Bolder, brighter Sleeper Agent singer perfects vocals on the road 

click to enlarge Sleeper Agent
  • Kentucky rockers Sleeper Agent have a new album called “About Last Night.”
The road isn’t the best place for a shrinking violet. But sometimes — under the harsh glare of spotlights, night after night — they bloom.

So says Sleeper Agent singer Alex Kandel, who brings the band to The City this weekend.

She was a shy, flannel-and-work-boot-sporting teen barista when she was discovered by group mastermind Tony Smith in Bowling Green, Ky., three years ago. But after touring nonstop behind the group’s 2011 debut, “Celabrasion” — and its omnipresent single “Get It Daddy” — the only thing violet about the 21-year-old is her punky hairstyle (accented by raccoon mascara and cherry-red lipstick) in the striking cover shot for the band’s second album, “About Last Night.” It’s a photo of Kandel alone.

With wide-eyed wonder, the singer has charted her remarkable transformation. “I still have my boots, but I’m not afraid to wear a dress now,” she says. “Which honestly, I think, takes more balls than having to dress like a dude to play for dudes.”

Through touring, her confidence has grown exponentially. “I went through a lot of stages, where I thought to be a woman in a rock band, I had to be super-masculine and aggressive. But then I learned that I can still be feminine and strong,” she adds. “That’s mainly what I’ve noticed myself growing into.”

Kandel joined Sleeper Agent in something of a kid sister role. But eventually, she and co-vocalist Smith fell in love, got engaged and currently share an apartment.

“We were just best friends, but over time it turned into something where we just looked at each other and went, ‘Yeah — I think this makes sense!’” she recalls.

Smith is still the band’s primary composer, and he’s adept at writing from his fiancee’s perspective. But since they’ve moved in together, she’s gladly gotten more involved in the writing process.

Kandel has upped her vocal game, too. While she woofed her way through the chugging “Get It Daddy,” she sounds glasslike and glistening on “About” chimers such as “Waves” and “Be Brave.”

She’s been seeing a vocal coach, who has taught her techniques to maintain her stamina and expand her range.

“I mean, how seriously can you take anything when you’re 18 years old?” she asks, rhetorically. “It came to a point where I thought, ‘I really love what I do, so I need to put the extra effort in to get better at it.’”

But she doesn’t admit to being grown up. “I don’t think I’ll ever feel like an adult,” she says. “But now I view what I do as a craft that I’m learning, rather than just this fun thing that I get to do. I’m taking it much more seriously.”


Sleeper Agent

Where: Brick & Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Friday

Tickets: $12 to $15

Contact: (415) 800-8782,

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Tom Lanham

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