Tampa sextet Sleepy Vikings blend boy-girl harmonies, jangly serpentine Southern roots guitar, and dreamy-droning shoegazer shimmer into a warm, haunting sound. It’s like R.E.M. held captive in the Black Angels’ basement.
Sleepy Vikings formed from the ashes of Giddy Up Helicopter, who built a decent following in Florida. Giddy Up had just released their second album when one of the guitarists moved to Chicago, so the band broke up. Their final two shows were the CD release and a gig opening for Deerhunter a week later.
“We would kind of just get drunk and play really loud. Half the time we didn’t even know what the other person was playing. Just turn it up and add more delay. Those were our two rules,” recalls singer/guitarist Julian Connor of his Giddy Up days. “I wish it’d lasted a little longer.”
Things changed as Connor and the remaining Giddy Up Helicopter members recruited his girlfriend, guitarist Tessa McKenna, as their lead singer. “Tessa wanted to try out for the band, and I was like, ‘Hell no,'” Connor mock-groans. “But she’s really good and everyone was like, ‘Wow you can sing. You’re fantastic.'”
The current lineup’s gothic, neo-psych received its first widespread airing with They Will Find You There, a nine-track album they released last May. The disc is a keenly textured but propulsive set that ranges from the anxiously swirling, delicate beauty of their ode to Twin Peaks, the aptly titled “Twin Peaks,” to the loping rustic ’60s pop of “Flashlight Tag” and the churning ringing rumble that they call “Calm.”
McKenna’s strong, svelte, and sultry alto is mesmerizing, reminiscent of Kristin Hersh in her Throwing Muses days, or Carol van Dijk from Bettie Serveert.
Sleepy Vikings have done some writing since the album’s release last May, returning to the studio to cut a couple tracks last month. Connor expects they’ll do a 7″ or maybe save the songs for an EP or their next album.
“With They Will Find You There we tried to be more dynamic, and go a little more raw and more old-school, like ’90s revival bands like Yuck,” Connor says. “All that fuzz, but not over-produced. We’re trying to keep the Southern thing but look back to the ’60s and ’90s for a little more inspiration.”
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