Hailing from the Vermont city of Burlington, just South of the Canadian border, Couchsleepers is the musical project of Harrison Hsiang. Formed back in 2019, Harrison is joined in Couchsleepers by a rotating cast of former classmates and collaborators from his time at college. The result is the band’s upcoming debut album, Only When It’s Dark, which arrives into the world this week.
Harrison cites the influence of acts like Pinegrove and Broken Social Scene, and seems to tap into a similar vein of emotional and ambitious songwriting. Songs with vast arrangements that still feel intimate and enticing, as Harrison’s voice, with more than a touch of Dan Mangan about it, is accompanied by rich orchestral flourishes one moment and the easy warmth of AOR-influenced tones the next. It’s a testament to the quality of the songwriting that the record taps equally easily into the grandiose San Fermin-like pop of Sleepless and the easy going calm of All I Want, a track that would slide easily onto a Whitney record. A beautifully crafted debut of alt-pop perfection, Only When It’s Dark is a statement of intent from a band with the potential for great things.
FTR: For those who don’t know who are Couchsleepers?
Couchsleepers is a project we started earlier this year — or, I guess, last year, now — that’s sort of broadly under the umbrella of indie rock. We all met at Middlebury College a few years back and have been making music together ever since. It’s a bit of a revolving cast on stage these days… more of a sprawling collective pursuing a common vision than a band in the traditional sense and we’re all scattered across the country, but you can usually expect to see some combination of me [Harrison Wood Hsiang], Gloria Breck, Mike Nunziante, and Max Shashoua. We’re based out of Burlington VT, kind of. Within a 200-mile radius.
(Other members include: Liam Lundal, Brendan Ronan, Jacob Shashoua, Emily Shearman, and Thomas Wentworth, plus all the lovely people who have appeared on the record).
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
It was just this past August! We had a great show at Foam Brewers here in Burlington alongside some friends of ours, Chazzy Lake and Trackstar. Someone from Chazzy’s band had brought a bunch of little stick-on rhinestones so we were all decked out. Of course they went flying off my face once we were playing up on stage. Those guys are really great, by the way — Chazzy is down in New York these days and I think Adam [of Trackstar] is out in Portland. Check them out!
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Making music was the first love for a lot of us but I think really we’re all striving to be better storytellers at the end of the day, regardless of specific modality. I love to draw, for example, and I know Max is working on a pilot for a TV show right now. We all love to read and watch movies and write. But music does seem to be the perfect method of delivery for a feeling or an atmosphere; it’s emotionally salient in an immediate and powerful way that little else is. And of course everyone has a personal relationship with music, it’s either hardwired into us or piggybacking on something that is depending on who you ask. Still, we have plans to become a bit more of a multi-media experience in the future.
FTR: What can people expect from the Couchsleepers live show?
To have a great time! Hanging out and making music with your best friends on stage is one of the best feelings in the world. We love it. It’s a great opportunity to open up the songs and bring them together in such a way that they tell a bit of a longer story throughout the night. Mike (Nunziante) will take some amazing slide guitar solos and I’ll probably break a string. It’s such a privilege to travel around the country and share that experience with people.
FTR: What’s next for Couchsleepers?
We’ve got our debut record coming out on February 28 which we’re very excited about. Only When It’s Dark. “It’s only when it’s dark that I feel like I can talk to you like this.” It’s a collection of songs of too-late love songs I wrote a few years back. You’ve heard some of them already. They’re very special songs to me. And after that we’ll be hitting the road, touring around, and then on to the next thing! We have a lot of music waiting in the wings.
They Listen To…
1. Jasper Sloan Yip – Show Your Teeth
2. Pinegrove – Rings
3. Andy Shauf – You’re Out Waiting
4. Broken Social Scene – Lover’s Spit
5. Frank Ocean – Godspeed
Only When It’s Dark is out February 28th. Click HERE for more information on Couchsleepers.
Couchsleepers Only When It’s Dark Tour2.29 — Vassar College, Poughkeepsie NY3.6 — Light Club Lamp Shop, Burlington VT3.7 — Middlebury College, Middlebury VT3.10 — ONCE, Somerville MA3.11 — Cafe Nine, New Haven CT3.12 — Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, New York NY