Soft Sleep: Local music vets in new project

by BAILEY CHENEY

With the days of indie-rock band The Lonely Forest behind him, Tony Ruland focuses on his new project, Soft Sleep, with the help of fellow music veterans and friends to pursue his self-described “labor of love.”

After The Lonely Forest’s last show in summer 2014, Ruland began sifting through a collection of microcassettes he had recorded over the last several years but had not yet used. Deciding he needed to do something with the tapes, Ruland called together Kyle Holland and Erik Walters, from the bands Cumulus and Silver Torches, respectively, to get to work.

“The band started by accident,” Ruland said. “The first practice went so well, it just felt like a band.”

After confirming the other members felt Ruland’s same “band-vibe” feelings, they created Soft Sleep – its name a reference to Ruland’s insomniac sleeping patterns.

Soft Sleep plans to feature many guest appearances, with its first being Chris Walla, former Death Cab for Cutie member. This will also be Walla’s first collaboration since his departure from Death Cab for Cutie.

Ruland explained that Walla and himself had wanted to record together for a while, as they became friends while The Lonely Forest was signed to Walla’s record label Trans Records.

“Chris will be like an auxiliary member; giving us his input and his opinions in addition to playing,” Ruland said. Walla can be expected to play keyboards or bass, or even assist with vocals.

With Walla, Holland, Walters and Ruland all having previously played in other bands, Ruland believes they will be less likely to make similar mistakes as in years past. “We’re ready to navigate, ready to make better choices at the helm of the ship,” he said.

Ruland’s first decision at the helm was specifically choosing to sign with a small local label, Rocket Heart Records, despite offers from larger record companies.

“I wanted a real community feel. I wanted to do this the same way I go about eating food – I want to know where things come from, I want to be able to shake the hands of the people involved,” Ruland explained. “It’s OK if this [project] fails, it’s about putting out what we want to do. Soft Sleep is aesthetically and creatively where we want it.”

To achieve Soft Sleep’s aesthetic and sound, Ruland explained the band works like a sports team with each player doing their part. He admitted that since the project is his brainchild, the band encourages him to take control and lead. “I’m not a control freak, but it feels good to have the support to make the decisions you want,” he said.

Ruland writes the songs alternating between guitar, bass and keyboard, and then once brought to the rest of the band, Holland and Walters do the “cake decorating.” “Cake decorating,” Ruland clarified, is touching up the music and finishing the details.

The completed product is a dreamy, slow sound mixed with a little 1980s new wave, according to Ruland. “It sounds like a perfect fit between the Red House Painters and Sunny Day Real Estate. It’s just catchy enough without being depressing,” laughed Ruland. “I keep coming back to this word, but it has sort of a narcotic vibe.”

Their first song off of Soft Sleep’s eponymous EP to demonstrate such sound is “Unravel.” “It’s whatever the opposite of ‘anthemic’ is; it’s a little slow, a little dark,” described Ruland. “Even though I am self-depreciating, I am truly proud and excited about this batch of songs.”

Though no shows have been finalized yet, Ruland hopes their first show will be in Seattle. Soft Sleep plans to record a full-length record sometime this summer or fall, but their EP record is available for pre-order now with a digital release coming soon (see www.rocketheartrecords.com).

Listen for Soft Sleep to play soon on “Live Wire,” a radio variety show recorded in Portland, Ore. for NPR.

MORE DETAILS: For more information see softsleepband.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter at softsleepband.

Published in the April 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine