By John Benson
Alex Kandel is finally going to the Warped Tour. The former Champion resident, who as a 12-year-old unsuccessfully begged her parents to allow her to attend the punk-rock summer rite of passage at Blossom Music Center, is now on the bill with her alternative-minded pop act Sleeper Agent.
The Warped Tour comes to the area with a Tuesday date at First Niagara Pavilion and a Thursday show at Blossom Music Center.
“I am a little nervous — I’m not going to lie,” said Kandel, calling from her Kentucky home. “It’s a big production, and there’s just a ton of bands. It’s a really iconic festival, so to be a part of it is a little nerve-racking to me. I’ve never done anything like it because I don’t think there is anything like it.”
As her mind catches up to the task that awaits, Kandel dropped her guard. She said, “I just want to play a good show every night and be a part of something that’s really cool.”
Something really cool aptly describes her band Sleeper Agent, which followed-up its 2010 debut “Celabrasion” with the recently released “About Last Night.” The new project is an alt-rock effort heavily crafted with a pop sensibility. At times the album pivots from popish fare (“Shut”) that could easily follow a Taylor Swift song on the radio to folk-inspired anthems (“Sweetheart”) and punkish rockers (“Impressed”).
Confirming the band’s diversity is its chameleonic acceptance as an opener for everyone from Dinosaur Jr. and fun. to Cage the Elephant, Ben Kweller and Weezer.
“Ultimately, when you have six members, you kind of can’t help but sound like your band,” Kandel said. “We don’t know how to sound like anything else but Sleeper Agent. And if you have the trust, it’s not only always going to sound like you, but you’ll have the freedom to try a million different things.”
As far as whether the decidedly punk-heavy Warped Tour audience will accept Sleeper Agent, apparently the group’s name is no accident. It may catch some unsuspecting folks off guard.
“I’d rather stand out at such a big festival, but I’m not too worried about it,” Kandel said. “I think it’s exciting. I mean, if Katy Perry can play Warped Tour, I’m sure we’ll be OK.
“We still have guitars and we still throw down. A friend saw us play for the first time and said she didn’t know it was that punk. I don’t know if I’d call it punk, but it’s heavier live, for sure.”
This is quite the exciting time for Sleeper Agent, which played its current single, “Waves,” on “The Late Show with David Letterman” last week.
Now Kandel comes back to Northeast Ohio, an area she misses that is filled with tons of friends and family. Though her band played a private Cleveland show last year, the upcoming date marks the first time she’s performed publicly in the area.
“It’s a really big deal for me to play this close to home,” Kandel said. “I’m really kind of nervous, honestly, but in a good way. Yeah, it’s exciting.”