No Sleep for Deep Sleep Atlantic
No Sleep for Deep Sleep Atlantic
Jul 12, 2023
An interview with Travis Marc
New Orleans-based alt-rock/alt-post-grunge duo Deep Sleep Atlantic is making some pretty big waves with the recent release of their debut album, “Prelude.” Earlier this year on March 31st, the duo released their debut single “Bipolar Tendencies,” a darkly energetic tune less about the mental illness and more about the fragmented way in which society operates. The song was a powerful first step for them, and they’ve successfully backed that power up with the release of their first album, “Prelude.”
Comprised of singer/guitarist Travis Marc and drummer Daniel Perez, the album is full of creatively catchy lyrics that focus on remaining aware and mindful while facing and connecting to life and its challenges, and on doing so with courage. All the parts on the album were recorded by Travis, and after meeting Daniel, the two joined forces.
Travis is a SAMA-nominated multi-instrumentalist/producer/songwriter originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, who spent time in London with different bands before landing here in the States. He has been playing and writing music professionally for about 25 years. He’s a hell of a guy, a consummate professional, and keeps himself insanely busy.
I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to sit down with him and talk about his musical history, his work ethic, and his most recent project, Deep Sleep Atlantic. Here’s what he had to say:
MaM: So, you’re on your third continent. You spent your first 19 years or so in South Africa, then moved to London to play in a band, and now you’re here in New Orleans. How did you end up here, and how does New Orleans rank?
TM: So, I was going through some stuff, and it was a real tough period in my life, and I just needed to get away, so I booked myself a trip across America. While I’ve been in bands my entire life and toured pretty much everywhere, there were parts in America I’d never been to. New Orleans was one of those places. I came here and was here for a few days, then I met a girl. We hit it off and we did the distance thing for, give or take, three years; it was tough. We … eventually were like, ‘What are we doing here? Let’s start looking into one of us moving.’ We weighed out the pros and cons and it made more sense for me to move than her.
MaM: You had a project in England at the time?
TM: I did, I did—Dead Days. In fact, we’ve got a record that we are still trying to finish. We’re doing it remotely, so that record will come out, I’m hoping, this year. At a push, maybe next year. We’re jokingly calling it ‘English Democracy’ because it’s taken us a better part of four years already, but it’s outstanding. We’ve put out three records, and it’s by far the best one. It’s totally different from Deep Sleep Atlantic.
MaM: Now you moved down here, happily ever after. How long did it take you to get into the scene here in New Orleans?
TM: I auditioned for my first band about six days after I arrived, on the 11th of February. I got married the 22nd. The week before I got married, I went and did an audition. ... It was the strangest audition I’ve done in my life, and I’ve done some weird ones. But I got the gig, and I then went to two jam sessions, both at DMACS, and I think by the 27th or 28th everything started shutting down [because of Covid]. So, it was really bizarre because the day we got the call that people needed to start going home and stuff, I was supposed to play that night. So, at that point I guess I was here for twelve days or so? Thirteen days?
I got very lucky because I was working as an assistant at Esplanade Studio at the time, and everything shut down except for the studio. So, while the gigs stopped, the studio was busy as hell, so I was in the studio every single day.
MaM: What changes do you think you’ve gone through from the very first project you’ve been in until now? Are there any major changes that you can point out, or were you just out of the womb a natural?
TM: Hmmm. That’s a tough one. I’d love to claim that, but no. I still feel like I really have to work, but I don’t mind it. I enjoy the process, you know? I guess there’s no massive changes. I can listen to stuff that I was involved with as a teenager and go, ‘I think I’m a better singer now,’ or, ‘My lyrics definitely make more sense now as a writer,’ but that’s not necessarily fair, because how can you relate to something you wrote as a 15- or 16-year-old and now listen to it and say, ‘Those lyrics are crap.’? Because they weren’t crap at the time. They meant something to me, even though I can’t relate to them now.
If I’m really pushed, I’d say I think I’ve become a better writer. I’m less worried about whether I can put all the cool things in and make people think, ‘Oh, wow; what a cool little guitar part.’ I don’t care. It’s all about the song. I do not care about the genre. I do not care about anything else—just the song.
Now that being said, I do care about the sonics of the song while we’re living in this it’s-all-cool kind of world, and I do think of little details: ‘Were the snare drum hits consistent or did the one guitar part go out of tune on the last chorus? Or, man, I can hear that sibilance kind of mouth noise. Stuff like that drives me crazy.
MaM: We both had music in our lives growing up, thanks to family. Do you think you’d be the same without that experience?
TM: It really plays a part. Whether it helps shape you, I’m sure it does. I recently read this very interesting article. This DNA scientist was saying he’s on the cusp of proving that humans are who they are, and it’s set in your DNA from day one, and while your surroundings and upbringing will play a part in who that shapes, the bottom line is you are who you are. Now I don’t know if I believe this, but I’m also not a scientist. It got me thinking.
I definitely had other ambitions and aspirations, other things that interested me that I was gung-ho on achieving, but once I discovered music, none of that mattered. Music was a big part of my upbringing—not to the point where I was playing or anything, although my parents always told me I was doing certain musical things that made [them] go, ‘Huh.’
I don’t know if I’ve spoken of this before, but something that always makes me wonder, especially as I get older, so I was, I guess, luckily, expelled from kindergarten. For a year, I was at home … with my coloring books and my mum. She had a side hustle where she would knit jerseys, beanies, and gloves. She had this room with a big knitting machine and a radio. The radio would stay on, she would do her knitting, and I would sit there coloring in my coloring books while listening to the radio. I fell in love with Fleetwood Mac and Bonnie Tyler, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, and Madonna, Phil Collins—whatever the big hits of the day were—Tom Petty, all that kinda stuff.
Keep in mind, I don’t know how knitting machines work now, but I do know that then, it was this long, rectangular thing, and this bracket would go from left to right and then back. It had a timing kind of thing to it. (Imitates the sounds of the machine going back and forth) Now subconsciously, maybe that did something, I don’t know, but I’ll tell you, my parents are adamant it did something. My dad was a printer. He had proper machinery that weighed hundreds and hundreds of tons. So, I had this year off and these machines—they’re called Heidelbergs. So, this thing comes down, almost like a mechanical karate chop. It goes up and it comes down. (Imitates the rhythmic sound of the machine)
MaM: (Begins to sing Pink Floyd’s “Money” in time to the sounds)
TM: Exactly! I obviously didn’t know who Pink Floyd was, but my parents swore to God that I would, between sitting there in the room with my mum falling in love with these 80’s melodies and standing inside my dad’s factory with this machine, they claim that I would stand there and make up these raps to the machinery timing, or I would play paint buckets, trying to stay in time with this machinery. So, that particular year was everything. I can’t give it all the credit because I don’t know, but I’ve never struggled to work with a metronome, ever. I do put that down to the knitting machine and the Heidelberg printing press.
MaM: What inspires or influences you nowadays?
TM: I take inspiration from anything: conversations, words, podcasts, songs—anything I can listen to and go, ‘That’s cool.’
If it’s cool and I want to explore it, I’ll make a note of it, and when I’m at my wit’s end and I can’t think of something, I’ll pull up my notes. For the most part, I’ve never needed to wait for inspiration to hit. It’s like, I work at it. I’ve always treated it like a job. So, 8 to 5 I need to create, or work in studio, or get better at editing, or producing, or creating content. I’ve never been that stereotypical sleep-‘til-4-o’clock musician.
The long and short of it is, if I don’t do something that makes me feel like I worked on trying to get better at my craft every single day, I can turn into a moody bastard. So, keeping my own shit together means I’ve either got to get up early and practice, or when those around me that I love go to bed, I’m going to stay up for a few hours and practice. Whatever I need to do to allow myself to feel like I’m alive.
MaM: Plus, I think you need to stay connected to whatever that is that we’re trying to tap into, right? I think the longer you’re away from it, the harder it is to get back to it.
TM: One hundred percent. I write a song every day. Might not always be a whole song, but I’ll at least do a verse and a chorus, and I’ll put it on the back burner. I could pick up your guitar now and write us a song. It would not be difficult for me. I consider that a true, true blessing, okay? I know people who will spend six, seven years on one song, you know? It’s different for everybody, but for me, it just comes. I do think, to your point, if I took it for granted and I had this attitude of, ‘I can write songs whenever,’ take a ten-year sabbatical and come back, I’m pretty convinced that that gift [would] be gone.
I’ve definitely had a couple people get frustrated over the years. ‘What’s that song about?’ I’ll be like, ‘Well, what do you think it’s about?’ They’ll go, ‘Well, you wrote it.’ I’ll reply, ‘Well, did I? I mean, my name’s on the credits, but somebody else wrote that song. It just came out in the form of my hands on a guitar.’ I’m not trying to sound arty; I genuinely believe this. I remember reading interviews with certain people that were like, ‘It just comes out of me,’ and I’d always be like, ‘This motherf*cker. It just comes out of me. Bullshit.’ Whatever that is, is a hundred percent true. It just takes a little bit of refinement from my side.
MaM: Do you have a favorite song of yours that just came out and has been untouched since it first came out?
TM: There’s a couple, yeah. In my last band, we had this song called ‘Liar Liar,’ and I’ve got early demos of that from when I was 16, 17. It’s identical.
On this new record, ironically that first single we put out, ‘Bipolar Tendencies,’ I got home from the studio that one day, picked up my guitar, sat on the bed, [and] fifteen minutes later I had ‘Bipolar Tendencies,’ and I was like, ‘I should put this on the record.’ I went and demoed it, did the drums a couple days later. That’s identical to how it was. Nothing changed, except I put a sample of a heartbeat in it.
MaM: You recorded and engineered this new album yourself, right?
TM: I was never the guy who was like, ‘I’m gonna produce my own record, I’ll engineer it.’ Listen, I do think there are strengths in letting other people do stuff, like the Deep Sleep Atlantic record--my buddy Taylor Tatsch, he mixed that record. He did a superb job as far as I’m concerned. You can get too close to the stuff.
Where my thought process behind it all changed was, I was in a very well-known studio, and I was just there playing on this person’s record. It wasn’t my record, but I’d known the producer. This particular artist, they couldn’t get their thing right. They were in the live room and I’m in the control room with this producer, and I don’t know if he knew that I was in the control room, or if he just didn’t care, but a comment was made, something along the lines of, ‘Ah, fer f*ck’s sake, just get it right already! It’s a shit song as it is.’ The artist never heard that, but I heard [it]. It suddenly got me thinking, ‘Wait, I’ve been in hundreds of studios by now. I wonder if this is how they feel when I’m paying to have my music recorded?’ That was the changing moment.
After that I was like, ‘Nope, I’ll do it myself.’ … If you put some true care into it, people can tell, man.
MaM: So, the new band, Deep Sleep Atlantic, tell us how that came about and where do you see it going from here?
TM: I’d been in bands forever. I decided I was moving to America—I was done with bands. A friend of mine introduced me to a mutual friend, who is fairly visible in the music industry, who says to me, ‘We’d love to have you on our books.’ I’m thinking, ‘Me, on his books? Why now? I leave in less than a week.’ So, I said, ‘No, thanks, man. If you take me as a writer, but as far as bands go, I think I’m a little burnt out.’ I’d been gigging more than 20 years at that point, closer to 25. Bands are hard, you know? You’re dealing with all these different personalities and not always in a nice, positive way, you know?
So, I come over here and I’m working at Esplanade [Studio], and every day I’m seeing really great artists coming in to do their thing. I’m sitting at home after a few of these sessions and I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, that was great, but I’ve got songs that I think are better than that, or different.’ Not in an egotistical way, just in a comparable way. So, I start writing songs. Next thing you know, I’m creating logos, writing down band names, and I’ve got about 43, 44 songs. I’m still talking to this guy who wants to manage me, and eventually he says to me, ‘You will come out as an artist, and I’ll focus on pushing you as a writer. That’s the only way we’re doing it.’ So, I said, ‘Okay.’
So that’s what led to Deep Sleep Atlantic being created, but by this point, I’m almost finishing the record and I don’t have a band. I’m still not sure if I want to have a band. Then I meet Daniel at Esplanade Studio. He and I hit it off. So, I tell him that I’ve got all these songs and I don’t know what I’m gonna do with them. I sent him, like, three songs. He comes back and says, ‘Dude, I loved the songs. We should jam sometime.’ And that was it: He and I started the band. It was as easy as that.
Where we see it going, who knows? I mean, you never know where these things could go. As an actual band, we’ve only been officially out there now since the 31st of March, and it’s exceeded all my expectations thus far. I’ve been in some very good bands; I’m extremely blessed to say that. We seem to be getting a lot of feedback and a lot of love and a lot of positive response. So, where do we see it going? We’ve got some plans. I’m not going to be juvenile enough to talk about them because if they don’t transpire, then you get egg on your face.
MaM: How did you come up with the name?
TM: It wasn’t taken. (laughter)
I hate to use the word ‘woke’ in a wrong manner, but the play on it would be just being insightful and awakened to your surroundings. Chad from the Musical Lab podcast … told me that he thought it was that we had traveled across the Atlantic. Now listen, I can’t take credit for that. I hadn’t even thought of that, but it’s a fairly cool concept. Daniel and I have both lived in several places at this point and we travelled from those places across the Atlantic to get here. Now that didn’t inform or influence the band name but, you know, America is one of the biggest countries to exist, and there’s so much going on here at the moment. Some people are very sensitive to it, and some people aren’t.
So, for me, I think the name is kind of just a play on … we’re at this point where there doesn’t seem to be middle ground. You’re either one of these really insightful and have-to-preach-about-it kind of people, or you’re one of those other, ‘Naw, it’s not even a real thing’ when it is. So, I don’t know. I just think it’s much like a song. You take from it what you will. For me, it’s an important name because of certain situations around it, but that would be how I describe it.
We went through hundreds of names. Originally, we wanted to go with something else. We even did a couple tester gigs under a different name, only to be at a gig and this bass player I know came to me and said, ‘I tried to check you out before the gig. You know, there’s a rapper out there using that name. So, I went and checked. We are big do-stuff-behind-the-scenes kind of guys, and we had done all this work. We were about to launch, we registered all the socials, we registered the website, we did all the things that you do, right? We put up one little post and about three weeks afterwards, this rapper puts out a song and emerges under the same name. Three weeks after our post. Now, I’m not saying he took the name, but that name was so unique, that I think it would be very hard for someone else to think of that exact thing. Humans are more similar than we admit, so I’m not saying it’s not possible, but when that was brought to my attention, I was like, ‘Okay, pull everything back. We’re not launching. Shut all of that stuff down and let’s regroup.
That’s what eventually led to us taking the name Deep Sleep Atlantic.
MaM: Talking about live shows, you have a few under your belt now with Deep Sleep Atlantic. How have those gone?
MaM: So, Daniel is on drums and vocals, you’re on guitar and vocals, now, to fill in the other spaces …
TM: I split my signal between a guitar and a bass cab, so that fills a lot, and we play with tracks. We’ve got a Pro Tools rig, and that fills the little keyboard-y parts that we’ve got on the record and a couple little nuances. We play with in-ears, we play to click. We do all our own sound, so basically when we get to a venue, they give us what they want to mic, we then feed them our tracks so it’s in the mixing desk, then they feed the signal back to us and we have control over all the levels. It definitely takes a bit of that spontaneity away because we are locked into playing to our tracks. Every now and then, some inspiration hits and you want to go jam it over here, [but] you can’t do that. It takes some serious discipline to do what we’re doing, but it’s also not so bad because I have always been a fan of bands that sound like [they do on] the record.
MaM: So, let’s talk about the album “Prelude.” Where did you record that album? How long did it take, and are there any stories from the recording sessions?
TM: [We] recorded that album in my house, except for the guitar solo in ‘Bones’—that’s my buddy Zack [Loy] from the band Live.
There’s a saxophone solo in ‘Blue’—that’s Dave; he plays in the Dave Mouton Project.
And then there is a cello part in ‘Mess We’re In’ that I didn’t play. Everything else, I did in my house. I was doing it in between gigs, and sessions, so I did it sporadically.
A story regarding it would be, it was shotgun house. I’ve since moved—the neighbor who basically convinced me to move was extremely, uh, [long pause] I think if she could have, she would have done everything she could to prevent that record from being made. It started getting to a point where I couldn’t even cough without banging coming from the other side of the wall. It started to become a bit of a joke, but not in a good way. It was in a—and I don’t mean for this to sound condescending—but it was in a ‘I think this person needs some help’ kind of way.
MaM: Well, after months of hearing drums through the wall!
TM: Well, ironically, I had the drums done before they even moved in! Okay, guitars—I’m a bit of a stickler for the guitar. You may have to do a part 500 times before you find the tone that you like. So, I do understand that from a neighborly point of view, especially if you are at home and you hear the same riff all day. I understand that can be frustrating.
It got to the point where my wife and I would turn the television on and [within] two or three minutes, the pounding on the wall would start. Then we started to hear violin. Not properly played violin, more like the screeching sound from Psycho. After that, these notes started. You’d come to the house and there’d be a note on the door about something, or there’d be a note in the backyard about something, or there would be a note under your door, or in your post box. I tried to meet in the middle.
I made a schedule, and I said, ‘Look, I’m not going to make noise every day. I definitely won’t make noise after 7 p.m. I get that you want to relax and stuff, but you’re at home all day.’ At this point, I’m only home maybe two days a week because I’m working at the studio. It was really reasonable; it wasn’t, like, every day. She said, ‘Oh, no, I need those times for my clients.’ I said to her, ‘There’s nothing more I can do. I’ve stopped the noise, we don’t turn the television on, and we don’t even have guests at the house because we don’t want to upset you.’
MaM: You have cough drops ready.
TM: Exactly! So, it got to a point where we were like, ‘Let’s just move.’ That did hinder the album process. It was an album that could have taken me, let’s say, a month. Let’s say a week for drums, a week for bass, maybe a week for guitar, and a week for vocals. I could have been done. The drums and the bass were done before she got there. She just wasn’t willing to meet me in the middle. So that was both a funny and frustrating aspect of the album.
MaM: Do you think any of that influenced any of the vibe on the music you were recording?
TM: No, no. I mean, definitely some of the frustration while playing guitar came through. There were definitely moments where I was like, ‘Okay, you’re gonna make this hard for me? I’ll turn it up.’
MaM: How do you balance the art versus the business? You’re obviously talented creatively, but you also have a lot of knowledge and experience in the business side. How do you work in both without going crazy?
TM: I think it’s much harder than anyone gives it credit for. I think if you start thinking about the business stuff too much, it will affect the art. You don’t want that to happen. So, I, personally, try not to think about that when I’m making music. I try and look at them completely separate. It really doesn’t make me sound rock n’ roll at all, but I will have lists … of stuff that I need to do to take care of business and I will dictate certain hours of the day to do that, whereas when I’m creating, or recording, or making art or anything, I worry about none of that. I think you NEED to think about the business though, unless you have someone who can take care of that for you.
People are listening to music with their eyes now, so you could have the greatest record out there and it might be discovered (the good ones always are discovered eventually), but if you’re not taking care of something that [allows] people [to] somehow find you, I think you’re doing yourself an injustice. Plus, it’s in your best interest to learn that side of it now because no one’s going to care about your music, or your art, or you as much as you. I’m happy to do the work, I’m not lazy. I’m many things, but I’m not lazy.
*cover photo credit: Gary Governale