Although he admits he almost gave up and moved back to North County, Max Greenhalgh says he is happy that he stuck it out and stayed in L.A. to pursue music. “It was a big transition to move from a smaller town to being up in L.A.,” says Greenhalgh, who was raised in Carlsbad.
The multi-instrumentalist/producer/songwriter wanted to be all-in. So he moved to Highland Park early last year. “I wanted to be surrounded by people who are really serious about music. I love San Diego, and I have a lot of friends down there, but I feel that a lot of the people [in music] are weekend warriors.”
“When I told my dad I was moving to Highland Park, he said he remembered it as a place for gangs and neo-Nazis,” says Greenhalgh. “It’s not like that at all now.” While he admits his new neighborhood is succumbing to gentrification, “It still has a lot of unaffected culture. There’s great food, awesome art, and tons of music. You can still get a cheap taco.”
Greenlhalgh, 26, formed Tan Sister Radio while still in high school. “When Tan Sister ended, Inspired & the Sleep picked up,” says Greenhalgh about his quirky pop band, which returns to town for its 11th Belly Up show this week, coinciding with the digital release of his new single “First Time.”
Lately, he’s been diving into samples from vinyl records to mix into his new Inspired & the Sleep songs. “It pushes me into finding a sound I’ve never heard before. I’m always listening for modern electronica or older music. Good or bad, we’ve always been on our own little path sonically.
“I sample whatever I can get my hands on” Greenhalgh tells the Reader. “Lately I’ve used a Peter and the Wolf soundtrack and a Disney haunted house record. I’ve used some Sigur Ros.” He says he has yet to secure artist approval for those samples, but understands it is on the horizon. “I have meetings set up for that. It’s my understanding they don’t care unless you start making money.”
Inspired & the Sleep is anchored by Greenhalgh and Bryce Outcault, 27, whom he met while lifeguarding at Camp Pendleton. “He was my boss. He still works there.” During an Inspired show, both play a variety of instruments. They are backed by a rotation of different bandmates.
Greenhalgh also plays in the garagey duo the Thens (with Ryan Mack of the Oxen) and releases pop tunes under the name Max Green.
Greenhalgh isn’t the only local to move to L.A. to focus on music. Others include Frank Lee Drennen (Dead Rock West), Kristin Gundred (Grand Ole Party), Lindsey Troy (Deap Vally), Andrew Mills (Barbarian), Rutger Rosenborg (the Lulls), and Justin Paul Sanders (Short Eyes).
Without a manager, Greenhalgh has managed to get his songs placed in movies and TV shows through his own networking. His tunes have appeared on MTV’s Catfish and True Life. He has a song in a new indie film called Time Freak, and material in another film he says can’t talk about yet.
“I know for some people, L.A. is not for them. And I know it’s hard to live in this city if you don’t have money. I saved up so I could move here. There is a graffiti stencil you see everywhere up here that says ‘No money, no honey.’ It’s true. It’s expensive to live here, but it’s expensive for a reason.”
He says he is happy to stay in L.A for now. “I’ve been inspired by the people around me. You can’t come to L.A. and be anti-social. That destroys the whole point. I’ve learned a lot more up here than I ever learned in San Diego, but its always refreshing to be back home and be among friends and family.”
Inspired & the Sleep appears April 12 at the Belly Up Tavern, with Strawberry Moons and Grizzly Business.