Charlotte psych-rockers Ancient Cities back with new summer track “Heavy Sleeper”

 By Delaney Clifford

June 7, 2019

The sweltering heat is back, and artists all over the world are gearing up to drop their latest and greatest. Charlotte’s tenured local heroes Ancient Cities kick things off a little early with their newest single titled “Heavy Sleeper.” The song immediately gets you ready for all of your summer adventures, featuring a bold mix of anthemic guitar-rock with a sultry electronic melody of keys dancing in the background. Vocalist Stephen Warwick croons abstracted daydreamy lyrics, furthering the hypnotic effect of the latest work.

This is the band’s first release since their sophomore LP Supermoon Blackout in 2016, and in their time away, the group seems to have taken a step into a more firmly-rooted side of psychedelic Americana. Pulling away from their previously more folk-inspired sound in turn for a bolder rock style. Part of this shift is due to the group working with Drew Vandenburg (Toro y Moi, of Montreal), who mixed the record after it was completed in keyboardist Justin Faircloth’s home studio.

L to R: Justin Faircloth, Stephen Warwick,  Justin Fedor, and Pat Bowden. Photo credit: Jim McGuire

This isn’t the first time that Drew Vandenburg has teamed up with a notable Charlotte group, having worked with Shadowgraphs on their debut LP Venomous Blossoms. According to Stephen Warwick, it was the recommendation of friends in Shadowgraphs (Bryan Olson and Wil Glade) that Ancient Cities sought out Vandenburg.

Warwick also shared with us a little about how this single and subsequent record came together. “It was a slow process in the beginning as we were figuring out how to use this old 8 track reel-to-reel tape machine called an Ampex MM1200 that Faircloth recently acquired. It’s that same type of machine the Jackson 5 recorded on in the 70s,” said Warwick.            

That drum sound provided by the Ampex contributes a great deal to the stylistic shift that Ancient Cities has undergone. As Warwick recalls, groups like The Jackson 5 and plenty others worked with the MM1200 as an industry standard. Using similar antiquated tech seems like a near love letter to that ‘70s era of pop and rock the group is channeling in this single.

“Heavy Sleeper” collage art by Stephen Warwick

Expounding on how the single may come to reflect more new material, Warwick shared some of his personal processes on writing. “On the new album we experimented more with synthesizers, and as far as songwriting, I really tried not to limit the types of songs I was writing.

From the sound of “Heavy Sleeper,” we can expect a record that explores more classically celebrated elements of the genre while still retaining that chic weirdness that has come to define Ancient Cities. Regardless of whether or not this single is indicative of how the whole record will sound, this is a fitting track to crash back onto the scene with, launching the group straight into what’s bound to be an eventful summer for Charlotte. Keep your eyes out for some updates, including a music video for the single coming later this month as well as a slew of tour dates, local shows, and more fun in the works for the rock outfit.

Listen to the new single “Heavy Sleeper” by Ancient Cities. Follow their progress on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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