Max Holder from St. Austell in Cornwall took it upon himself to create an EP all by himself with his own recording equipment. A difficult challenge for anyone, Holder aka “Sleep Cycles” portrays a uniqueness and quirkiness in his music which always guarantees the best kind. Every song was recorded in his bedroom with a microphone, laptop, nylon string guitar and pop shield. Keyboard melodies are also featured. “Hibernation” is an eight track EP including soft vocals, guitar melodies, keyboard and various backing tunes from Sleep Cycles laptop. Undoubtedly, this is a unique and simplistic collaboration of sound meshed together into adjacent tones. Each song produces a warm feeling within the listener. These days, we witness so many artists who dress the same, look the same and sound the same. It’s always refreshing when an artist arises with their own sound and their own production methods. Sleep Cycles crafts his own originality.
The EP opens with “Café Waltz”. Some sort of keyboard chime can be heard in the introduction followed shortly by distinct vocals. The vocals run smoothly with these tubular chimes. Simplistic yet effective, the nylon string guitar seals the deal. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost” is repeated over and over by a faraway voice. This faraway voice remains a constant in the overall sound of “Hibernation”. “Chump” symbolises the time passing if I were to make a stab at guessing. We really get a feel for the excellence in acoustics here. Years of playing a guitar is evident. A picked guitar tune is combined with a keyboard beat in “Get Sleep”. Everything about “Flinch” is quite calming to the senses. A short tune of one minute and twenty eight seconds in length, “Flinch” captures the pouring rain outside as it splashes off the ground. It entails an original guitar melody contributing to the style and tone of Sleep Cycles. Vocals are distant, muffled. Beyond comprehension.
The last half of the EP follows the same simplistic style as the first. “Just A Couple” intertwines a background jingle with vocals and guitar that work successfully together. “Learning To Whistle” opens with a thank you note for listeners adding to home-grown originality. “Pollen Pickers” stands out as one of the most distinct productions of “Hibernation” in my opinion. A sad tune that mixes well with a keyboard or electronically altered sound, “Pollen Pickers” captures a story of a mans interest in a woman. “It’s Giving Me A Headache” brings “Hibernation” to a close. It is the slowest of the eight songs included on the EP. No keyboard or sounds from a laptop can be heard here. All there is are vocals and a guitar. Vocals are higher pitched than usual. Picture this, if Holder can create something out of nothing, can you imagine how far he’d go with the right label behind him?
What is your full name and where are you from?
“I’m Max from St Austell in Cornwall.”
Describe to us the various types of instruments you used to produce “Hibernation”?
“I used my nylon string guitar that my Dad bought me from Argos when I was about 13. It’s so bad to work with but it’s the perfect sound. I’ve had to replace a tuning machine head with a wingnut and one of the frets is sharp on the edge which hurts and it will never stay in tune and the strings break every week. I do have a nicer guitar but its nowhere near as warm sounding. Other than that i used a similarly bad keyboard, my alarm clock and some sounds on my laptop.”
What sort of recording equipment did you use for your EP?
“I have a microphone and a pop shield but my stand is missing so for recording guitar I had to hold the mic between my knees sat on my bed. Vocals were easier because I had the pop shield in one hand and the mic in the other. I recorded onto cubase on my laptop. I think I could have saved up for a full studio for a few days but it’s way too much pressure and I like to change songs and words as I record if somethings not how I like it and I get to go and eat cereal between takes which you simply can’t do at a studio because of the milk.”
Is there an overall theme to “Hibernation”?
“There wasn’t a purposeful theme until I noticed that half the songs mentioned that I am always sleepy. One of the songs I recorded but didn’t use was called Hibernation, which was about sleeping until I feel better, so that is what the EP is named after. It just all seemed to tie in naturally without me planning it.”
It’s quite admirable to not sign up with a record company and go it alone. Originality always brings out the best in music. How did this come about?
“I think promotion would be a bit better if I were signed to a label. I’ve made £18 out of the EP so far which has helped because I am a little bit unemployed at the moment. I am just the worst at promoting things and I spent about £30 on cookies and coffee at this one coffee shop where I wrote all the lyrics so I’m at a £12 net loss at the moment but I don’t think a label would have accepted the sound quality on the EP which I don’t want to compromise on because it’s exactly what I was looking for. It sounds the way it does because I can’t afford really nice equipment but now I can’t imagine it sounding any different. It matches how I feel and the mood of the songs. I wasn’t planning this sound but I’m glad I stumbled into it.”
Have you ever performed for friends and family?
“I played something of a gig yesterday actually. My first one as Sleep Cycles. I’m also in a band (https://www.facebook.com/GoodbyeJoel) that were doing a gig and our drummer got hurt so we had to shorten the set so I did three of the songs that I could do with just an acoustic guitar because I still haven’t figured out a live set up yet to perform these songs properly. It went ok and I barely had a heart attack. I had to write all the lyrics down and put them in my eyeline.”
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
” I’ve lived in St Austell forever. Some of it is bad and some of it is really nice. I spend a lot of time in the bad bits. I have been making music with my friend Tom since we were in secondary school so he is probably my biggest influence. This is the only music I’ve done without him that I have not thought is dreadful. I have had some solo songs before, several years ago, but I didn’t write any until these ones because they were awful so I thought I was awful. It was a right old rut.”
Do you ever see yourself singing onto a label somewhere down the line?
” I imagine if a label wants me and it has the right ethos and doesn’t want me to compromise anything I would sign which doesn’t sound very likely. I do need someone motivating me and finding me nice places to play and promoting my music a bit better than me adding my friends on facebook. I need a manager or I will just stay in bed. My friend Craig has really been doing 3/4 of the work for me. He took the pictures for me (https://www.facebook.com/craigtaylorbroadphotography) and has been getting me email addresses of venues that would have me play. I need a manager that will make me feel like Britney Spears. Just get me gigs and I’ll do them and I’ll record whenever you want and I will shave my head if it gets too much for me.”
Are there any plans to work on another EP?
“This EP was originally 14 tracks and I have 5 or 6 others written too so if I can make them sound like an album rather than 11 songs I will definitely do another. Writing music is my favourite thing. I like about five people so if they aren’t around I stay inside and I write and I record so there is always material. Always Always. As long as it’s cohesive I will make another CD when I’m bored of the songs from Hibernation.”
How long did it take you to make “Hibernation”?
“I had to take three weeks off from my work because my head broke a little bit so I used those three weeks to write and record a CD. I hadn’t been able to relax for months because I knew I had to record something but I had huge writers block. It was just a nagging in the back of my head that stopped me watching television or having any downtime because I should have a pen or a guitar in my hands but in those three weeks everything lifted a little bit and I started having ideas. I wrote during the day and recorded at night. It was healing thinking “I’ve recorded two songs. Now three. Now four.” Just seeing things getting done. I quit that job and now I have even more time to work out how to play the songs to people. It’s hard to get people to listen to your music unless you’re holding them hostage in front of you which is what I plan to do at gigs. Get on your knees, put your hands on your head, this song’s called Learning To Whistle.”
“I didn’t have nothin’ going for me… school, home… until I found something I loved, which was music, and that changed everything”-Eminem.