Nightmare before Christmas 

SleeperHorse brings comfort and joy down from Denver

click to enlarge Horse d'oeuvre: One of the hardest working outfits in Denver. No, really.
  • Horse d'oeuvre: One of the hardest working outfits in Denver. No, really.

SleeperHorse hasn't exactly been prolific in the studio so far, the band's released just one split single, with Cleveland punk drunks Echoes of Harpers Ferry. But the two-year-old Denver foursome has definitely earned a reputation for incendiary live shows. Westword called SleeperHorse one of the "hardest working outfits in town," proclaiming its shows "a joy to experience," while Denver Post critic Ricardo Baca says their music reminds him of "'80s punk in a really beautiful way."

And it's true: For those who remember "college rock" stalwarts like the Replacements and the Service, SleeperHorse's music should come as a welcome shot in the arm.

But Josh Friedman, who shares vocal and guitar duties with former Blackout Pact frontman Mike Herrera, cites a whole different set of influences. Among the less expected is Thin Lizzy, whose 1976 arena-rock anthem "Jailbreak" was covered by the band and is available as a download with purchase of the aforementioned single.

"Thin Lizzy are totally badass, and we could never sound like them," he says. "Of course, Hot Water Music, I feel, is kind of like the template for everything we do. But we've taken that basic template and added things which are a bit more jangly indie rock, like Built to Spill and Modest Mouse."

Friedman credits the jangly influence to Herrera (who's also an alleged Tom Waits fan), whereas he himself is more into Q and Not U, the D.C. Dischord band that dared to use synthesizers, as well as "dancier stuff like Moving Units and Bloc Party."

After promising Internet fans a full album by year's end, the band is now looking to release its full-length debut, Indulge, in early 2009.

"If there's anything consistent about this band," Friedman says, "it's that we're always going to be late."

Although Friedman professes love for his day job at Denver's Suburban Home Records (as well as for his boss, label founder Virgil Dickerson), the group is looking elsewhere when it comes to releasing the album.

"We're talking to a couple different people," he says. "But I can tell you that we won't be on Suburban Home, because Virgil is a mean old man and he doesn't like our music."

Somewhat more seriously (we presume), Friedman points out that the label he hopes to continue working for has "taken more of a country turn" in the last few years, though he suspects Dickerson will still distribute the album, as he did the split single.

Friedman's not the only, um, industry insider in SleeperHorse. Bassist Matt Clark manages Sputnik, the bar adjacent to Denver's hi-dive. With that kind of pull, it's only a matter of time before SleeperHorse makes it big.

"Actually, that's the only reason we get any gigs or press at all," says Friedman with a laugh. "It's not because our band is any good. It's more like, 'Well, we can't piss these guys off, so we'll put 'em on or we'll never work in this town again.' We can ruin you."

That said, only one truly important question remains. Has anyone in SleeperHorse actually slept with a horse?

"No, not yet," says Friedman, before stopping to reflect. "Although Mike, I'm not sure about."



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