In late July, about 20 minutes before doors were to open for a big Irving Plaza show, Brooklyn psych-rock trio the Big Sleep were frantically trying to fix a guest list situation. Specifically, they didn’t have one. A few minutes later, the tune-up racket generated by the evening’s headliners—the gloomy U.K. gloom-rockers known as Editors—died down, and the three Big Sleepers looked at each other and exclaimed, almost in unison, “They’re done sound-checking; let’s go!” and bolted back upstairs. After they quickly set up their gear and ran through one sound-check song of their own, the doors opened and a rush of hormone-addled Editors fans poured in and lined the edge of the stage.
A precarious start for the Big Sleep’s biggest show to date. This three-piece—Sonya Balchandani (bass/keys), Danny Barria (guitar/keys), and Gabe Rhodes (drums)—often sounds like five or more onstage, where over the last few years they’ve slowly gotten some word of mouth going via a show melding the most infectious elements of heavy, long-winded psych with an onstage chemistry that’s almost too perfect.
In fact, it is: You see, Sonya and Danny have this Yo La Tengo thing going. They’re married. Gabe came a bit later via Craigslist, “which is crazy, considering how good he is,” Danny says. Their songs stretch out and meander around heavy rhythmic backdrops but never feel overindulged—as their Irving set finally began, neophyte onlookers looked confused, but most who initially stumble upon the Big Sleep are. Slowly but surely, though, heads started to thrash, as the trio took the best elements of postrock and un-bored them, quickening the tempo while remaining mysterious and cerebral. Much like postrock, though, lyrics are optional. “Some things you can say with words and some without,” Sonya explains. “The way we decide that about the song is very much based on intuition and not a reasoned approach.”
Based perhaps on intution, hometown label French Kiss took the Big Sleep bait and just released the band’s debut, Son of the Tiger, which manages to capture the amped-up, head-pounding distortion and hazy vocal arrangements that currently fill rooms like Irving Plaza. Happily, the Big Sleep are finally at the point where Danny’s nerves are comfortable with that. “Simply put, I no longer fear looking stupid in front of a crowd as long as everything is operating properly,” he says. He’s even all right when everything isn’t.
The Big Sleep play Mercury Lounge Thursday at 7:30 with the Comas, $10, mercuryloungenyc.com.