Matt Sweeney and Bonnie “Prince” Billy (Will Oldham) will join legendary stoner-rock band Sleep on Wednesday, April 20 at El Rey. Long-time collaborators Oldham and Sweeney, along with Emmett Kelly, will add an Americana/rock flair to an already rock-heavy night. The duo’s collaborations blur genres, and fans are left with a mesmerizing display of Americana, bluegrass and rock.
The Paper. spoke with the pair over the phone to discuss their most recent tour with Sleep and how they’ve evolved as artists over 20-plus years.
Oldham and Sweeney met during the latter half of the 1990s. Both had already established themselves as icons of the decade, with both artists releasing wildly successful albums. Oldham’s There Is No-One What Will Take Care of You, Viva Las Blues and I See Darkness were released to critical acclaim. Sweeney has been a mainstay in the rock circuit since the early nineties, first touring with his high-school band Skunk before producing for a multitude of bands and scores over the next three decades. Luckily for fans and music-lovers, the two icons joined forces and a highly prolific partnership ensued.
“We had kind of an easy communication and then we were both trying to somewhat make music for a living and so just spending time together, it made sense to align our energies more and more until the ultimate alignment came with this collaborative project,” Oldham said.
The two have been regulars on the road, all the while attracting a cult of followers. Oldhams’s bluegrass Appalachian background, influenced by his time growing up in Kentucky, pairs delectably with Sweeney’s rock-heavy sound. Sweeney noted that the two share a willingness to collab and grow as artists, which has been a key in the duo’s success on the road and their two-decade-long friendship. Their artistry is on full display in their most recent collaboration, Superwolves, which was released to critical acclaim and is a testament to their resilience and growth as musicians.
“I think that the stuff that we write together sort of reflects some sort of mutual understanding and each other’s abilities, and each other’s willingness to try to keep pushing and to stay curious about music,” Sweeney said. “It seems like we have a good musical dynamic that has been based in friendship and based in an intense interest in music.”
The pair also spoke about the rigors of any creative pursuit and how they have coped with self-doubt while pushing their respective sound genres and growing as artists.
“We don’t have any control over how people change, or skew or potentially even degrade the music experiencing process, we can just double down and be like, Well, you guys can continue to fuck your lives up. But we’re gonna continue to try to give you the best music we possibly can,” Oldham said.
That creative philosophy has been evident in both Oldham’s and Sweeney’s work. Both have continued to evolve and adapt as musicians while also defiantly remaining auteurs of their craft. Oldham’s lyricism remains timeless and accessible, while Sweeney offers a reliable rock flare to whatever they collaborate on.
For music and cannabis, the pair, along with Emmett Kelly and Sleep, is the perfect way to spend the first legal New Mexico 420. Doors open at 8pm at El Rey.