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Adding girl singer made Sleeper Agent a success

By Jack Hill

This article was published January 9, 2014 at 2:48 a.m.

sleeper-agent

Sleeper Agent

The career of alternative rock band Sleeper Agent awakened when a teenager joined the band, taking over the lead singer job and bringing a female perspective.

The Bowling Green, Ky., group began in 2008 as a duo featuring guitarist and singer Tony Smith and drummer Justin Wilson. The two men, both fans of Rush, had met while working at a movie theater. Their luck changed when they convinced a 16-year-old girl to make the duet a trio.

“I don’t think I let myself think it was really possible to be happening,” says singer Alex Kandel, who marked her 21st birthday in October. “From an early age, I knew I wanted to be doing this, but I just never admitted that it was something that could really take place.”

Kandel’s story resembles one of the old-time movie starlet tales - she was working as a barista when Smith and Wilson heard her singing Adele covers on open mike nights. They heard her again when she sang in a band that opened for them. She then lobbied hard to join them in what she could see was a promising act.

“I had been taken by my mother when I was 13 to a Fiona Apple concert,” Kandel says, “and when I was 16, I found my old journal where I had written ‘I wish I could do what she was doing.’ I had intended to go to college, but now there’s so much more on my plate.”

As for her inspiration, Kandel says she fell in love with Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes after reading her autobiography, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts and Madness.

“I have ‘Be My Baby’ for my sound check pretty much every night,” she says.

Smith and Wilson have added another three musicians: bassist Lee Williams,lead guitarist Josh Martin and keyboardist Scott Gardner. With a six-person lineup intact, the band began a nine-month odyssey from unknowns to a 2011 debut album, Celabrasion, which earned a notice from Rolling Stone magazine as a “band to watch.”

Smith writes the band’s songs, and aims to do so from a female perspective, to more authentically fit Kandel’s snarling vocals about growing up (“Get It Daddy”), commitment (“Love Blood”) and how love sucks (“Get Burned”).

Sleeper Agent (the name came from science fiction fan Smith’s affection for Battlestar Gallactica) has toured with hometown friends Cage the Elephant, along with Ben Kweller, Weezer and Fun., and the band has been part of the lineups for prominent festivals Coachella in Indio,Calif., The Hangout in Gulf Shores, Ala., The Forecastle in Louisville, Ky., and Starry Nights in their Bowling Green hometown.

The band’s second album is scheduled for release this year, but Kandel declines to reveal exactly when, or even the name of it, explaining that details will eventually be revealed on social media. She does share that the song, “Waves,” will be the first single.

After the band’s Saturday night show in Little Rock (which Kandel says will be their third or fourth in central Arkansas), and another gig Sunday night in Oklahoma City, an “official” tour begins Tuesday (Jan. 14) in Houston, when two more bands - Politics and Magic Man - come on board for a 29-city tour that will keep them occupied through Feb. 19.

Sleeper Agent

8:30 p.m. Saturday, Revolution Room, 300 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock Admission: $10 advance;

$12 day of show (501) 823-0090 revroom.com

Weekend, Pages 33 on 01/09/2014

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