Don’t sleep on latesleeper. Having only just turned 18, she surprised the drum and bass community earlier this year with the sheer grandiosity of She Grew Wings, premiered here on UKF and released for free on Skankandbass. The hypnotic synth work, slowed down, swung drum and bass groove and often incomprehensible sound design is a perfect emblem of latesleeper’s attention to detail and focus on both texture and emotion within electronic music.
Despite only launching the project last year and producing for just a few years prior, her music has quickly caught the attention of the likes of Noisia, IMANU and The Caracal Project. She is yet another addition to the expanding pool of new artists who are proving that age and experience does not always equate to musical talent.
It is clear with her latest release on DIVIDID that formula has been replaced with experimentation, with two rhythmically diverse, mind-bending pieces of the latesleeper puzzle. The release also features the aptly named Wake Up Slap, a collaboration with fellow Bristol-based young gun Gyrofield, a talent she has previously worked with under her previous awakelate alias.
We caught up with the enigmatic producer to discuss her rapid rise to popularity, the link between sleep and her vision as an all-round artist, as well as advice for producers new to the game.
Hey! How have you been?
This year has been great, I can’t lie.
Of course, it’s been an amazing year for you! Has it been strange launching the latesleeper project during the pandemic?
Yeah, I think so. I’ve been lacking that thing a lot of producers have had where they can play their song out and see how people feel about it. You’ve got to kind of second guess yourself when you don’t have that.
You’ve been going for a little bit longer than people might think, with the awakelate alias before this. Is that something you’ll continue or are you now focusing your attention on this darker side to your production?
I think I’m fully committed to latesleeper at this point. It’s nice to have something you can keep doing for fun, but in terms of keeping things serious I’m sticking with this.
It feels like you’re hovering around drum and bass, using it as a template but then exploring various tempos and emotions surrounding it. Why do you think drum and bass is this central point of interest for you?
My favourite thing is the tempo because it lets you explore so much rhythmically, I’m a really big fan of working off of rhythm. I’d also say that in general, a lot of it isn’t afraid to be darker than most other forms of electronic music, which is something I really resonate with. There’s a lot of art to be found in that.
I’ve noticed with a few bits of yours you’ve been slowing it down a little and producing around the 160bpm mark, something people might not expect nowadays in more straight-forward drum and bass.
Yeah, I just really like that range, there’s some kind of groove to it… I can’t explain it. Anything above around 172 feels a bit much to me sometimes. However, when I’m at anywhere between 160 to 170, I can find this range that I’m happy with.
I wanted to talk a bit more about your recent DIVIDID release as well. How did that come about?
IMANU found one of my songs on Soundcloud and then he heard a track of mine through a feedback stream on The Caracal Project and Skylark’s Patreon. It kind of just got picked up like that, and within the next few days I was told they wanted the tune.
Wow. The likes of Patreon and Discord definitely seem to be doing wonders for this new generation of producers. Are they something you’d recommend producers should get involved with?
I definitely recommend it. Admittedly, I didn’t have everything to learn through it, but you get to talk to these artists, you get feedback and everything else. I was kind of cocky. I was at the point where I thought ‘I think I’m good enough to get noticed’, so it’s something I really kept pushing.
I think you need that to a certain extent! How long have you been producing for?
I’d say about 3 to 4 years.
Impressive. You launched the latesleeper project with three self-released singles. Did you do everything on those yourself?
Yeah, so I did all the artwork for those as well as for the DIVIDID release. I usually do it myself because it’s just something I enjoy, and I think it best represents my music. With those first free downloads it was basically all me though. I let someone else master the first one because I was a bit unconfident, but after that I had a good reference point to go off, so I just picked it up completely by myself after that.
Is this attitude something you’re motivated by then?
Yeah definitely. I think no one really understands you like yourself. It’s always the best way to create art that is true to yourself.
Each release so far has had a different flavour, especially with the footwork influenced sounds of the DIVIDID release. How do you keep your production fresh each time?
I listen to a lot of music, a lot of different kinds as well. A lot of the time I’ll listen to a song and then an idea sticks in my head, and I can then build a track around that idea. I definitely don’t want people to expect a certain thing from me, I want to always leave some element of surprise.
Who are you feeling at the moment in music?
I’m a big fan of the wonky stuff like Flume, as well as Flying Lotus and all the Brainfeeder lot. It’s the kind of music you can listen to and every time you pick up something new that you didn’t hear before.
You’ve previously mentioned that you are writing an album of music that has come to you in dreams. How is this going?
It’s still got a long way to go, but I’m happy idealising the concept and what I want to explore with it. I’m not sure if it’s going to be an album or an EP, but I know it’s going to be a project of some kind. I’m just waiting to see if there’s more I can explore.
Sounds really exciting, and it ties into your name of course. What is behind the name latesleeper?
It can mean anything you want, but really, I just had huge troubles sleeping. The reason why I had lots of trouble sleeping is because I was always hit by inspiration around 11pm, and then I’ll be like ‘oh my god, I need to make a track’. That quickly becomes ‘oh, it’s three in the morning, I need to sleep now’. When I then try and go to sleep, I’m just constantly thinking of the track, to the point I can’t sleep and I have to go back and add to it. That happened a lot when I first started with my production.
When you say that you’re making music that comes to you in dreams, how does that work? Is it something you ‘hear’ in the dream, or more of a musical representation of the ideas from it?
When I try to remember a dream, I get flashes of images and I then try and build a track around that. I really like working off of visual stuff and making something that accompanies it. A lot of the time when I’m making tracks, I will also make some art at the same time, or some kind of concept for it. I’m just really big on the visual aspect of it all.
How important do you think it is for artists to brand their music well visually?
I think it depends. If you’re art and branding isn’t very good, but I hear the song I’ll be fine with it. However, if I hear a song and there’s bad art and branding then I’ll probably be a bit put off. That’s just usually how I am.
I wanted to ask how you and Gyrofield met as well. Both of you are a shining example of this new generation of talent coming through right now and your collaborations have been received really well.
We knew each other online for quite a while, since about 2017. We didn’t really talk much in the beginning, but just a few years later we got closer, started talking all the time and then started working on music from there.
Awesome, I hope to hear more of that! Is there anyone else you’re working with at the moment, or perhaps anyone you’d like to work with?
I’d say in terms of looking for people to work with, it’s definitely people I look up to, and also trust and know. I feel like that will be the best kind of collaborations, there’s a lot of ideas I want to share with these people. There is also more latesleeper and Gyrofield in the pipeline.
I saw someone post about wanting a Sleepnet and latesleeper collaboration. I mean… that’s just got to happen right?
That would be crazy haha, just for the name’s sake.
What new things do you want to explore still in drum and bass?
I think texture is really important. When it comes to making sounds, there’s a lot of focus on being clean and precise and having the best production. I’ve noticed there’s a lot more drum and bass songs coming out now that are more in the lo-fi direction which I think is great. As much as everyone loves a good clean mixdown, I feel like that can also be a detriment to some tracks because it can cut out character.
Definitely, I guess you still have to be at a certain level though.
Yeah, I think there definitely is a level to it, like with how loud your song is and how well mixed it is. However, most importantly to make a tune you just need a good idea.
Is there any advice you’d give to people starting out now?
I’d say focus on the music, and don’t be afraid of anything. I’ve known a lot of people in drum and bass who would make a song and then never touch it again. They’ll make a short 32-bar loop and then they’ll never touch it again because they find it too weird, and just want to make the next banger instead. I’d say don’t be afraid of that at all, because there’s always going to be a place for it and there’s always going to be someone who likes it. It’s great for the genre as well because it’s pushing the envelope forward and letting more ideas in. I know there is sometimes backlash from people in this scene, but I think that’s a good thing because it shows we’re making a mark.
Do you think this whole scenario is changing the shape of drum and bass?
I feel like a lot of people have been putting out some weirder stuff during the lockdown which I think is a good thing. I wouldn’t say it’s going to affect the main direction though. There are branches growing off of it with loads of different artists popping up, and the scene is just so complex. You can’t put everything in one lane.
What’s next for latesleeper?
I will be playing out, that’s one thing. There’s also a lot of music and releases coming, it’s going to be a big year. All I can really say is, don’t expect the same thing because I’m always going to want to surprise you.