All the way back in 2019, then-SFR music writer Luke Henley wrote of local act The Blackout Pictures that, “while it seems like such a songwriting practice could be a nightmare if the chemistry were even slightly off, each member seems to have it dialed in.”
True enough, and in a relatively short time, the band put out three full-length records, became a mainstay on local stages and carved out a niche in Santa Fe’s post-hardcore scene, by which I mean they were just about the only people doing it. But this piece isn’t actually about The Blackout Pictures—they broke up last year. And, y’know, that might have been a tragedy if vocalist Lindsay Payton and drummer Jeff Jedlowski hadn’t picked up the pieces and formed iwatchyousleep, a complete banger of a band whose first release, a self-titled collection clocking in at seven songs, came out earlier this year.
Full disclosure? I’ve been putting off digging into iwatchyousleep despite the band reaching out around the time of release. My own middling band played with The Blackout Pictures a number of times and I’d formed emotional attachments to some of their songs. The fear, as it were, came from a feeling I couldn’t listen objectively enough, but this has proven to be a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still bump Blackout Pictures jams in the car, but iwatchyousleep feels both like an evolutionary leap and a more varied take on genres like emo, post-punk, metal, rock and more.
Intact is Payton’s ability to phase between clean vocals and brutal screams. In the best way I can say it, Payton’s imperfect delivery offers much of the charm on the album. Instead of over-production and/or auto-tune corner cutting, Payton’s sincerity just plain works on songs like “Real Quiet,” the sort of number that sounds like Rush turning evil. Payton follows those threads into the following track, “Hurt, Motherfucker,” wherein she describes herself as “mechanical as a windmill turning alone in a field.” Opener “Gone to the Storm” might be the most effective display of iwatchyousleep’s prowess, though, with its throwback Militia Group screamo vibe (anyone remember Blueprint Car Crash? No? Y’all should look ‘em up ASAP) and Iron Maiden-esque drum gallop courtesy of Jedlowski.
But what of the newcomers, bassist Jake Osborn and guitarist Auston Sceirine? Champions both. Osborn’s driving rhythm’s practically steer the ship, and he’s not afraid to drop out when necessary or to elicit Misfits-style punk rock flair—or to come out to the forefront with fuzzy excellence. Sceirine, meanwhile, phases between chords, riffs and chugs so seamlessly it’s almost hard to keep up on tracks like “Red At Dusk,” but the fun is in the attempt.
Once again, Decibel Foundry studio founder, producer and metal maniac Augustine Ortiz proves his knack for tunes that fall outside his usual metal purview. iwatchyousleep is, in fact, such a brilliant encapsulation of so many local music titans’ ability to mature that we can almost regard it like a time capsule. Try as you might, you won’t be able to assign it any single qualifier—the only thing to do is listen relentlessly and fall in love.
After the Fire
Fire ravaged the interior of the Alas de Agua Art Collective’s Southside space last month, and the damage was...not small. Though no one was hurt, the disaster came in the lead-up to a new group opening from the collective dubbed Tejiendo Art Show. That was obviously postponed, and the subsequent time has found members, friends and volunteers and trying to clean up and bring things back to normalcy, but even then, it’s only a start.
Alas de Agua officially kicked off in 2018 and has hosted everything from mural workshops, poetry readings and writing classes to solo and group art shows, plus more. It is, unequivocally, one of the more important groups of people working to better the lives of Southside residents and youth with a special emphasis on BIPOC and queer folks—though do note Alas is open to all, no matter from where they hail. Still, it needs support to keep going.
“We’re the only Brown-led organization in the arts on the Southside,” says-co founder Israel Francisco Haros Lopez. “[The fire] could have ended us, but it’s not—we still need help.”
If you’re interested in donating to Alas de Agua, including building costs and future programming, visit gofundme.com/alas-de-agua-southside-building-and-programming. As of this writing, the effort had reached a little more than $7,000 of a $40,000 goal, which would, Haros Lopez says, help for an entire year.