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All of the Glitz but None of the Glam: Life of an Aspiring Rock Star

Arts & Entertainment

By: Nicolet Hartmann

Who is this guy? On the Washington D.C. metro, a tall, thin young man with short, shaggy brown hair and icy blue eyes gains the attention of fellow passengers. They notice his black skinny jeans tucked into his black high-top Chuck Taylors and golden Ray Ban aviators nestled into the front pocket of his tattered leather jacket. “I can’t wait to hear In Regards to Myself; that’s my favorite Underoath song,” he told his friend in an excited yet calm tone. This is Casey Jago, the bassist for Sleepwave.

Sleepwave is a band based out of St. Petersburg, with founding members Spencer Chamberlin and Stephen Bowman. Touring members include Jack Burns on guitar, Jesse Shelley on drums, and Jago on bass guitar. Chamberlin is the lead singer for the aforementioned Underoath, a hardcore rock band based out of Tampa and Jago’s accomplice in nabbing a couple all-access passes to a sold-out, 2,000-person concert at The Fillmore.

Jago is a twenty-three year old South Florida native who spends his days as a bartender at a local Italian restaurant. He enjoys his nights as he practices music and networks around town. He stated, “St. Petersburg has a thriving music scene, and since Sleepwave is a local band, it’s important to get involved with others in the music community.” Jago loves how the music community is drawn to downtown St. Petersburg like moths to a flame, and in fact, that is how he came to be the bassist for Sleepwave in the first place.

As Jago approaches the venue, he saunters past the entrance line that is wrapped tight around the building like a boa constrictor, grabs a sticker from the cashier, sticks it on his jeans, and walks on into The Fillmore. As he walks backstage to visit his friends in their dressing room, he notices the walls are covered with thousands of signatures from performers such as Meghan Trainor and Stone Temple Pilots. He whispers, almost as if to reassure himself, “I’m going to be on here one day. I know it.”

Jago was in a band called Airsickness with his brother and two friends from high school. In January 2015, Jago and the rest of Airsickness played a show at St. Petersburg’s State Theater with Sleepwave, Anew and headliner Of Mice & Men. This is where Jago, Bowman, and Chamberlin began to talk, and their love of music and their similar mindsets began to sync. Bowman reached out to Jago about being their bassist for their upcoming tour, which he accepted with great enthusiasm. He stated, “Once we started playing together, things just kind of stuck. This is exactly where I feel like I should be.”

Jago is going to miss playing with his brother and long time friends, but he is proud and assured of his decision to switch things up. “Airsickness is my home, but Sleepwave is my future,” he said. “Airsickness has a very specific sound, for a very specific type of music and a very specific fan base. Sleepwave has the opportunity to reach a much broader audience and go bigger places.” Jago’s only dream is to be a part of a band that changes people’s lives; that helps people cope with life and what the world has to throw at them; to be up on stage and watch countless faces sing along to their music, some with tears in their eyes, “There’s no feeling like it.”

Patrons at The Fillmore are drenched in envy as Jago bypasses the first level of security into the VIP section. He looks at his friend and shakes his head, acknowledging their view isn’t quite good enough and marches forward to another security guard. As the rope is opened to allow him to pass, Jago spends much of the concert in a private balcony, right next to the stage, giving him the best view and clearest sound in the venue. As the show comes to an end, he looks out at the crowd, wide-eyed and in awe of the support coming from the fans cheering relentlessly for one more song. Again the words escape in a whisper, “That’s going to be me one day. I know it.”

Sleepwave is a growing band, so when they play shows, no one is there to lug equipment and instruments around. Jago and the other artists must do it all themselves. Despite being exhausted after traveling and putting on a show, this is something he actually appreciates doing. “I’m paying my dues,” he stated. “Just because you go on tour doesn’t mean you can quit your job, have roadies, and live in a tour bus. It’s a lot of hard work that really builds you as an artist.”

When Jago toured with Airsickness last summer, he lived in a van with his three male band mates for a month. “It’s not what most people expect. A lot of people think we would party every night, sleep in every morning, and bring girls back after a show,” Jago stated. “But we were sweaty and disgusting, and our van smelt just how you’d imagine four guys’ van would smell.” During his last tour with Sleepwave, he was in an RV Bus, which is a comfortable step up.

Jago and the rest of Sleepwave are currently getting psyched about going on tour and releasing their new album later this year; however, they are still in the planning stages. The Sleepwave twitter account has a teaser video of what to expect from their future music.

Jago claims, “I’m really excited about this. It’s a whole new sound, entirely our own, and I think a lot of people who like different genres of music are going to be interested in it. I feel lucky to be a part of it.” Casey Jago is currently hauling his own bass guitar, setting up his own equipment, and bartending to pay his bills. However, with his high level of determination, hard work, skill, and professionalism, it’s safe to say he won’t be doing so for long.

Header photo from Sleepwave’s Facebook page.

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