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The Sleepy Jackson

The word diversity is tossed around so often in association with The Sleepy Jackson, you'd think they were involved with some Berkeley affirmative action organization. This is equal opportunity music, as the band pays homage to so many different styles of music on their debut album Lovers, it borders on schizophrenia. The Sleepy Jackson is loosely categorized under the pop umbrella, but such a simple description doesn't do the songwriting prowess of frontman Luke Steele much justice. Steele certainly knows his way around a hook and a melody, but pop is simply a baseline foundation. The band's musical canon also includes tripped-out psychedelia, New Wave punk, experimental electronica, and twangy alt-country with a dose of Americana. Not bad for one full-length from a band out of Australia.

All that equal opportunity apparently doesn't carry over in the slightest when it comes to band politics. Hell, even democracy is a stretch. This is Steele's project and he makes no bones about wanting that creative control. So the rest of the band is a carousel of supporting players, and Lovers was released as a product of the third completely new lineup in The Sleepy Jackson's brief history. Many former members have quit due to Steele's iron fist and, all told, the group has featured 30 musicians including Steele's brother and best friend.

Despite all the turmoil, Steele's talent has thus far trumped all else. Besides composing all the tunes, his slightly nasal voice takes the lead, and he plays a variety of instruments on the album, as well as on stage, where his dramatic persona is a definite show highlight. Steele was born in Perth, Australia, to a musical family (his father was a blues singer) and he has been writing music since a very young age. The Sleepy Jackson have already earned a ton of critical acclaim and awards in their native country, but the US is also starting to take notice. The album was released stateside in 2003 on famed marketing machine/label Astralwerks, and the debut was accompanied by a tour with choral collective The Polyphonic Spree. Lovers found itself on many year-end best-of lists, including those of Rolling Stone and The New York Times. The current tour is the band's first headlining gig and includes stops at both South by Southwest and Coachella, indie rock's most relevant annual festivals. Three tracks have been released as singles, including the album's opener and arguably best song, "Good Dancers".

Magnet Magazine recently featured Steele in its cover feature on music's most eccentric voices. He brings this inventive and quirky voice to all things Sleepy Jackson. The live show features some stage theatrics and Lovers is home to some truly bizarre moments, including a random tune sung slightly off key by a little girl and an uncomfortable goth spoken-word track laid down over a piano. On the opposite end of the spectrum are Steele's pop standbys: warm sweeping choruses, lots of ah ah ahs and la la las, and sweet female backing harmonies. The Sleepy's leader refuses to be pinned down by the whole genre thing, but he slides by on pure creativity anyway. Steele sums it up best himself with this quote on the band website: "It's going to get bigger, broader …and maybe a bit more screwed up." In this case, screwed up is synonymous with both interesting and fantastic.