Sleepwalker’s Station, a truly international band, earlier this year released “Lorca,” an indie-folk album sung in five languages and four dialects. Together since 2001, the band has played more than 800 shows in Europe and America — including some major festivals — and the group is on its way to the States for a string of U.S. dates.
In advance of the band’s NYC shows at Piano’s upstairs (Nov. 20) and Rockwood Music Hall (No. 24) and a Sofar Sounds show sandwiched in between in Philadelphia, we chatted with singer-songwriter Daniel del Valle via email from Berlin.
How did the members of the band initially meet?
It all started out like most bands, some friends come together, play music and decide to start a band. In our case the band changed over time with me moving around Europe.
Suddenly we found ourselves being an Italian-German-Spanish Band with alternating band members from France, Canada, Finland and Austria.
Where are the individual band members from? Where do they live now?
We have a strong base in Ravenna, Italy (near Venice) where our percussionist, cello player, slide guitarist/singer live. Then there’s Munich where the double bass player, the sax/oboe player and myself are based, Barcelona where the fiddler and accordion player live and Rome — home to our trumpet player.
What are some of your common musical interests and influences?
We realized that we had all grown up with English/American music like Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, Nirvana, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young … but then we also have our local, national and regional music that influenced us a lot and which you can hear on our new album “Lorca” with songs in five languages and four dialects. Some of the artists you might know in the States as well are Yann Tiersen, Jacques Brel, Paco de Lucia, Jovanotti, Sigur Rós, Einstürzende Neubauten. .. but then there’s also traditional or particular music not necessarily linked to one artist like flamenco, brass music from the Alps, waltz from Vienna, French/Belgian chanson or Italian hip-hop.
What are the languages and dialects you use on the “Lorca” album?
Most of the songs on Lorca are in Castillian (Spanish), Italian, French, German and English. The dialects are Bavarian (German dialect from the South), Venetian (from Northern Italy), Andalusian (Southern Spain and also language of the Spanish Gypsies) and Catalan (Northern Spain).
What does “Lorca” mean?
The album is inspired by the Andalusian Poet Federico García Lorca — a poet from the 1920s/30s famous for his surrealist writing — he in a way is to writing what Dalí is to painting.
One of his works is called “Poet in New York” composed during his visit to Columbia University in New York in the years 1929/1930. During his stay the stock market crashed in October 1929 — so a very particular moment of changes, a bit like the times which we’re living right now with all the wars, refugees and migration (this is what our song “Wandering People” is about).
Lorca’s way of observing the changes of his time and describing the world around him through his eyes is what inspired us in songs like “Hacia Marte” and “Las Flores del Mal”.” Even if traveling remains the main topic — even on this album.
Tell me about the experience of recording the album. You did this in California?
It took us over two years to record “Lorca, “recording in various studios in Ravenna (Italy), Barcelona, Jerez de la Frontera (Spain), Munich, Berlin and Tucson, Arizona. Then we had it mastered by JJ Golden in California. When we’re in the studio to record an album it’s a bit like the tower of Babel — people communicate in all kinds of languages randomly and sometimes you find yourself talking in German to Spaniards or in French to Italians. It’s a bit confusing but the musicians and sound technicians seem to get used to it after a while.
It’s was very nice to see how the songs changed after recording tracks in different parts of the world and adding those tracks to the ones already recorded. You start out with a track which might sound rather folky in the beginning, and after the Gypsies adding some tracks it turns into a flamenco style song.
What was it like playing at Glastonbury? What year was that? Did you get to see any other acts perform?
We played there last year. There are no words to describe Glastonbury … it’s a festival without comparison, it’s a parallel world, vast but at the same time it feels like being invited for afternoon tea in the neighbour’s backyard. And every step you take you discover a new, unexpected world … like “Alice in Wonderland” but without the drugs.
The crowd is amazing! I’ve never seen a place packed with Brits (who are not being completely wasted) — everybody’s there for one thing: music.
And you want to hear as much as possible and absorb the vibes and the atmosphere, like watching Radiohead perform on the Pyramid Stage and humming the choir part of “Paranoid Android” along with thousands of people (I still get goosebumps when I watch the videos of the show!!), or Alt-J and George Ezra! I missed Ed Sheeran’s show because I had to absolutely go and see Ani DiFranco. It’s hard to imagine being among 200,000 people and still feel so incredibly relaxed.
Describe the type of shows you’ll be playing on your U.S. tour.
We’ll be playing all kinds of venues on this tour from house concerts, cafés, listening rooms to little theaters.
We’ll be on tour as a trio: Double bass, guitar/oud/voice/harmonica and trumpet. Repertoire-wise we’ll be playing songs from all albums with a slight focus on the newer material.