Sleep andWake-Up Songs is now being rereleased for Record Store Day, its first time pressed ever on vinyl, with two new, never released songs. The EP reveals Okkervil River in-between the monumental albums Down The River of Golden Dreams and Black Sheep Boy. Band leader Will Sheff looked back to this EP, remarking, "I can hear in it somebody who is actually getting comfortable with singing, with playing the guitar, with letting music happen naturally.”
On the re-issue, Sheff, remarked, “In 2004 CDs were still the dominant playback format, but I always pictured Sleep and Wake-Up Songs as a vinyl EP, so I was excited when Jagjaguwar recommended giving it a proper vinyl release. I went through my old notes from the time and wrote up a little (actually not that little) account of the recording of the EP and my memories of that time in the band’s history, and we went through the art and audio to make sure the whole piece transitioned well into vinyl. I also added a couple of tracks to round out side B. One is an early unfinished sketch of one of the songs ("You're Untied Again") and the other is an old blues cover ("Knocking Myself Out”) I recorded somewhere on the road during that time.”
Reflecting about the title, Sheff recalled “there’s something about your mind that’s especially flexible when it’s in that weird half-asleep/half-awake phase – ideas can glide in more gracefully. “Sleep andWake-Up Songs is just a station on your way; it knows it's not your lover. It's a little shed, a lean-to constructed on the banks of some shaded stream between mountains. There is peace and quiet here. The late afternoon sun slants through logs set lazily on top of one another. There's a Les Paul resting against a fallen bough, but there are few loud noises, little reason to panic. The smell of cedars hangs in the air. There's a strange chill.
On Sleep and Wake-Up Songs, Okkervil River take advantage of a break between albums to present a small collection of more meditative songs that toss little boomerangs across the distance between what is and what could never be. They try on a loose-fitting felt suit of Tim Hardin-esque folk-pop, wade until soaked into a misty psychedelic duet, strap on an electric guitar for a lark, stack the overlapping refrains of Sheff and Minus Story's Jordan Geiger into a Phil-Spectoresque ecstacy of sexual confusion, and finally strip things down to naked and
initiate a straightforward love song.