I first heard Alt-Ctrl-Sleep in the film adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story The Midnight Meat Train. Their dream pop song ‘A Song for April’ was playing during a vicious scene where the film’s killer murders his first victim with a meat hammer. It goes without saying that pretty love songs together with horrific scenes of violence make a memorable cinematic experience, but this song was particularly effective. This soundtrack inclusion won them a contract with Lakeshore Records leading to appearances in other movies. Their sound can be described as dreamy, relaxing, ambient and also tender. I recently interviewed the Huntersville, North Carolina natives to find out more about their sound, their future plans, and the experience of being both a band and a married couple.
Louis: I heard the song ‘A Song for April’ in the film The Midnight Meat Train. I found it very romantic and beatle-esque. Could you tell me the history behind this composition?
Joe Diaco: This is a song about encouragement more than anything else. I’ve been performing music since I was 4 and April’s been playing guitar and drums for just a couple of years, so it was frustrating on both ends of the spectrum in terms of writing/playing/practice experience with each other musically and mentally. In my case, I had to learn a lot of patience. On April’s part was the inexperience with playing in a band. In the end, we both had to learn to work and encourage each other if we were going to get anything done with our music. It was a great challenge for both of us, and I think we accomplished and learned a lot from each other. ‘Song for April’ was the first song I uploaded onto MySpace and it was the song that got us recognized by Brian McNelis of Lakeshore Records. That is another crazy coincidental story all by itself.
Louis: People got to hear the band in three different feature films before your debut album even hit record store shelves. I understand your record company Lakeshore Records has a good relationship with the film industry. How do you feel about music reaching an audience using this medium?
Joe: Actually, we had 2 songs in Midnight Meat Train, ‘Song for April’ and ‘Catching Up to You’. The other 2 songs, ‘Silhouette’ from Henry Poole is Here and ‘You Alone’ from Feast of Love, were exclusive to the soundtracks and never appeared in the movies. We tried really hard to get ‘Silhouette’ in Henry Poole, but being pushed for time because the Sundance Film Festival was coming up, the director Mark Pellington decided to stick with his a-list musician, in this case we were up against Bob Dylan. There’s always going to be politics and other hoopla involved as well.
When we started, getting music in movies was our main goal. Some of our favorite movies have some of our favorite music. Take for instance The Truman Show. In a scene where Truman is sleeping, Philip Glass scored the perfect song. That’s what we want. We think there’s a cosmic connection that people feel between artist and audience when hearing a piece of music in a particular scene of a film. We’re still waiting on a movie that spotlights more of our music. We think it’s the best way to reach out to people, especially for our style of music.
Louis: Not only does your band have only two members, but also you are married. Can you elaborate on this experience both creatively and personally?
April Diaco: Creatively, most of the music is written revolving around what’s going on with our personal lives. Most of the songs we write are all about our past, present, and future relationships. For instance, the song ‘Take Care’ is about one of our good friends who was going through a rough marriage. He’s no longer married, but he still loves and has some feelings for her. Things don’t always work out the way you want them to I guess. Most people think the songs we write are about us as a married couple, which is not really true. About 50% of the songs written are about Joe’s old girlfriend from High School, who was also his closest friend, until she moved away a couple of years before we got married.
Joe: I still think about her from time to time, and have no idea where she is. It’s not like you can one day just forget about your past. It’s always with you. You have to move on though, and realize that some things never would have worked out anyways, or else it can also be a burden that one can carry their whole life. Every relationship has its ups and downs, that’s just how it is. In 2008, we went through a lot in our personal life as a couple, which resulted in some dissonance but has also sparked new music ideas and resulted in some great creative work on our part. We worked really hard to keep things together with our marriage and the new album Earth Lens shows a significant amount of what we went through during those hard times. We stood by each other and that’s all that really matters. To end any relationship can show weakness. April and I are much stronger now because we helped each other get through those hard times.
Louis: Your music has a lot of influences that can be traced back to early shoegaze but are there other bands or sounds that help give Alt-Ctrl-Sleep its dreamy effect?
Joe: Everyone has their own music they like to listen to in certain situations like driving, flying, sleeping, or just some music to help on a good or bad day. I think that’s why a lot of people like bands like Pink Floyd, because there’s universal appeal in their music. We like to zone out to music and let it be our zen. We think that simple songs with
atmospheric textures and melody are something everyone can relate to and can be listened to on a more personal level.
For us, we never really understood the term “shoegaze”. We don’t really associate ourselves with it too much. However, we do like the “dream pop” title. It fits us like a drive up to the mountains of the Blue Ridge Parkway during spring at sundown while getting ready to go camping under the stars with no one around. As for bands that contribute to our sound, we can start by crediting songwriters and producers of 50’s oldies, some 60’s psych, then branching out to 70’s electronic pioneers, and then mixing that with college bands from the late 80’s and early 90’s. No one person/group/sound in particular.
Louis: What can we expect from the band in 2009?
Joe: We are planning to release our second album Earth Lens this year. It’s an album in 2 parts, like side A and B of a vinyl record. We also have some ideas for making two short films or music videos to go along with the album if all goes well.