The transition from working remotely to working in a central location can be a tough one. You have to completely change your schedule and your habits, plus factor in things like commute time and differing expectations. In addition, you have to get used to working alongside coworkers again and interacting with people on a more frequent basis (and not just talking to your pets). This can be a challenge in many industries, and the music industry is no exception. Since their early days spent at Berklee College of Music, Nate Flaks and Noah Longworth McGuire have spent most of their time as Sleeping Lion apart, working from across the country or even across the globe. Now the duo have both made their way to Los Angeles, and they’re poised to take over the town together.
For Sleeping Lion — who first started making music in 2015 — remote work is something they’re completely used to dealing with. “When we made our first record I was in New York and Noah was in Rome, so being remote is sort of built into our original work flow,” Flaks says. This was clearly not a detriment to the duo, as listening to their early singles like “Make You Better” and “Generous” still carry the exhilarating, kinetic production that exemplifies Sleeping Lion’s sound. In fact, both members say there were quite a few benefits to working apart from one another. Flaks says, “I think Noah and I have such set roles in how we do things that it’s often better when we are left to our own devices.” McGuire further explains that he would create demos and do production work on songs while Flaks wrote, creating a constant loop of new material shuttling between the two. Sleeping Lion also write for other artists frequently, and McGuire says with a laugh that a superficial benefit to the remote process was revealing a track for a client without them ever having seen the process, creating an almost mythical quality to the work.
While they were quite used to the distance and created a system that worked strongly for them, Flaks and McGuire both acknowledge the process wasn’t without its challenges. “I was always asking for things and trialling out an idea, and then I’d be out when [Noah] would send it so I’d have to listen to it in the morning and get back to him the next day. There was a lot of nuanced back and forth that was really difficult remote,” Flaks explains. As you can imagine, it’s also pretty hard to play live shows when you’re hours apart. Flaks would often fly cross country when McGuire still lived in Boston to play gigs, but this was not a sustainable solution.
Sleeping Lion were so used to working apart it took some adjustment when McGuire moved out to LA to join Flaks. Flaks reveals “Being remote is so built into our original work flow, I think we had to actually learn how to be in the same state more than we had to learn how to do the remote thing.” The two agree that one of the main benefits of working together is the ability to more quickly make some of the smaller, more nuanced changes to a song they’re working on. McGuire also say it’s been nice being able for the two to work on the same song at the same time, calling it a “cohesive time” to get a particular song where they want it to be.
Flaks and McGuire aren’t just excited to work with each other, though. LA is a huge playground for the duo, and they’re excited about all the new people they’ve met while on the West Coast. “I would say what’s different about LA from Boston is the sheer scope of collaboration,” Flaks expounds. He further explains that between Berklee and LA, Sleeping Lion has always been fortunate to be surrounded by other musicians and musical resources, and it’s a goal of theirs to not take these collaborative opportunities for granted. They’re thoroughly enjoying this collaboration. McGuire says with a grin “I feel like the first 20 minutes of any event that you go to is just going up to people and saying ‘where did I meet you last? where do I know you from?'” Meeting people of course leads to working with people, and Flaks says that usually comes naturally. “I got out and end up meeting a lot of people. By and large it really starts with friends, working with friends,” he says, while joking that he definitely talks a lot. As an example he cites seeing Cass Miller perform and meeting her after the show leading to her appearance on recent single “How We Know.”
Sleeping Lion are also huge fans of the people they meet and work with, and make it clear is helping people out as much as they can. Looking back at his past experiences, Flaks explains “I always found we did better when we all rose up together and really supported each other.” To this end, the duo always shout out the artists they work and play shows with on their Twitter account. They also maintain a Spotify playlist called “I Get By” (a reference to the classic Beatles song “With A Little Help From My Friends”) where they catalogue the music they enjoy from their contemporaries. Both Flaks and McGuire make it clear that a success that comes from isolating friends and using other artists as stepping stones is no success at all and holds no interest for them.
Now that they’re finally together in LA, Nate Flaks and Noah Longworth McGuire are focused on growth as Sleeping Lion. They want to grow as artists and writers, and they want to grow the community that has given so much to them and supported them throughout their journey. No matter what the future holds for Sleeping Lion, they’re not going to face it alone.