5 min read

Do It Now, Remember It Later

Do It Now, Remember It Later

On Sleeping With Sirens, Growing Up, and Never Giving In

THIS ESSAY WAS ORIGINALLY SHARED ON MAY 12, 2021

There is an old saying in the music business that you have your entire life to write your first album, but only 12 months to write the second. The idea is that every artist uses the best moments and the most impressive ideas to create that initial release. They see it as a make-or-break moment, so they hold nothing back because they don't know if they will ever get a chance to make another record. When it comes to the second, there is a rush against time to release something meaningful while still relevant. Enter the sophomore slump.

Countless musicians have released a single great album or song before disappearing from the spotlight. Some never make it to that second album. Others get there but find themselves unable to tell stories as compelling as the material that made up their debut. Others think a new sound will hide that they no longer have anything of value to say, but listeners see through that. Smoke and mirrors may work on the stage, but never in the studio.

Sleeping With Sirens had barely released their debut album before beginning work on what would become their follow-up. I do not know the exact time frame, but only 14 months separate the release of their first album from the release of their second. Between those two points in time are dozens of tour dates across multiple countries, and what I imagine is a minimal amount of time at home. Having the time to write anything is impressive, but what Sleeping With Sirens created remains one of the most influential albums in alternative music of the past decade.

Let's Cheers To This is a celebration, but not in the way you might think. At the time of its release, the members of Sleeping With Sirens were very much still proving themselves. If they were headliners, they were playing small clubs. If they were playing large venues, they were the most likely the opening acts the attendees either missed or ignored. They were a baby band in a scene that was quickly reaching maximum capacity, and I'm not sure anyone considered them to be the next big thing. Their debut was promising, but so were debuts from countless others, so why would anyone expect the new record to be anything more than what the band had already given them?

While Let's Cheers To This does touch upon common second album themes of missing home, chasing dreams, road life, and the hard truth that success demands sacrifices no one can prepare you for, none of those Sophomore record tropes are the dominant theme. Instead, Sleeping With Sirens strike gold by digging within themselves to realize the power they possess to control their destiny. It is a collection of songs written by a group of young men taking an active role in creating the world around them. They are setting personal boundaries, taking risks, and doing what they wanted to because they know no one will stop them unless they break the law. They are young and free, and fully aware of their position. That kind of power is intoxicating, both for those who wield it and those who witness it. As the band makes clear in the album's opening song, "Do It Now Remember It Later":

I've seen this place before,
Back when I was young, and I had something more to prove.
Now that I'm older,
I've seen all the things that I want, and I'm ready to make my move.
Stare straight-faced, don't hesitate.
Tell you, Why would we want to make you bastards wait?
Thank God I got the chance. Now I can say.
So now we'll say, we'll say.
(We're going to do what we want)

Remember when they said that what we want could never be done?
When it all comes falling down
We'll do what we want to,
So we'll do what we want to, Yeah.
Remember when they said that what we want could never be done?
Well look who's laughing now
We'll do what we want to
So we'll do what we want to, Yeah.

The most significant benefit to being an underdog is the element of surprise. When nobody is expecting much from you, it's much easier to shock everyone. When Let's Cheers To This hit, it rocked the alternative world in a way that no album had. Here was a collection of songs written by people who not only knew what they wanted, but we're chasing after it with every ounce of energy, blood, and sweat they could. Sleeping With Sirens were refusing to let trauma and industry politics hold them back. Instead, they cataloged every grief they had and wrote songs directly referencing them for the world to hear. They were entirely themselves, and more importantly, they were OK with who they were becoming.

Let's Cheers To This is, in many ways, the story of me, or who I imagine myself to be. The album arrived at a time in my life when I was trying to become someone the adult world would consider a professional. I was writing about music for a website that I started, building a pool of talented contributors, and exhausting myself with new artists and albums every week. I was pushing myself harder than ever before, and I was doing it with no promise of getting what I wanted most out of life. I don't care if my body, mind, or relationships suffered, as long as I could say that I gave my all to try and make my dreams a reality. It certainly wasn't a healthy way to live, but it was the only lifestyle that made sense to me at the time. I refused to fall victim to the life equivalent of a sophomore slump.

Instead, I applied the Let's Cheers To This outlook to my life. I cannot honestly recall when my perspective began to shift from the never-stopping, never-giving-in mindset into accepting that I had quote/unquote 'made it.' Maybe it has never entirely left. I spent a long time feeling desperate for a sense of acceptance and the feeling I proved myself to some industry gatekeepers. Whether or not that ever happened is debatable, but I found myself accepting my voice over time. I stopped waiting for someone to permit me to tell the stories and truths I wanted to tell and began telling them. The very words you are reading now are the influence of a life led under the influence of Let's Cheers To This.

Somehow, amid the calamity and chaos of growing up in the spotlight, Sleeping With Sirens found a way to mask their desperation as determination and set it to music. Let's Cheers To This encapsulates the sensation of finding your purpose and chasing it with everything in you. It is a testament to what can happen when you fiercely focus on your goals and refuse to submit to whatever cultural or societal norms may run counter to your outlook on life. Even now, a decade after its release, the album still possesses a unique ability to make you feel as if anything is possible. It's the perfect soundtrack for self-improvement in all forms. Whether you're hoping to build your business or strengthen your muscles, Let's Cheers To This offers the promise of a better future through relentless hard work and determination.