Sleepwalkrs opens up about his musical path, working with Beatrich, and why following his musical dreams was a risk. Plus, hear his exclusive Notion x BULLDOG Gin mix.
Sleepwalkrs (real name Roberto Manfredi) has built a name for himself making club-ready bangers – a skill you’d think so innate that he had he primed for a career in music all his life. Not quite the case, he reveals to Notion.
From DJing at parties for his school friends to performing at clubs as soon as he turned 18, producer, DJ and singer-songwriter Sleepwalkrs may have followed a seemingly smooth path into music, singing to Warner Records a couple of years ago, but that didn’t stop his mum from telling him to get a ‘real job’. With his mounting success, Sleepwalkrs’ risk seems to have paid off, now boasting tens of millions of streams on his upbeat dance music tunes and collaborations with THRDL!FE, HUGEL, MNEK, and now Beatrich.
Notion sat down with Sleepwalkrs to dive into his musical path so far, future plans, inspirations, creative process and much more. Plus, hear his exclusive Notion x BULLDOG Gin mix.
- Overshirt RAG AND BONE
- Trousers fillipa K
- T-Shirt SUNSPEL
- Shoes ROSCOMAR
We seem to be back in the swing of things after the pandemic. How have things been for you since the re-openings?
It’s strange – I went to a club for the first time a few weeks ago and it’s so nice seeing people all together again and actually wanting to be back out. It almost felt surreal because it’s been so long since I’ve seen that kind of thing – people just freely enjoying themselves and not worrying.
Have you been doing lots of performances then? What are you focusing on?
I’m focused now on getting another single out and hopefully, that will lead to more things. Now clubs are back open, I’m focusing on songs for the clubs, rather than the radio hits for singles, which is really refreshing.
Let’s wind back to the beginning. Tell me about your journey – how did you get to where you are today?
I was actually throwing parties at school and realised that DJing was fairly affordable to get into. I bought an £80 pound DJ deck, it was awful but as it did the job. I think we were 16 at the time and used to hire out rugby clubs or football clubs and say we were having our 18th birthdays so everyone could drink and it got around the whole having to get fake IDs to go out. There were a lot of 16+ drum and bass and dubstep events at the time in London. I had a friend who was a promoter at one of them and got me on one of the sets under a different name than Sleepwalkrs. Once you’re in and you do well, they invite you back. Then with a friend we formed Sleepwalkers, he decided music wasn’t for him and that’s why I’m stuck with a plural name even though it’s one person [laughs]. I was working full time in retail on a gap year because I was like, I need to get some money before I go to uni. A friend working there was also a producer. On my days off, I would go to the studio with him and started working with artists that way. I’m so grateful that because of that route, I now know how to do a session and how to collaborate with people in the room. I’ve got both sides of it, the songwriter pop side and then also the dance DJ side, which is my main focus, but I lost it for a long time because I got too focused on the pop stuff. Then years later I just put them both together and here I am!
- Overshirt rag and bone
Who are some of your biggest musical inspirations? Have they changed much over the years?
There’s a few that definitely keep pushing the boundaries. Someone like Skrillex who started out in the dubstep world but he’s gone on to do Justin Bieber “Sorry” and even like the music he’s putting out now, listen to him as a piece of music and as a fan, it’s not like anything anyone else is doing and he’s not just trying to copy everything on radio, which people have tried to do – myself included.
Back in the beginning, it was Chase and Status; Sub Focus. Even if I’m not making drum and bass anymore, I still want to know what they are up to because I’m still genuinely a fan. Calvin Harris and Max Martin are two of the greatest songwriters.
Talk me through the process of making a new track.
I’ve definitely changed it up a lot recently where I find if I go into a session with a writer on someone, we’ll get the chords down with a basic production. I used to just rely on the writer and be like, ‘You do your job, I’ll do mine’. I’ll produce the track, he writes it and a lot of the time wasn’t getting results I liked, but recently I’ve started liking the results because I’ll do the basic production, we’ll get a little vibe going and if they’re not right we then change them and you’re not getting too deep into an idea. You get a basic idea then you write the song together and it’s a fully collaborative process – you can quickly decide if it’s worth finishing or more ways to go with it. The amount of times I’ve written songs they’ve been like, ‘Ah, this song’s way better than the production I’ve done, I might as well just start again’. In that case, I may as well have been part of the writing process anyway. So getting some nice chords down and a few core sounds to build either the track around or get the vocal around, can definitely bring out a lot of emotion. But it all depends on the type of track you’re going for. I’m very much in the phase of just wanting to write good songs that even if you play them acoustically, they will be a great song. There’s always the ‘make a beat and send it out’, but I never really find that quite very fruitful. I feel like, unless you’re in the room with someone, they’re not going to give it the same energy than if you just send it by the internet.
- T-Shirt SUNSPEL
- Jacket SAMSØE SAMSØE
- Jeans LEVI’S
- Shoes NIKE AT SCHUH
You recently collaborated with Beatrich on a remix of “2 Much”. What drew you to work with her?
Her management reached out. She had done the cover “2 Much” [for Attitude Pride at Home, originally by Justin Bieber]. I love that Bieber album [‘Justice’] and I have definitely listened to it multiple times because Bieber’s without a doubt one of the greatest artists of this generation – even if it wasn’t until ‘Purpose’ that I realised that. When her management sent the song, I was like, this is incredible, of course I’ll remix it.
Have you ever taken any risks, and have they paid off? And how BOLD are you willing to go?
I feel like music in general was a risk. I’m definitely not from a musical family and my mum was like, ‘You’ve got to get a real job and do normal things’ for literally years. Even after I signed to Warner Records in 2019. There’s a constant thing that if this doesn’t work out I’m going to look so stupid to my family.
It could be easy and I could just follow the formula of everything that’s happening right now but I wouldn’t feel satisfied in myself to just constantly follow the trends. Even if it doesn’t clock on, if you’d like it and it’s out there, there might be someone, years to come, music now – especially with Spotify – lasts forever so someone might stumble upon your page and find that favourite song 20 years after it’s been released. I mean, we’ll see what kids like in 20 years [laughs].
- Jacket SAMSØE SAMSØE
- T-Shirt SUNSPEL
Do you have any advice for aspiring DJs and producers and what have you learned over the years?
Always do what feels right for you at the time. What feels right for you now, won’t feel right for you next year, and what feels right for you now might have felt right for you last year. If you’re a nice person, and just to have fun, and just want the best for everyone around you, then people always stick by you, no matter where you are in life. Especially your own team.