The guys in Sleep State used to be awkward, and they’re perfectly alright with that. After all, if it wasn’t for guitarist and vocalist Troy Ritchie’s social ineptitude in his earlier years, the indie pop trio may not have come together — and their new single definitely wouldn’t be the same.
“Our new single, ‘Awkward,’ is a really fun and upbeat song about my experience in high school with social anxiety and how I got over being the socially anxious person that I was,” Ritchie says. “I used to make a really big deal out of things that weren’t that bad, and I’ve learned to let a lot of it go. This has always been a song that’s close to my heart, and it’s also a reminder of what I used to be and how far I’ve come.”
Despite “Awkward” only being the band’s seventh released track, Sleep State has slowly evolved from a few OC dudes playing the music they wanted to hear into one of the internet’s favorite local bands. Between the solid streaming success of one of the band’s first singles, 2015’s “Tether,” and features on TV shows like MTV’s Teen Mom 2 and ABC’s Nashville, the young band found themselves growing at a rapid pace despite barely having a half-hour of original content to perform at their live shows.
“We’ve been lucky to be placed so well on TV, because we weren’t sure what was going to happen with that, so we just took it as it came,” Ritchie says. “Even though some of the stuff was a little hard to hear in the background, it’s been really cool to see. The streaming success also really surprised us because we weren’t sure how ‘Tether’ was going to face off on Spotify to lead the pack, and the rest of the songs have been really strong behind it.”
Part of the trio’s success is undoubtedly due to their ability to change gears from one song to the next. While “Tether” is a bit on the softer side (so much so that it was on Starbucks’ playlist for a while), tracks like “Make a Move” and “Awkward” carry a faster pace and varied lyrical content. As keyboardist — and Ritchie’s high school buddy — Michael Haua would confirm, the band’s primary lyricist likes to dabble in a wide variety of genres both as a fan and as an artist.
“I’m a very eclectic person, so I like to listen to everything and steal ideas from everybody,” Ritchie laughs. “I just kind of tinker a lot with synthesizer sounds on my computer and figure out what sounds good. A lot of times I’ll just start a song with a lyric or a melody or a chord progression that I like and just let it go from there. I never try to force a sound. I just write the song and then come up with different parts that fit the song.”
With their first track of 2018 having dropped earlier this week and a recent show at the Wayfarer in the rearview mirror, Ritchie, Haua, and drummer Parker Jackson — who joined the band after seeing the other two perform as a duo — are already planning their next big moves. If they continue along the path they’ve traveled over the last few years, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility for this to be the time when Sleep State becomes more of a household name. Regardless of what happens, the local guys are going to make sure their existing fans have a steady stream of new tunes coming their way before the year is up.
“We have another single coming out soon, and then we’re going to try to push out as much new material as possible,” Ritchie says. “Hopefully we’ll do some music videos, we’ll book some shows around Los Angeles and Orange County, and we’ll just get as much out as we possibly can. We’re hoping this is a good year for us.”