Sleeper Agent's "Waves" Is About "Moving on from the Past"; Tony Smith Talks Evolution of the Band's Sound

Sleeper Agent has the media totally awake and paying attention with dilated pupils since their sound was a little scuzzier and more punk. It's gotten nods from Rolling Stone and Spin, being called out as "a band to watch" and "one of our favorite new bands" respectively.

Whether Sleeper Agent is pumping out quick-paced, punk-influenced songs on their older album Celabraison or opting for a deeper, more mature sound on their soon-to-be released About Last Night, these guys and gal have songs suitable for any mood. To get more insight on the evolution of their music and their upcoming show at Culture Room, we spoke with Tony Smith, one of the founders of the band, as well as guitarist and co-vocalist, with Alex Kandel.

We learned about the time Tony got stuck in an elevator, how getting punched in the face can inspire musically, and what Sleeper Agent really thinks about South Florida.

New Times: So in regard to espionage, a sleeper agent is someone who has infiltrated a target country and doesn't really communicate with anyone. Why this name for your band?

Tony: [laughs] There is no political agenda with the name. I got it from a TV show I saw in college called Battlestar Galatica. The enemies on the show are called "sleeper agents."

So rumor has it that your fast-paced sound is credited to when Justin Wilson, your drummer got punched by someone in a rival band. Is that still an inspiration for your music today?

It was time... at the time. Our music isn't as fast-paced anymore or as inspired by that incident. We've [Justin and him] been friends for years and we were supposed to be in my friend's band after that, but instead we started drinking and playing songs [laughs].

What song was first inspired by this incident?

"Chinese Water Torture."

You said "Be Brave," the album opener, is "an epic battle cruise of a song we can't wait to reveal in full." Can you elaborate on that please?

The hook is "I've been feeling so lonesome that I could cry/but I could be brave in your bed tonight." It's about a vulnerable moment when you're with someone else, unfortunately or fortunately. The bridge is a breakdown chant that's very seize the day-ish.

Lorena is a "folk late night confessional we know you're sure to love." What's your craziest late night confession?

Oh boy. Um... I, I don't know. I'm going to have to plead the fifth on this.

Hmmm. Well, do you have a crazy late night story instead?

Let me think... Oh! I was locked in an elevator for three hours one night in Texas. No, Alabama. I was having a great time, but the guy we were with was having a panic attack. We were just chain smoking waiting for the fire department. One pack between the three of us.

This album has a different feel from the last.

It's a little more reflective. It takes a moment to breathe. The last was very quick, songs were less than three minutes. These are longer, more epic and more mature. It's a natural progression from the last album.

Have you ever performed in Fort Lauderdale? And if not, are you excited?

It's my first time being there. Alex has been before. It's her favorite city in Florida. We've been to Miami before and that was very surreal. We rolled in at like 3 a.m. from Kentucky, and the bars were still open. It's strange. It was half young people and half retired and older people. Worlds collided, so to speak. The beach was even better: There were young people and then grandpa Italian men in Speedos. It was nuts.

The music video for "Waves" is shot in black and white and has a really interesting feel with lyrics. Why this concept?

"Waves" is about the end of the world. The video is trying to be crumbling, getting rid of dirt, cleaning yourself. Moving on from the past.

Rolling Stone described you guys as "Shaggy Kentucky kids whose songs are sweet, fizzy and combustible as a can of shook soda." How was that?

At the time it was very accurate. Um, we were wet behind the ears, had incredible shaggy hair and played less than two minute pop songs.

Matt Shultz of Cage the Elephant, one of your influences, said, "They are the best peodple on earth." That mustve been cool, huh?

We grew up with those guys. Our influences come from them as people rather than music. You would see them live, and take that feeling home with you. [to his band member] Shut up, man [laughs].

Some friendly banter?

Yea, he's making fun of my quote [laughs again].

Sleeper Agent opens for New Politics with Magic Man, 7 p.m., on Sunday, January 19, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Visit

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Natalya Jones