Spend enough time left of the dial and you've probably heard tracks from Sleepy Kitty's sophomore LP Projection Room. DJs at KDHX (88.1 FM) have spun the disc so much that it sits at the number two slot on the station's CMJ Top 30 chart, sandwiched between fellow locals Middle Class Fashion and Pokey LaFarge. But fans will have to be content with catching Sleepy Kitty's noisy, melodic songs on the air, at least for a while -- the album's proposed August 23 release date has been pushed back to January 14. The release party, such as it is, will take place on Friday, August 23 at the Pageant, where the duo will be joined by the Blind Eyes, the Incurables and Shooting with Annie.
See Also: - Remembering Bob Reuter: St. Louis Speaks
Evan Sult, Sleepy Kitty's drummer and backing vocalist, explains the delay as a strategy to help maximize the album's potential, especially in other markets. "As the release date loomed, we got more anxious that we weren't doing everything we could to make the album have the impact we wanted it to have," said Sult, who plays alongside guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist Paige Brubeck. "We knew that and we had been trying to stay ahead of the curve, but it felt like we were losing control. I know Euclid [Records, Sleepy Kitty's label] was feeling the same way. We didn't want it to just fire out the chute and be done."
Working with a PR firm and engaging in different distribution channels accounts for part of the hold-up; in short, the band and label want to make sure the LP is in as many stores and on the radar of as many radio stations and publications as possible. "One of the reasons we're doing this is because the label is looking at options for distribution; if we wait to put this out, it might help with impact for the band but also for the label," said Sult. "It's meant to make all the work that goes into this thing not dissipate the moment we put this out."
This later release date also allows for a full CD and vinyl release; the vinyl copies were not going to be ready in time for the Pageant release show, and a mix-up at the pressing plant left Sult and Brubeck, who are graphic designers as well as musicians, unsatisfied with the feel of the CD packaging. To boot, the band will log some serious miles in the coming months. This approach allows Sleepy Kitty to build anticipation for a new album rather than hawk an existing product.
"We decided to slow it down and try and get a little more attention outside of town. We're booked for a bunch of touring in this region, and then we go to the East coast and through Denver then onto the West coast. If in October our album is already old news, it would be a waste," said Sult. "We decided to hold off on the release and tell people about it as an upcoming release."
Sleepy Kitty performing in an elevator. Video by Bill Streeter for Lo-Fi Cherokee.
And while Projection Room won't be available at the show, Sleepy Kitty is preparing a CD single for the event: album-closing "Hold Your Ground," a song poised to become the next 314 anthem, will be released alongside several b-sides and covers.
Sult realizes that it may seem odd to hometown crowds that they can't buy a record that is already in the hands of DJs and writers around town. "I hope people are cool with it in St. Louis," Sult explained. "If they're not, I hope they know that it's our personal version of a greater good we're working on. We're gonna release more material than we would have if we had just released the album."
Sult, who also serves as editor for monthly music magazine Eleven, spoke on the passing of Bob Reuter, who died this past Saturday.
Reuter wrote a column that paired his incomparable photography with his similarly unique storytelling. When reached by phone on Monday night, Sult began by recounting his introduction to Reuter, which also served as an introduction to much of St. Louis' musical culture.
"When we got to town, he was one of the first things I was aware of because his radio show freaked me out and turned me on -- this is what you want from radio," Sult recalled. "His pledge drives were one of the first things I caught, and I really thought that KDHX was gonna shut down because of the way he was acting."
"We became friends; I didn't think he would like Sleepy Kitty. The first time he saw us play, we played between Warm Jets USA and Maximum Effort, so we really amped it up. He wondered why our record didn't sound like that," said Sult. "We all ended up as friends. We were gonna make a book of his columns; we were gonna shoot photos with him this month, and play shows with him this month. It was an active friendship."
Sult was similarly impressed with Reuter's last band, Alley Ghost, which paired him with a group of players at least 30 years his junior. "One of the things I dug about Alley Ghost was that they were giving and taking from each other in equal measure. They arrived at this realization that this would be a really cool band."
"One of the things that hurts the most is that he wasn't just the grizzled old legend -- he was the unstoppable rocker," said Sult. "Watching the unstoppable rocker get stopped is tough."
As an editor tasked with redesigning Eleven into a kind of inside-out exploration of St. Louis music, written by those who perform it, Sult found in Reuter the perfect voice of experience.
"My feeling before was, this was the gem of the magazine. The one absolute thing I know about [the magazine] was that I am delivering one story and one photo by Bob. I was aware of that when it wasn't a posthumous awareness -- it was an active awareness," said Sult. "This is the stuff that makes this scene look and feel and become timeless. His 'Rocking Our Lives Away' columns were something I always had."
"Obviously you can't replace him. Now, honestly, I'm at a loss as to where to get that feeling. That certainty has stopped right now. I still can't picture the magazine without that rock of authenticity in the middle of it."
Like so many struggling in the wake of Reuter's sudden, shocking death, Sult takes solace in the work that a multi-pronged artist left behind. "You gotta be glad that he made so many things so you could see what he made, but he wanted you to see the city the way he saw it," said Sult. "He was the one who created St. Louis for me."
See Also: - Remembering Bob Reuter: St. Louis Speaks - R.I.P. Bob Reuter, St. Louis Music Legend: Man Who Fell Down Elevator Shaft Identified - The New Seven-Inch Sounds of Sleepy Kitty and Kentucky Knife Fight: Review - Evan Sult of Sleepy Kitty is the New Editor of Eleven Magazine