQUE: Jurassic Park! Dinosaurs, Jeff Goldblum, and blood! All I gotta say is I can never look at rippled water the same haha!
DAVID: Jurassic Park for sure. It doesn’t get any better than people fucking with and manipulating the balance of nature for capital gain, only to have it turn on you and take your life.
What creeps you out the most?
DAVID: The other humans
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