INTERVIEW: SLEEPING BODY (PART I)
Photo: Miguel Veliz
Formed at the start of 1992 and over by the end of the year, Fort Worth, Texas’ Sleeping Body burned bright and fast and left an exquisitely gnarled corpse. One of the first noncoastal bands to be inspired by the likes of Heroin and Born Against, Sleeping Body made a din that was abrasive and raw, powered by well-intentioned angst and fervor. Despite having only the four-song Awaken seven-inch EP and a compilation track available to the public, their name has remained in the mix when this decade in underground America is discussed, and those who had the pleasure of witnessing them live will attest to their rousing, chaotic beauty.
I recently had the pleasure of talking to Sleeping Bodys’ Jeff Hunt (bass) and Jeff Leeper (guitar) via Zoom about their bands’ short, but prolific history. The first portion of the interview will cover Sleeping Bodys’ beginnings, the support they received from other local bands such as Suiciety and Voice of Reason, and their hankering to get out and tour.
Sleeping Body was: Chad Percy - vocals/Jeff Leeper - guitar/Justin Wood - guitar/Jeff Hunt - bass/Carl Hollowell - drums
Sleeping Body - Awaken EP (Vermin Scum, 1992)
Let’s start with the basics of how, why, and when Sleeping Body started.
Jeff Hunt: The story goes back to sixth grade. In Fort Worth, Texas, Justin Wood, Jeff Leeper and I came together as a little skateboard crew in middle school. That's where our friendships started. We knew Carl from skate spots around Fort Worth, but he was a grade ahead of us. So we didn’t get to know him until high school. Over the years, this skateboarding scene slowly started to meld into a budding music scene. We came to learn about the Fort Worth scene that existed through skating. There were some other cats like Jeff Johnson, Brian Lawrence, and Gordon Thompson who were older than us who were doing bands before Sleeping Body.
Suiciety - EP (Repercussion, 1993)
Chad and a bunch of other folks like the Suiciety kids all went to a different high school in the next big neighborhood over and through skating and going to shows in Forth Worth or Dallas, we got to know them. In Texas, high school sports – especially football – are such a big thing that you're taught kids from other high schools are your rivals. But then we met these kids and found out they were just like us, so that’s when we were like, “fuck that shit, these kids are cool”. Chad was in a band called Little Boy that was just like, “Holy fuck!”
Jeff Leeper: Yeah, that band was a real bomb drop.
JH: I’d like to give a shout-out to Pledge and Wednesday’s Child. Those are the bands Carl was in with the older cats I mentioned before. JL, Justin, and I would go over to Carl's house, and there'd be all that equipment, just sitting around and we'd be like, “Oh, shit, maybe we should start a band.” I don’t know what happened, but Wednesday's Child quit being a band and we thought Carl, Jeff, Justin, and I should do a band. Carl moved from playing bass to drums, Jeff and Justin decided to play guitar and I played bass. Then someone had the idea, “It would be fucking rad if we got that dude Chad from Little Boy to sing” The four of us barely knew him.
JL: He was like none of us. We weren’t straight edge, but we were straight people and Chad smoked pot and drank and none of us did. We had nothing against it. It just wasn’t what we did.
JH: We were younger and more from the suburbs than Chad, so I would say that might have had something to do with it. But also, the bands he was in were a stretch from the shit we were into. It was different, but, obviously, we saw some way for it to work, otherwise, we wouldn't have tried it. But it also didn't work in a way. I want to say even after 30 years of hindsight, it doesn't make sense. You know, the fact that we were super young and super new to all of this probably had a lot to do with it as well.
What was so different about Chad’s previous bands compared to Sleeping Body?
JH: More hardcore, more punk. The hardest band we were listening to was Swiz. Most of our influences were from Washington D.C. We didn’t even know if it was going to work with the four of us, but we approached Chad and he was into it. We started practicing at my parent’s house in late ‘91 if not early ‘92. I don’t know what kind of weird shit I was going through, but I decided I wasn’t going to have a bed frame. So I just had my mattress on the floor of my bedroom at my parent’s house in the suburbs in Fort Worth. Both my parents worked during the day, so it was decided my house would be a good place to practice. So, when we practiced, I’d prop my mattress up into the closet. Back in the skateboard days, we hung out a lot at my parent’s house and skipped school. We built a giant fucking halfpipe in my parent’s backyard. So my house was already one of if not the main hangout spot. JL’s house would be a close second because they had a pool that was filled with water that we would swim in, not skate.
Sleeping Body started when you were still in high school?
JH: It was our last year in high school. I was already 18. JL and Justin were 17.
What were the first practices like?
JL: None of us knew how to play our instruments. We learned how to play them on the fly. Carl was the only one who really knew how to play. He knew how to play drums, bass, and guitar and we were buying our first guitars.
JH: I feel like Carl came to the band with a lot of riffs and baselines. It was a pretty awesome way to learn to play because Carl would just be like, “Play this” and then we'd all play together. and take it from there. Chad had some songs we didn't use right away, but we eventually did.
JL: Chad wrote that song “Cataract” and that was a pretty badass song.
JH: For six months or so, we’d practice once or twice a week. Chad and Carl wrote most of the lyrics, I think I wrote a song or two of lyrics, but it was mostly those two. Then we all got good enough at our instruments that we could just write our own shit after that. We had graduated from high school and now had enough (songs) to play a show. We have to talk about Voice of Reason because they’re our good friends and have been for over the last thirty years. They were this crazy Slayer-sounding band from Amarillo who played shows in the Fort Worth/Dallas area and then moved to Dallas. They were a couple of years older, so they got their own house and we’d hang out at their house after shows in Dallas. We were looking to play a show and had befriended the VOR and Suiciety guys and they were into us playing with them.
Voice of Reason - Parody To The Righteous EP (Minds Eye, 1991)
How about the approach of the band? Were you trying to consciously align yourself with certain bands and scenes that were going on around the country?
JL: I would definitely say music from Washington D.C
JH: Both the music and the messaging behind it.
JL: That’s why we went with Vermin Scum, they were out there. You could go see Fugazi 30 minutes away. I’d say that was our main influence.
JH: But we also can't forget the San Diego scene with Heroin and all those cats at Gravity Records. Probably our biggest musical influence from D.C., and I'm not saying we sounded anything like them, was Nation of Ulysses. We fucking loved them, but as soon as we started seeing those Gravity Records bands, it was all over. I specifically credit Heroin as a huge musical influence. We were inspired as fuck by what they were doing. Also the shows themselves. Yes, it was about the music, but it was also about what the hell they were doing on stage.
JL: What we did was controlled chaos. We knew the songs, but when we were playing them, the instruments were falling apart and we were falling off the stage. But I could sit there on a power cord until everyone got their shit back together and then we’d just jump right back into it.
JH: Our music and stage presence was heavily influenced by San Diego. But I think we decided from the outset we also wanted to have a message. Each song could have been personal but it was also topical and I think that was intentional.
When you started to play shows in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, who were the bands that you shared bills with and found a kinship with?
JH: Our first three shows were with Suiciety and Voice of Reason and we were like a trio. We played at a dance studio in Fort Worth, my parent’s house, and either Slipped Disc or Easy Street. By the summer of ‘92, Sleeping Body was ready to get in the van and go on the road. This was the time when Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll was publishing Book Your Own Fucking Life, so we used that as our manual. We stuck a boombox in my closet with a pillow over it and recorded a demo to send out to folks.
JL: Our first show was in College Station at a theater and then we watched a frat house burn down.
JH: VOR played the same joint and when they were done playing, they came out and said, “Sleeping Body! Come over here! Some frat house is on fire!” and we were like, “What the fuck? Awesome!” They drag us through the club and out the back door to walk a block and watch some big ass Texas A&M frat house burning. I have a photo of Carl, Chad, and the VOR dudes in front of the burning frat house and Chad is smoking a cigarette. From there, we went to Houston, where we joined up with some anarchists we had met in Austin, I think earlier that year. We played the protest stage across the street from the Astrodome where the RNC was.
JL: The Ghetto Boys played there too. The Nation of Islam guys there were pissed off at how loud we were playing so I had to grab our gear and throw it into the van real quick because those motherfuckers were serious.
JF: After we played I remember seeing Robert Downey Jr. out there with a handheld video camera. I just learned last fall through talking to Miguel from Suiciety that was part of a documentary that was being made on both the Democratic Convention and the Republican Convention. Miguel said we're all in it.
JL: It got pretty crazy because we tried to go into the convention. We were throwing rocks and I was hiding under a pickup truck for a while.
JH: One more fun story from Houston. So like I said, we were hooked up with some anarchists we had met in Austin. We went to some house in Houston, where we were all putting noisemakers together. I had been given an empty orange juice gallon container that I filled with rocks and that was my noisemaker. These cats we went with were real activists, so they knew exactly where to be and where to stand. There was this really organized line of cops on horseback trying to be intimidating. Someone snapped a picture of me holding this orange juice container in the air making my noise next to a cop on horseback. And that was the cover photo of the Houston Weekly paper the next week.