When the City of Surrey launched a band contest to “Play Surrey” at its two biggest summer festivals, the members of Sleepy Gonzales didn’t feel much hope of winning, early on.
“I remember looking at the view count of the videos and I thought there’d be no chance we’d win,” singer Allyson Lowry, 21, said with a shrug.
Soon enough, the “likes” started piling up on the contest’s Facebook page.
“I think we have a grassroots following, pretty dedicated, and people were just supportive of us, steadily, throughout the voting period,” added guitarist Cristian Hobson-Dimas, 22.
The Canada Day part of the contest was won by The Faceplants.
As winner of the Fusion Festival competition (over fellow finalists Ava Maria and Manila Grey), Sleepy Gonzales is given a prime-time slot on the Tim Hortons Maple Leaf Stage, at 7 p.m. this Saturday (July 21), along with a $200 honorarium and $100 Tim Hortons gift card.
”Don’t tell anybody,” drummer Beni Hobson-Dimas said with a smile, “but the real reason we entered the contest was because there was a $100 gift card for Tim Hortons. We got that, so it’s all good.
Split that four ways and it’s $25 each — “better than some of the gigs we’ve played, for sure,” he said as his bandmates laughed.
The Surrey-based rock quartet got serious about playing music just last fall, after scoring at gig at The Roxy nightclub in Vancouver.
All four members of the band are born, raised and have lived in Surrey their entire lives, with roots in the Fleetwood/Newton area.
Beni and Cristian are twin brothers who went to school with Lowry at Janice Churchill Elementary and, later, Enver Creek Secondary. As a trio, they played “anywhere that would have them” in 2016 and 2017, according to Lowry.
Last year, they welcomed Nick Moniz, 22, on bass and went to work rehearsing originals and covers for an increasing number of bar and festival gigs.
Before Moniz joined, the band “always had trouble filling a room with sound,” Cristian noted.
“It was different friends who’d just hop in for half a set or whatever,” explained Lowry.
“But then we got that Roxy gig and we had to play it with a bass player, someone who was committed,” Cristian continued. “Nick said that he’d do it and would practice every day, and he had so much trouble at first because he switched from guitar.”
It was a tough switch for Moniz, he said.
“It was pretty rough,” he admitted, “but I’m learning how to play bass as we go here. It’s all good.”
Cristian figures the band has become more “thrashy” with Moniz aboard, but the layered, shoegazer-like sounds are still evident.
“We started out very sad and kind of melodic,” he said.
“That’s where the (band) name actually came from.”
“We were very sleepy,” Beni said with a laugh, before continuing.
“I like to say that we were trying to think of a band name and I was at a Chinese restaurant and I got a fortune cookie that said, ‘You will name your band Sleepy Gonzales’ — unbelievable, really,” Beni said. “But Cristian and I are half-Mexican, on our mom’s side, and growing up we always had crazy hair, bed head, and my dad would always call us Sleepy Gonzales because of that, in the morning or afternoons, whatever.”
Added Cristian: “We’d sleep in a lot and that was just dad making bad dad jokes. It just kind of stuck for a band name.”
Their father, Blake, is essentially a “fifth member” of the band, everyone agrees.
“We have to give props do our dad, who always tells us not to just stand there and be boring,” Beni explained. “It’s not just about playing the song. He just so many good ideas about what we should do, like, song-wise, structurally, transition-wise, gear-wise.”
The twins recalled a time when they were playing video games at around age 10.
“He came into the room and said, ‘OK, which one of you wants to learn guitar?’” Beni remembered. “So Cristian wanted to learn guitar, and I didn’t want to do it. And then he said to me, ‘OK, you’re going into drum lessons,’ and that was that. He’s been behind the scenes like that, pushing things and helping.”
In the band’s basement rehearsal space, at Lowry’s family home, are posters and banners of rock-music icons.
“Around the room here, the Led Zeppelin, Kurt Cobain posters, all that stuff, is him, because he played all this cool music for us and got us into all that,” Cristian said.
This summer, the band has rehearsed almost every day, with gigs such as the recent Khatsahlano music festival and Commercial Drive Car-Free Day on the calendar in Vancouver.
“The big question when we leave the basement is, ‘Is the sun still out?’” said Cristian.
“There are some time restraints for us down here,” Lowry noted, “because the sound is really loud up there (on the main floor of the house), but my parents are OK with it and come to all of our shows, so they like it.”
Surrey’s two-day Fusion Festival, held at Holland Park on July 21-22, will also feature music by Walk Off The Earth, the Boom Booms, Brazilian capoeira performers Aché Brasil and environmentalist Ricky Kej in performance with the Surrey Orchestra. Complete details are posted at surreyfusionfestival.ca.