Sleep, Jeff Bridges and Music: An Interview with Keefus Ciancia

5 min read

Last Modified 23 June 2021 First Added 17 February 2015

By Sam Turner

Many won’t be surprised that American musician, Keefus Ciancia (AKA Keefus Green), whose CV includes the soundtracks to films Walk The Line, The Hunger Games and TV series True Detective, jumped at the chance to work with Hollywood legend Jeff Bridges. However, many wouldn’t expect that the work in question would be an album dedicated to helping people sleep.

With the help of a rather bizarre Super Bowl Ad campaign (below), Sleeping Tapes has gained a lot of attention. The proceeds of the project, hosted by Squarespace, will go to the charity No Kid Hungry. It is a typically off-beat labour of love for Bridges and co. The Sleep Matters Club spoke to Bridges’ ‘dear friend’ Keefus about how the album was conceived, working with Jeff and his own tips on getting a good night’s rest.

How did you become involved in the Sleeping Tapes album?

Jeff left me a message one afternoon saying he had a very interesting idea to make a record, then he emailed me some of the ideas behind it… The Super Bowl aspect of it made it even stranger to me! I wrote him back saying I’m in, I love it, but after I sent the email, I thought…hmm….Is this a hoax?

How did you choose/research sounds that aid sleep?

Jeff and I just riffed on all the sounds in the world that might aid sleep. It’s kind of never ending!  Your ears definitely report the sensation to the body while searching through.

Have you always been interested in sleep?

I really do love sleep and realised in thinking about it musically, abstract, repetitive, one second pieces, 10 minute pieces, sonically anything goes, collaging with kind of endless possibilities in sleep. It was very inspiring to have your own private freedom, just like in dreams.

What was Jeff Bridges like to work with?

Really mind-blowing! Such deep artistry and imagination. The ability to transport you to any scene. On our first day of making field recordings, it was such a new experience to be around an improv-musician/actor who just went there every time. I’d see my engineer Bryce Gonzales looking around while Jeff spoke with imaginary people, and pointed at imaginary things. He’s into a ton of experimental music and has been for a long time. Actually, many of the recordings I’ve heard from him in the seventies I think were like Captain Beefheart meets Ramblin Jack Elliot meets Mars. Also his ability to edit himself and have very big picture thoughts on concepts was maximum strength. He’s just a badass!! And an extremely hard worker.

Jeff has said in interviews that you worked some long hours while working on the album – was there ever a danger of you nodding off?!

Haha! Yes, especially on the back half of making it. There was very little time to make the record and we actually had to remove about 25 to 30 minutes of material of it to fit nice and warm on the vinyl.  There was definitely periodic nodding-off induced by the content. The thing about making the record is you would have to listen all the way through a song, or an entire side, to see actually how the flow was. Then fix a couple things and listen through all the way again. On our final fix and mix day, we worked 17 hours, and, on the last playback, Jeff went into a deep sleep nod-off on side B. I barely made it and Bryce Gonzales, our mixing genius, literally couldn’t see the meters and screen.

Tell us about the field recordings you used on the album – were they collected specifically for that purpose?

Yes. On the first day, we spent hours at a school with four of us spread out, recording as much as possible. Then headed to Jeff’s home, recording everything from his office including chimes, walking up stairs, walking outside, outdoor chimes, streams, rock skipping, day sounds, night sounds, on and on. So almost all of the record was recorded in true environments and used only for the record. I would take a lot of the sounds and re-manipulate them in my keyboard setup, tuning them down, up, filtering, reversing – which then became a beautiful or ugly new sound for our arsenal.

Have you got any tips for people who struggle to find sleep?

I need some sort of white noise in the background, either a classic film – preferably a Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, or James Mason – playing very quietly in the background. Works every time! If I don’t have that, it has to be a fan or something repetitive. I’ve also counted backwards very slowly from 1,000 on the more restless nights, sometime twice, but usually knock out before the second round. Not sure why, but putting pressure on my toes, on top of the nails to the bottom of my toe really relaxes me. I usually use the mattress end with the bed board if it has strong enough pressure. You can also use heavy duty clothes pegs. This also seems to work for headaches. Recently, I’ve been having sporadic sleep, so I tried Melatonin herbs….they worked really, really well.

Full of weird and wonderful ambient sounds as well as ‘The Dude’s’ dulcet tones, The Sleep Tapes are a fantastic aid to getting your 40 winks.

Interested in reading more about sounds that help you sleep?

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