It seemed that for a while Vancouver Sleep Clinic was in something of a coma. Relatively quiet for two years, and nothing but a peep since the band’s internationally lauded debut EP Winter. But now it seems that Vancouver Sleep Clinic, spurred by 19 year old mastermind Tim Bettinson, has finally woke up.
What did he do in that time? Is Vancouver Sleep Clinic still the dreamy wonder folk we remember it as? How many sleep-related puns can I fit in the rest of this piece? Tim was kind enough to lend some time to explain all.
During his extended break, Tim spent most of his time writing the upcoming debut record. Tim felt such a time was definitely necessary to cement the creative foundations of Vancouver Sleep Clinic.
‘You only get to make a first album once, we wanted to make sure we did it as well as we could. And made sure we included all the things we wanted to include,’ Tim said.
‘It’s been a rush the last couple of years but it’s definitely necessary for it though.’
In addition to writing the record, Tim also decided to volunteer overseas to gain fresh perspectives.
‘I had been writing for a while and getting a bit of writer’s block. So I was needing some inspiration and I decided to go out with my church and work there.’
‘It was really eye opening for me, the amount of poverty and helplessness that I wasn’t really aware,’ Tim explained, ‘naturally, we’re not conscious about it all the time, it was really refreshing, as a person and for writing this record, it made everything more meaningful with the ‘bigger picture’.’
With the debut record, Tim points to how the growth of Vancouver Sleep Clinic has allowed for new opportunities to expand his song writing craft.
‘We now have a bit more of a budget so we were able to record more acoustic elements, we got a choir, we got strings on board. Sonically it comes from a lot of different places,’ Tim explained.
‘It shows in the production more than anything. We did this record with Al Shux who did Empire State of Mind, worked with Plan B and Banks. There’s a lot of different influences between the Vancouver Sleep Clinic EP and the stuff I write now.’
Within his music, Tim incorporates a varied mix of inspirations, ranging from folk to pop to hip-hop. Nevertheless, Tim feels that his mix of influences show themselves organically, rather than any conscious push to be genre-bending.
‘It just happens. I never try to make anything specific. Whatever comes out, comes out. It starts usually with an emotion or some sort of concept. Then it’s a regurgitation of influence that I’ve been listening to recently or ideas that I’ve had,’ Tim explained.
‘Even with this record, the songs are so different from each other in certain elements. I haven’t tried to just stick with a certain thing. I think it’s important for the songs to be as organic as possible. That’s just how I write.’
One such artist who Tim looks to is Bon Iver, whose latest record 22, A Million, similarly exhibits a penchant for folk mixed with other outside influences. However, Tim is quick to distinguish himself from the Wisconsin artist.
‘I love that he manages to create such a different feel on all his records and he has something very special about him. He’s definitely a big influence but I’m not trying to listen to a whole lot of him or build a sound around that.’
‘There’s definitely ideas that inspire me from his music, but I’m just trying to do my own thing and sees what happens.’
Another key development for Vancouver Sleep Clinic is simply growing up. When Winter dropped and gained Tim worldwide distribution and recognition, he was still a wide-eyed high school kid.
‘It was crazy, I got thrown into it and I wasn’t ready for it. I still wouldn’t say I’m mature now at all, but I had no idea what I was doing,’ said Tim.
‘It was a crazy industry to be thrown into while still in high school. Over the last 3 years, I’ve learnt and have grown a lot, it’s been a great life experience if nothing else,’ Tim asserted, ‘definitely made some mistakes, went around some things the wrong way about how it all works. But it’s for the better.’
Tim quickly learnt of what the reality of being a full-time musician involved and how much work is required to earn success.
‘It’s more full-on, a lot of work that you have to put in. It’s been my life for the last 3 years so a lot of grinding and a lot of wheeling a whole bunch of instruments through streets, cabs, trains and planes,’ Tim said.
‘There’s a real nitty gritty side to it.’
However, Tim also admits that the positives of his work continue to have resounding effects.
‘There’s nothing like the adrenaline I get from it,’ Tim said, ‘the feeling when I meet people who listen to what you do is the absolute dream. Every time on stage I get blown away, every time I get a message from someone, it’s surreal.’
‘It’s the dream I expected it to be in that respect.’
When Tim started Vancouver Sleep Clinic much like many musicians of late, in his bedroom recording songs. The project has grown to his solo private recording session to a world-touring band with a fully committed team behind them. Such a thought is almost overwhelming to Tim.
‘There’s so many people that have come on board for this project. Obviously the band, the team, it’s so much bigger than myself and it shows in the music,’ Tim said, ‘it’s grown a lot, it’s a lot bigger than how it started, with me in my bedroom making songs.’
Vancouver Sleep Clinic has also grown to be a presence in various different genres through his collaborative work. Tim has collaborated with the likes of Daniel Johns, ZHU, Raury, Wafia, Madeon and GXNXVS. Quite the list for a 19 year old with one EP under his belt if you ask me.
‘What’s really appealing about to me about collaboration is bringing two different worlds together, meeting the middle and creating something unique,’ Tim explained, ‘I love that feeling of creating something that’s different for me, and expanding my realm of music making. Learning from new artists is always a great experience and I come out of it refreshed.’
Before our chat, Vancouver Sleep Clinic had wrapped up a small Australian tour the previous night. Armed with an arsenal of new songs, experiences and band mates, Tim is excited about the reinvented live Vancouver Sleep Clinic.
‘The new songs are more dynamic and possess a lot of different influences. The live show is now bigger and definitely stampeding in a way,’ Tim said, ‘before it was a lot slower but now I feel it’s more driven with higher energy. And it’s great fun to play live.
Luckily, the band showed little sign of rust.
‘We hadn’t actually toured for two years before this, so it felt in a weird in a way cause it’s been so long. But the adrenaline was sick and playing shows again is definitely the best part of making music.’
Vancouver Sleep Clinic is making up for lost time. I just hope I’m not dreaming.
Be on the lookout for Vancouver Sleep Clinic's debut record in 2017
Alex Capper, once affectionally called by Ross & John of 3AW as the '7 foot fucker', loves the Essendon Football Club, stalking reddit and dabbing. He thinks he can speak French, but he can't.