PLAYING THE BAY: Sleepover Balances Musical Influences on New Self-Titled EP

The self-titled debut EP from Bay Area band Sleepover starts with the kind of intro you would expect to hear on a Best of the ’50s compilation album. Take me with you, begs lead singer Pakayla Biehn on the cheekily-named “Lullabye,” the instrumentals slowly racking up in intensity before diving into a snarling pit of punky menace.

This is the general sentiment of the EP, which is a fun mix of ’90s grunge, ’70s rock songstress, and modern punk (with a little do-wop thrown in). The ’70s influence is felt most strongly on “No Place Like Home,” which makes a “California Dreamin’” reference within the first thirty seconds before slowly building to a killer chord progression that makes me feel like I should be at a tailgate party wearing corded bellbottoms, burning my nose in the sun.

EP closer “Let Me Go” sees me at an impasse — on one hand, it pours some ice water on unrelenting high intensity since the latter half of “Lullabye,” but on the other, the repetitive chorus is a little too much of a Jefferson Airplane throwback to end the EP as strongly as “Lullabye” opened it.

Would have died a hundred times/to trade her fate for mine, sings Biehn on “Let Me,” a evocative line with the kind of specificity I wish was embraced more throughout the song. Not that receptiveness is automatic anathema — it’s quite effective on “No Place,” especially in the second half, where Biehn’s vocal stylings are supported by yet another great riff, as well as the loopy, yellow-brick-road associations with the song title itself.

The dreamlike quality and soft/rough vocals of Biehn — who, incidentally, I think could make some serious magic with Thank You Come Again’s Izzie Clark — are quite effective and appealing overall, especially when she keeps her feet firmly on the ground, allowing her to go toe-to-toe with the EP’s crunchier moments. A great example of this is when she cries you can’t go back again on “No Place,” her voice ever so slightly distorted before the song moves to highlight the riff. Clearly, the band has good instincts when it comes to mixing together their variety of inspirations and influences — but I do think they are the most successful when one does not overpower the others.

The band — Biehn, Gabrielle Tigan on rhythm guitar, Lauren Diem on lead guitar, Cindy Yep on Bass, and Jack Douglas on drums — tagged themselves on Bandcamp as “dreamgrunge,” which might seem like a bit of an oxymoron. However, what is a dream other than distortion and discordance, two paramounts of grunge? Either way, Sleepover knows what they are about, even if there are a few kinks left to iron out.

Check out the band’s Instagram for updates.