A Conversation With Sleepy Dog
I’ve spent most of my time at The Digest interviewing New Jersey artists, but today, I’m expanding the map down to North Carolina. I had the chance to speak with Xavier Hall, an acclaimed artist in the Math Rock and Emo music scene who’s been producing music since 2017. He’s released two albums and three EP’s with his band, with his top single, “Space Cadet,” currently amassing 1.1 million plays on Spotify. Hall has also garnered over 75,000 monthly Spotify listeners, and had his music featured on Ultimate Guitar as of last month.
As you can probably guess, I had a ton of questions for Hall, who is undoubtedly the most popular artist I’ve had the chance to talk to during my time interviewing musicians.
JO: Your bio on your Bandcamp page is a quote, reading “a sleepy dog and his guitar nestled in the mountains.” Is there a special context behind this message and the band name as a whole?
XH: I made my Bandcamp when I was pretty young, so I can’t say I remember why. I was probably just excited to get to the mountains.
JO: So despite being a Boone, North Carolina native, your sound is considerably Midwestern in its tone. Can you tell me some of the bands you believe to have influenced your sound the most?
XH: That question daunts me. Each time I think of an answer, years of influence race through my mind. I’m inspired in phases by different artists, big or small. Recently, it’s been hard to find inspiration during these times, but one song finally made me pick up my instruments after months of dust. “Chocolate Matter” by Sweet Trip got me going again, and I’m very thankful for that.
JO: One of the lyrics from track “Try To Breathe and Give Me What I Need” really resonated with me: “When we grow up life will hit us with a million things, So for now let’s just make the most of it and try to breathe.” You rarely have features on your music from what I’ve seen on your Bandcamp, so what was the motivation behind getting 6ftunder on the track and the significance of that lyric specifically?
XH: Long story short, that song was originally something I had composed instrumentally about one year before I had even thought about lyrics. I had a video for the instrumental and everything. Then, I guess as time went by, I also wanted a version with lyrics. So each time I drove back and forth between trips [to college and my home], I’d listen to the song and craft the lyrics. That specific lyric you mentioned was from my buddy 6ftunder. I had always loved his voice in high school. One of those people that inspired me from a distance on guitar.
JO: You’ve released two singles in 2020, “Far Far, Gone” and “Florida Boy.” What’s the story behind these new tracks?
XH: “Far Far, Gone” is the original track without lyrics from “Try To Breathe and Give Me What I Need.” I had always wanted to release the song as a single. I figured it’d be an odd addition to the self-titled album I released. “Florida Boy” was actually a song I had crafted two years ago, and released as a hidden gem. I had completely forgotten about it with the other hundreds of files that I’ve clumsily organized. I was in Atlantic Beach when an old friend heard it on my laptop and we fell in love with it. We recorded the video over three days. We also used the footage as the loop for the “Far Far, Gone” video—amazing time!
JO: Speaking of the new singles, are they leading to an eventual new project? Do you have any idea when your new project would be released?
XH: In the sense of coronavirus, and the civil war that’s breaking out in America, I’m not sure what most artists are doing. Luckily, I have a really special album called “Friends.” produced by myself and Sleepdealer that we’ve finally finished after two long years. From here to Tokyo; a wild ride. I’ve never been so excited about a release. I’ve had it on repeat! Keep a lookout on August 5th!
JO: I recently covered your album “Amor Fati” in my article about great albums from persons of color in the 2010s. Do you have a song from that project that you hold near and dear to your heart, and can you explain why?
XH: Believe it or not, “The Sonic Adventure of Com Foolery” was the most difficult song I’ve ever created. To this day, that song reigns as my champion. I think it took me about two months of mixing and recording to get it perfect, but I wish the vocals were gone. It’s truly the most beautiful thing I’ve made. If you really take the time to sit under a sky at night, turn the volume up a little too loud and listen, I promise you’ll understand. I love that song. You get that sweet surprise at 1:20 if you can get through the intro.
JO: Can you give me an idea of the different places you’ve had the opportunity to perform in? And do you have a personal favorite?
XH: Probably by myself or with my friends while they’re mingling in my apartment. I’m much more sociable when I don’t have an instrument in my hand. I tend to be pretty reserved, perhaps a little too distracted when it comes to music.
JO: The majority of your monthly listeners are based out of Chicago, Illinois. Is there a reason for this? Are you connected to the city at all? Or is this just coincidence?
XH: I actually still haven’t visited the Windy City itself out of all places! For my people in Chicago, I promise I’ll show up one day. 2020 is quite unpredictable.