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Sleeping With Sirens

Screaming indie emo-metal has a tendency to grate after listening to the plethora of similar combos from post-millennium times. The melody-driven SLEEPING WITH SIRENS create more than the usual gamut of pop influences, and one can see that the American youth of the day might be impressed by tenor leggiero Kellin Quinn’s energy and charm.
Formed 2009 in Orlando, Florida, it took time for the band to settle with their line-up, even frontman Kellin was not an original; that was down to founder Brian Calzini, subsequently leader of We Are Defiance. Other originals, Dave Aguliar (rhythm guitar), Paul Russell (bass) and Alex Kaladjian (drums), were cleared out when Kellin (also on keys), bassist Justin Hills and Gabe Barham were enlisted by lead guitarist Brandon McMaster and rhythm guitarist Nick Trombino.
With added vocal contributions by Aaron Marsh (on `Let Love Bleed Red’) and We Came As Romans’ Dave Stephens (on `Captain Tyin’ Knots Vs. Mr. Walkway (No Way)’), SWS’s Cameron Mizell-produced debut set, WITH EARS TO SEE AND EYES TO HEAR (2010) {*7}, was the chance for Kellin to shine. Titles such as `You Kill Me (In A Good Way)’ and `If I’m James Dean, You’re Audrey Hepburn’, were well executed and created quite a stir among their bulging following.
Now based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, McMaster and Trombino were surplus to requirements as respective shoe-fillers Jack Fowler and Jesse Lawson helped the rousing quintet blast out album number two for Rise Records: LET’S CHEERS TO THIS (2011) {*7}. Kellin’s growl-to-groovy vox style was almost schizoid, but at least half of his larynx-lubricated pleadings might appeal to a female audience wanting more than just their X-Factor fix. Probably going for a Grammy award rather than a grammar award, judging by the set’s celebratory, wine-in-the-sun sleeve artwork and title, Quinn and Co delivered their sugar-coated hardcore best on `Who Are You Now’, `Postcards And Polaroids’ and `Tally It Up: Settle And Score’.
Breaking new Top 20 chart ground, SWS’s acoustic EP/mini-CD, `If You Were A Movie, This Would Be Your Soundtrack’ (2012), positioned the group nicely before their big push for stardom; rising star Jessica Ess featured as a guest on `Don’t You Ever Forget About Me’.
Cameron Mizell was duly roped in to produce the band’s third album, FEEL (2013) {*7}, their best so far and a Top 3 entry to boot. Anthemic to the point of sing-a-long at a festival near you, SWS kept it simple but aggressive. Wearing his heart-on-his-sleeve, the soaring Quinn boy (the GEDDY LEE of emo) could strip gloss paint with his high-octave vox, while his now-limited gristle was more or less left in lieu; check out the duets: `Alone’ (with guest rapper Machine Gun Kelly), `I’ll Take You There’ (alongside Dayshell’s Shayley Bourget), `The Best There Ever Was’ (featuring Fronz) and `Congratulations’ (with Memphis May Fire’s Matty Mullins).
When Lawson left to help bring up his family, a substitute was found in pop-punk veteran Nick Martin, who’d played rhythm guitar (and unclean vocals!) for the likes of Underminded, Isle & Glaciers, Cinematic Sunrise and D.R.U.G.S. Taking leave from Rise Records to join Hollywood independent Epitaph, signs that SWS might get heavier were dashed with the slickly pop-centred fourth album, MADNESS (2015) {*5}. In the fitting words of the mighty FRANK ZAPPA: “the torture never stops”, kooky Quinn and Co directed their Top 20 emo-core to teenagers through the placid, paint-by-numbers pop of `Kick Me’, `Go Go Go’, `Gold’ et al. Enough said.
On the back of a concert set, LIVE AND UNPLUGGED (2016) {*6}, that included covers of GOO GOO DOLLS’ `Iris’ and SUBLIME’s `Santeria’, the mainstream-driven SLEEPING WITH SIRENS signed to Warner Bros for 2017’s GOSSIP {*5}. In only a matter of few years, their fickle fan base had almost abandoned their fist-pumping emo-pop anthems, making them only a Top 40 proposition; and only on their own home patch. The word on the street was `Legends’, `One Man Army’ and the title track had merit, but not among the “real” rock fraternity – looks like you’ve been “Busted” lads!
Worst still was the lowly No.92 slide into the chart oblivion of HOW IT FEELS TO BE LOST (2019) {*6}. Sumerian Records had the unenviably task of firing up this emo crossover of pummeling pop-punk. If boy-wonder Justin Bieber had turned his hand to “rawk”, the upsurge would be the twee Kellin Quinn, who was an ill-suited match to his hairy metal-headed backing band. Kellin’s painful picture-house screams would be lost on anyone over school-age, and no matter how many times he slipped in the odd “f” word into the mix (`Leave It All Behind’, `Never Enough’ and `Break Me Down’ okay in small doses), their days were certainly numbered.
© MC Strong/MCS Jun2013-Sep2019

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