When your first single hits 500k views on TikTok within 36 hours of its release, the accusations start to fly. So when the Memphis-based Sleep Theory’s “Another Way” did just that back in January, vocalist Cullen Moore heard all about how his band was an “industry plant” or “designed for the algorithm.” But in actuality, what seemed like an overnight success was years in the making.
Since retiring from the US Army several years ago, Moore’s dedicated his entire life to carving his own path in the music industry. Officially starting Sleep Theory in 2019, the current incarnation of his musical journey began as a solo studio project to fuse his love of hard rock, funk and R&B.
Then came a chance meeting with bassist Paolo Vergara, who had just moved from the Philippines and was looking to buy a microphone on Facebook Marketplace. The two immediately hit it off, and Sleep Theory became a duo. Fast-forward to 2023, when they expanded to a full band with the familial rhythm section of drummer Ben and guitarist Daniel Pruitt.
In recent months, Sleep Theory released a second track (and second #1 hit on SiriusXM’s Octane) in “Numb,” started playing their first handful of shows to massive crowds (including their hometown Beale Street Music Festival), and signed to Epitaph Records for the release of their debut EP, a six-track blast that shows the range of Sleep Theory —from metalcore-like breakdowns to bluesy grooves, all brought together by a pop sensibility that’s pushed them into sudden stardom.
But whereas many artists work their entire careers for the success that Sleep Theory is already seeing, this is only the beginning for the hard-rocking quartet. While part of Moore’s determination may stem from his military background, Vergara has his own reasons for needing the band to succeed.
“I moved to America in 2016, and my goal my whole life has been to be a musician or a filmmaker,” Vergara says. “When I joined the band, I never thought we’d be in this position right now. I had a band back in the Philippines, but we never had the chance to achieve our dreams or put out our own songs. My bandmates there told me that if I ever come to the US and have a chance to achieve our dream as a band, I had to go for it and make them proud. That dream still sticks with me all of the time.”
Despite Sleep Theory’s big dreams and goals for the future, they’re still very much focused on the present. The band’s found success by taking things one moment at a time and enjoying every step of the process. Their sudden popularity hasn’t changed how anyone operates, and their early hits haven’t changed how they’re going about their first EP.
“I feel like a lot of people would feel pressure to create something that’s on par with what we’ve already put out, but I’m just going into it stress-free and having a good time,” Moore says. “We aren’t worried about other people’s expectations, we’re worried about our own expectations. We
have one song that we recorded when we were not having a good time, and that’s one of the few songs that I never want released. We all have a really good relationship with each other and our producer, so the main thing in the forefront of my mind while working on this album is just having a good time and putting out what I know that people would enjoy.”
And with their first EP in the bag, Sleep Theory is finally able to go after the sponsor they’ve been coveting ever since the band got together.
“There’s a very important part of our songwriting and producing routine,” Moore smiles. “If we get stuck, we go to Waffle House.”
“We need that Waffle House sponsorship,” Ben Pruitt adds, showing off his Waffle House-branded sneakers. “I want to walk in and not pay for anything.”