Kyrbir: Experimental soundscaper
Most of the Sleeping Bag tracks were recorded in London over seven years ago, when Kyrbir used to live near a parklike area in southeast London called Black Heath, which he describes as a “semi-wild lawn that is vaguely maintained, not super-manicured, with pathways going across it, over a plateau that overlooks London.” Vast numbers of bubonic plague victims were buried in Black Heath, and a peasant revolt army were defeated after camping out there. Elizabeth I was born in Greenwich, just down the hill, and it was Henry the VIII’s birthplace as well.
“I used to take this particular Sleeping Bag track and listen to it while walking over Black Heath’s big expanse of lawn with no light, with grey clouds rolling over it; like a Tim Burton movie,” says Kyrbir.
Black Heath is a place of mystery, death and magic; it’s easy to see how Sleeping Bag got its roots there. Sleeping Bag is layered in a way that mirrors the history and atmosphere of the park; full of introspection, experimentalism, electronic sounds, darkness. It’s a sharp contrast to Kyrbir’s “limelight” band, Purr Bats.
“Purr Bats has more humor, more poppy, goofy, shake-your-ass, la-la-la poppy appeal,” explains Kyrbir. “I can go bonkers on stage. Sleeping Bag is more melancholy, maybe more whiny, more wrap-myself-in-a-trenchcoat-and-drape-myself-over-a-headstone.”
The dichotomy isn’t too surprising for those who knows Kyrbir used to be a self-proclaimed goth.
“It wasn’t goth-by-numbers, though,” says Kyrbir. “It was a warped Utah redneck version of goth, not the kind of goth you could buy from a catalogue. And it was more fun because we had to make it up. We couldn’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Kyrbir cites the 4AD label, This Mortal Coil and Massive Attack as influences on Sleeping Bag, but adds, “Not that Sleeping Bag is trip-hoppy. Sleeping Bag started out with more of a mellow, Red House Painters sort of vibe and evolved into something more lap-top and electric. It really was influenced by the people who have contributed to the project.”
Kyrbir recorded Sleeping Bag in London, too, between 1997-2003, with a couple friends, one of them named Amir from Jerusalem, who lived in the Jewish orthodox section of the city. “I would get a lot of strange looks,” says Kyrbir, “A Gentile walking through that area.”
Sleeping Bag still keeps that collaborative approach to music; there is no set lineup, opening the sound up even more to evolution and surprise. Kyrbir’s goal now is keep running his uber-underground label, State of Deseret (“The kind of label you still have to send concealed cash in an envelope to, and which you can’t find on the Internet,” says Kyrbir. “Small runs for the really geeky sort of person”), which has put out Puri-Do, Hoooo and other Utah County goodies. He also wants to put more time into Sleeping Bag and put out the project’s first full-length album soon. There are no plans to go on a world tour, though. “I would make a piss-poor pop star,” says Kyrbir. “A little bit of attention is nice, but too much is unnerving."
Kyrbir loves the music his label has catalogued; he loves Utah, the weird tension. “It’s a magical place,” says Kyrbir. He dreams of making a car full of plants with a wide-open hood-mouth, that would suck in the dirty Utah air and convert it to oxygen as it goes through the plant guts, like a shark opening its mouth to eat plankton. “Not that you could build it or that it could work,” he says. When asked how old he was when he thought of the idea, he says, “Yesterday.”
The time zones of the world start in Greenwich, right next to Black Heath. Every night in Greenwich, they beam a green laser along the longitude where the time zones begin. The green light shoots out across the darkness, giving off an eerie glow but some kind of strange comfort as well; a grounded feeling. It’s no surprise that Sleeping Bag’s music leeched that familiar but strange, anchor-but-freefall atmosphere from a place that is the source of all new beginnings. –Rebecca Vernon