From a clearing in the wood comes the sound of an ethereal hymnal. With its heavenly composure, echoic harmonies, and gentle falsetto, a sweet melody whispers in your ear, “Everything will be alright.” It is this sensation that you seamlessly come by simply upon hearing the dreamy Australian indie output, Vancouver Sleep Clinic. The five-piece band came into inception three years ago by its driving creative force Tim Bettinson (TB), having since released their 2014 debut EP Winter, as well as several singles of colossal proportions due to their minimalistic, poignant lyrics, and expansive sound. In the three years since the Vancouver Sleep Clinic’s creation, Bettinson has been completing, polishing, and preparing for the band’s full-length debut, which will finally see the light in 2017. As much as the project sounds like a daydream, it is one that Bettinson puts his all into and, for him, a dream that holds no bounds outside of reality.
In what ways are you embarking on a new chapter for Vancouver Sleep Clinic?
TB — It’s a super exciting time for us, I think. We haven’t put out new music for a few years, so I think over the course of that time there has been a lot of time for me to grow as a songwriter and a producer and an artist. I think the new record is a lot more dynamic and it kind of draws on a lot more different influences and experiences that I’ve had over the last few years, so I think at times it feels like a new space for this project because of that gap where we haven’t played shows and I’ve just been doing writing, so I think it’s really exciting to play shows again and be putting out new music. It’s kind of like a different year for this band, especially now as well because there are five of us playing live and there͛s a more of an experience attached to this project than there was before, I think. I think that just comes from the developing process and the time I’ve had between making music. I’m super psyched.
Why did you think now was the time to release what you’ve been working on over the past couple years?
TB — I mean, honestly, I would have had it out earlier if I could have. I wanted to be really particular and try to nail what I was trying to do with this new music. It͛s definitely been a long process. I haven’t stopped working on Vancouver Sleep Clinic at all since I started over three years ago, but I just wanted to make sure that everything was the way I wanted it to be, especially for a band’s first record. I wanted it to be perfect and to be totally happy with it and to not have any regrets about things that I could have done or things I could have done better. Right now, I’m just stoked that we took the time to get it right, but it’s definitely been a long wait.
I read that you wrote your last couple singles while on a trip in Asia and that you sort of found yourself and your place in the world on this experience. What is that place in the world that you found and was there a specific moment that you made this realization?
TB — There wasn’t a single thing, but I mean, I just went on a mission trip over to the Philippines and Cambodia and it really helped to get some perspective, especially because being in the music industry, you can become very self-obsessed almost and it’s easy to become selfish and to think about you and your band and your project and focus all of your time and energy on that, which I mean obviously you can respect, but [this trip] was kind of a period of two to three weeks where my eyes were opened to the bigger issues and the bigger picture. So, I think it’s really important to me and this record because it’s better to become something and it became a way of thinking like, “What if I could incorporate the things that I’m seeing in these countries and the problems of society that we have and the distance that we put ourselves from these peoples and countries? What if I could make scenes in the music touching on that?” So, I think it wasn’t a specific moment, but it was really powerful to have that experience and reflect on it and put what I felt into the songs.
So, you’ve said that “Killing Me To Love You” is a song that is really special to you. What is it like letting listeners into this personal space of yours through music?
TB — It’s really important to me because it’s kind of the way that I’ve always written. I’ve never tried to be too concealing or too hidden, I guess. All of my lyrics are directly what I feel and what I think and I think, to me, as a writer, that’s when I write my best when I just kind of let it all out. Songs like “Killing Me To Love You”, I don’t know, a lot of the time I’m not even really thinking about why I’m writing things. It’s more just like therapy for me and what I͛m thinking and a way to express that. It goes hand-in-hand for me. It doesn’t feel unnatural or forced a lot of the time, it’s just what I want to do. I just want to write music and be able put it out there and hope people can find something from that.
When did you first fall in love with electronic, atmospheric music and what experience do you get now when you’re creating it?
TB — Honestly, I used to listen to I would say now, pretty terrible music and I had really bad taste. I think some of my friends in high school turned me onto some cool, for me, they were all super indie bands because what I listened to was cheap pop and punk and stuff, but they turned me onto bands like Sigur Rós and Mogwai and a lot of instrumental bands, especially. I saw that there was different music out there that I hadn’t heard before and I just started to feel that, especially those bands and the way that they can connect to people, a lot of the time without lyrics or even lyrics you can’t understand. It just blew my mind. That was definitely the point where I was like, “Okay, this is something that can actually connect with people.” It went from there, I guess. I then delved into various influences. I was listening to R&B and electronic music and hip-hop and all that stuff. I think from that point I started to feel what everything was about and I started to put it all together into my own thing.
What sort of personal experience do you get when you are producing?
TB — It’s really fun. In a way— I’m a terrible cook, I wish I could cook better— but I guess it feels like if I was a good cook, it’s like that kind of thing. It’s just throwing stuff together and seeing something cool come out and enjoying what you make. That’s what is exciting to me— putting together these different layers and adding everything together and creating a piece. I think it’s kind of therapeutic and I love it. I wouldn’t say I’m a producer first, I’m definitely still trying to learn a lot from that, but I love it. It’s very fun.
Your lyrics are very minimalistic, but very powerful in the few words that you do express. How would you describe the beauty that can be found in minimalism?
TB — I mean, for me, from personal experience I find that I can evoke more from lyrics that are either just put out there and are relatable and accessible. That’s important to this project, for me. I don͛t want the lyrics to be too metaphorical or inaccessible to people. I mean that’s the way that I see. Ideally, this project is really about connecting with people and helping people through things and relating. I just really want to be able to relate to people because I feel like I come from quite a normal place in life and I want to be an open book and accessible in my lyrics. So, I think, for me, I just wanted to have that connection through simplifying the way that I write lyrics and people can take what they want from that easily.
Why do you think it’s important that music is this collective experience?
TB — I feel like music is something that we all do, especially in this generation— everyone really listens to music. It’s such a big part of everyone’s life. I think it’s crazy how what people listen to becomes sort of reflective of the person you are and the way that you do things. It’s this incredible, unspoken, awesome truth that music truly has a huge part of shaping our culture and our society. It’s really important to me and I just feel like it’s such a time to start some sort of movement, whether it ends up reaching ten people or ten thousand. It’s still important to me because I have the opportunity to change the way people thing and to be able to help progress society. I think this is the way that I can do that.
A lot of the lyrics on the Winter EP were about feeling lost. Do you feel more found now in the place that you are in personally and with this project?
TB — I mean, it’s still a crazy thing— how to ever be found when you’re making music. It’s sort of hectic all the time, but that EP I was writing in high school and obviously when you’re in high school everything is the end of the world. That was coming from seventeen-year-old me and just trying to work out what I was going to do with my life, but now this record is more about the first couple years out of high school and finding my feet in the music industry and what direction I wanted to go with this project and how I wanted to do it and who I wanted to represent myself as. So, I think it’s kind of a different context and it answers the question that I don’t think you can ever be found. We are all trying to work out better ways to represent ourselves, but definitely I’ve grown a lot and I’ve learned a lot from the industry and about myself. I’m excited to be continuing.
Where do you see the project going and what can fans expect going forward?
TB — Since I’ve started, I’ve had crazy goals for it. I really want it to be as big-scale as possible. I have a dream of having an orchestra on stage with me and crazy stuff like that. That’s just one thing, but I guess it’s kind of a big end game for me. I’ve always been big picture like that. Hopefully people stick around and we can get there one day and I think that’s all I’ve every wanted— to play with an orchestra. That would be sick.