Chicago is known as the city that works. The nickname was earned by the men and women who helped lift the Illinois hotspot from a modest Midwest hub to one of the nation’s most beautiful and innovative cities. Skyscrapers may outline the downtown area, but those who call the city home don’t live there. The real citizens fill the seemingly endless expanse of aging apartment buildings and homes that fill the surrounding area. They are blue collar workers who break themselves down to lift their families, as well as one another, a bit higher with each passing day. In this sense, they are like ants, finding strength in one another while each is doing their part to serve the better good. Either everyone wins, or everyone dies, there is no middle ground.
That same drive to work hard and lift those around you runs through the veins of Sleep On It, Chicago’s premiere pop-rock export. Following in the footsteps of several genre acts that have since risen to the highest heights experienced by rock bands in the modern era, such as Alkaline Trio and Fall Out Boy, the men of Sleep On It have been carving a niche entirely their own in the world of alternative music over the last six years. The five-piece has sweat and bled on stages around the world, and in doing so developed a community of dedicated followers who carry their message of perseverance, hard work, and emotional honesty with them like missionaries. Radio hasn’t given a damn, at least not yet, but the band doesn’t let the approval of the outside world bother them. As far as they are concerned, this is what they’re supposed to be doing, and no one or nothing other than death itself can take that drive from them.
What many artists never realize until it’s too late, however, is that working hard to spread positivity around the world, especially in chaotic times like those we live in, comes with a high price. Not only have the men of Sleep On It spent seemingly countless hours away from home, but they have strained and outright fractured relationships of all kinds in pursuit of their dreams. These actions were not malicious by any means, rather a byproduct of trying to be something more than another group of well-meaning people who never actually accomplish their goals. For them, the sacrifices have been worth it, but they are sacrifices nonetheless, and time has a funny way of making the weight of those choices felt throughout one’s entire being.
“Disconnected” is the first new song to be released by the group since Sleep On It’s debut album, Overexposed, arrived in late 2017. The song addresses the stresses and feelings understood best by those who have chosen a similar fate as the band, to give up everything most recognize as normal in an attempt to make their voices heard. Having spent a summer under the hot sun on the final run of Van’s Warped Tour, not to mention appearing in clubs and theaters around the world in support of their last record, the members of Sleep On It have only spent a handful of weeks home in the past year. All the while, those they love and care for have continued living their relatively simple lives. They’ve gone to work, spent late nights drinking with friends, fallen ill, recovered (hopefully), and grown older. The members of Sleep On It have done all those things as well; only they’ve had to do it entirely on their own.
That may make the song seem like a downer, and to an extent it is, but more than anything the song reaffirms the band’s mission and their drive to see it through to whatever end they may find. After more than a dozen songs about longing to chase their dreams without restraint, Sleep On It has the opportunity to do just that, and they’ve come way too far to give up now. Anything they’ve lost along the way was necessary to continue their pursuit. To stop, or even to just second guess themselves, would make those losses all the more damaging. The only way to make amends now is to make good on the reasoning behind their decisions and to do that they must continue, forging ahead in a world that might not always like what they have to say.
“Disconnected” also serves as an anthem for anyone caught in the struggle between the person they are and the person they’re working to become. As we grow out of our former selves we often feel as though we will never reach our goal in full. It’s important to remember that feeling is one felt by anyone who has attempted to create a better life for themselves and those they love, which is made clear by the simple fact that anyone can relate to vocalist Zech Pluister sings at any given moment in this song. Resistance, as Steven Pressfield calls it, is the voice in our head that tells us the things we long to do are not worth doing. You cannot defeat resistance, at least, not for good. It is always there, waiting for you in the morning and encouraging you to delay making the changes you know in your heart are needed throughout the day. Resistance doesn’t want you to change. It wants to beat your dreams out of you and make you submit to a life you don’t deserve for reasons we may never entirely understand, but “Disconnected” and similar songs like it serve as a reminder that we can and must push on. We must fight to become the best version of ourselves because that is the meaning of life, and that means keeping the fire inside us alive at all costs.