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Eternal Sleep: "New Bands Need to Redefine What Success Means"

What does 'making it' mean for bands? And is it still possible in today's industry? Travis Bennington from Pittsburgh's Eternal Sleep talks about how the band approaches success, and how they got to open for some big names.

Eternal Sleep Band

Travis, what's the history of Eternal Sleep, how long have you guys been playing?

We've been touring since 2012-2013. I was playing bass in a few other bands and writing material that I wanted to use with Eternal Sleep.

Over time, Eternal Sleep has become the main focus for all of us and we just went all in, writing, recording and touring.

How would you describe the essence of what makes Eternal Sleep?

I think that the essence of what makes Eternal Sleep is Punk Rock. We have the attitude of “punks”, but our goal is to “rock” you.

Success is the idea of creating work that people can appreciate and respect.

What does success mean to you? 

For me one of our biggest successes has been recording our LP, The Emptiness Of....

That was a huge endeavor for me as the primary song writer, but it also challenged every member of the band to perform and create. Completing that record also allowed us to continue to tour and connect with broader audiences. It helped to change the scope of how we, as well as our audience, perceived our band.

That being said, something that we've always considered success is the idea of leaving a body of work that people can appreciate and respect. We never had this idea that we wanted to be a flash in the pan type success story. Instead, we wanted to build and leave a legacy so to speak.

It’s that idea that drives us to pursue different tours, to write outside of what people may expect from us, to always be pushing our limits as a band.

To support bigger tours, it’s important to grind it out, cut your teeth, know how to tour and how to carry yourself on the road.

You have opened for some pretty big names, like Every Time I Die, Pig Destroyer or Cattle Decapitation; what does it take to get gigs like that?

The Emptiness Of... is Eternal Sleep's latest album

As far as touring goes, we’ve been very fortunate. We were grinding it out for a couple of years before we got a chance to support a tour that was playing actual clubs to bigger audiences.

That chance came thanks to our friends in Code Orange. When they released the I Am King record they asked us to be the support on that tour and it was the first time a lot of people saw us or heard of us. From there, it just seemed to keep rolling. 

I think that for bands trying to be on the road and to support bigger tours, it’s important to grind it out, cut your teeth, know how to tour and how to carry yourself on the road. Then, say yes to things that seem intimidating.

Go out and take risks, but be smart in the same sense: don’t say yes to everything. If something really feels wrong, don’t force it.

They say that gear doesn't make the artist; do you agree?

I think every great artist starts with their soul, then their brain, then their hands. When you listen to Jimmy Page or Tony Iommi, you know it’s them because of how they play and how they write.

At the same time, I think that gear is an integral part of an artists’ identity. When you hear David Gilmour, if you didn’t hear that lush chorus it would feel weird to your ears. If you were listening to Robin Trower and didn’t hear the Dejavibe, it would sound weird.

But like I said: soul, brain and hands. Having enough sense to highlight those things with the right gear is also a crucial part.

You use both KHDK's Abyss and the No.1 Overdrive; how did these pedals earn their spot in your pedalboard?

Like any working band, we’re forever stoking the fires of the quest for great tone. We’ve tried a lot of great products and KHDK provided us with some of the best by far. 

With the Abyss, the ability to control wet/dry signals is such a crucial function for any bass player, but in metal music it's even more so. Being able to find that tear-your-face-off bite or over saturated fuzz of the wet signal, while keeping the knock-you-down air moving power of the dry signal all within one box is truly game changing.

The No.1 Overdrive has added a physical element to my tone.

The versatility of the No. 1 OD has proven to be as incredible and necessary. Using it in front of high gain amp, while rolling back the gain control and pushing the front of the amp with the secondary gain control fixed to the bass control really fattens up the my tone - without losing the jump out of higher strings, pinches or any number of the noodlely type things I play.

I have really found that the No. 1 in this way has added a physical element to my tone. I feel every palm mute like a baseball bat to the chest now instead of just hearing waves of compressed overdrive from things like a tube screamer or a rat.

Eternal Sleep Pedalboard

In today's music industry, bands are finding it harder than ever to "make it". What's your take on that?

I think that the idea of what “making it” is needs to change. So many new artists are still looking to sell out arenas and sell platinum records, but I think that the days of new rock acts doing that are over for the most part.

Eternal Sleep Live

Most of the bands selling out arenas predate the current age of music. That’s not to say that bands can’t achieve that, it’s just much harder than ever. With the innovations in streaming music, downloadable music, the internet and social media marketing, the music industry has become over saturated with millions of bands.

This is neither good nor bad: it's simply the reality. The playing field is more level and touring, recording and marketing is available to everyone. Some people look at this as an obstacle, but it’s important to remember that every obstacle can be used as a tool.

You can make a living playing 500-800 seat venues.

Take our band. Sure, something like Spotify may take away from record sales, but it's essentially free marketing for a new artist. Say a band like Eternal Sleep is on tour with a much larger band and that band’s audience has never heard of Eternal Sleep. Those people will probably go to Spotify and stream our record rather than buy it, but in turn, they come to the shows knowing our music, maybe being more open to our performance and hopefully leaving as a fan.

So bands need to adjust their expectations?

Having realistic expectations is important. Most bands won’t ever reach the arena rock level but that’s not to say you can’t still be successful.

I think a lot of bands are now striving to play 500-800 capacity rooms every night while on tour. That is a real and attainable way of making a living performing live.

So if musicians have a more realistic idea of what success is, then “making it” is not impossible, as long as they're willing to work hard, be creative, and utilize the tools around them.

Check out Eternal Sleep on Bandcamp or follow them on Facebook.