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MoPOP Sound Off! 2022 - Meet the Artist: The Sleepy Haunts

MoPOP’s Sound Off! gives up-and-coming artists mentorship from industry leaders, entrée into an artistic community invested in their growth, connections with peer musicians, and the chance to showcase their original music in MoPOP’s iconic Sky Church venue.

This years’ three live showcases — set for February 19, February 26, and March 5 — raise the bar for an all-ages show with a first-class experience at MoPOP for performers and the audience alike.


Started in Portland, The Sleepy Haunts are an indie-pop band with rock influence. Inspired by artists like Chloe Moriondo, Beach Bunny, and Alanis Morissette, their music is a teen anthem highlighting the anger and insecurities of adolescence while exploring the beginning of first loves. Currently, The Sleepy Haunts is composed of songwriter and singer Gillian McMahon. Their debut album, queendom, came out on all platforms December 2020 and they're working on their next album.

We took some time to get to know The Sleepy Haunts ahead of the band's Sound Off! 2022 performance on February 26 at MoPOP. Check out what they had to say!

What was your reaction when you found out you were going to be part of MoPOP's Sound Off! 2022?

The Sleepy Haunts: "I was driving home from a lunch with a work friend, so I was just kind of like on the phone, in the car, freaking out. Then I got home and told my parents and they were all freaking out. Then I started having a panic attack because I was like, 'Oh, crap. I need to start practicing right now!' And I haven't been doing that because I've been in college and freaking out about classes."

Now that you're part of the program, what does it mean to you to be part of the Sound Off! community of artists?

The Sleepy Haunts: "It's a really neat opportunity because coming from Portland to Seattle here for college, I haven't had the opportunity to befriend a lot of Seattle artists yet, especially since my first year in college was entirely online. So there was no shows happening. So this feels like a door we're opening to meet new people and have the opportunity to play for new people and get feedback from people who are actually working in the industry."

What part of Sound Off! 2022 are you looking forward to most?

The Sleepy Haunts: "I'm really excited about the mentorship, but I'm also really excited to hear all the other artists that are performing. Even just on our first Zoom call together, listening to all their music, I was thinking, 'These are some really good musicians and I can't believe I am having the opportunity to perform with them.' I think it's really cool that I was even considered to be on the same level as them enough to be allowed to be in Sound Off! today."

The Sleepy Haunts, MoPOP Sound Off! 2022

The Sleepy Haunts, a project of songwriter and singer Gillian McMahon (middle left)

Why do you make music?

The Sleepy Haunts: "I just always loved making music. I have always been writing songs. I remember the first song was when I was six years old and was watching Disney channel and I saw Demi Lovato's character writing music, and I was like, 'I can do that!' And it was terrible. The first song was terrible. It was about why it wasn't raining outside, because I'm from California. Made no sense because it's a six-year-old and I had no proper grammar, but I just kind of continued making music. I kept trying to make music. Then I finally had people saying like, 'Hey, your songs actually, aren't terrible. You might have some potential there.' And then I just kept working at it. And now I'm here trying to release as much music as I can."

What emotion or action are you hoping people feel or take from your music?

The Sleepy Haunts: I'm hoping that when people listen to my music, it speaks to them in a way that's comforting because I definitely have those artists and those songs where listening to them brings a sense of warmth. Even if it's a sad song, it's a song that speaks to me in a way. And I hope that when people listen to my music, even if it's not for everyone, if for that one person out there that they listen to it and they think, 'Wow, this song really means something to me.'"

What has it been like as a young creative navigating the pandemic the last couple of years? Have you been able to pull any positives from it?

The Sleepy Haunts: "Well, I actually released my first album during the pandemic because I made a promise to myself that I was going to make an album before I graduated high school. I graduated high school right when the pandemic started in 2020, I ended up finally releasing it December of my freshman year of college because I was kind of put back by that. But really through this pandemic, I haven't been performing, but I've been writing a lot of music and think about recording at home and learning how to record at home and just continuing to write and write and write music wherever I can."

Outside of music, do you have any pop culture passions?

The Sleepy Haunts: "I am a gigantic nerd. I attend about two Comic Cons per year and I've been doing that since I was 10. I'm mostly a superhero fan, but I love Star Wars and Game of Thrones and Star Trek. The first song I ever wrote was about Twin Peaks. And half of the songs I've written recently are about Marvel or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So I am a very big movie, TV show person. And that's one thing that my dad said he likes about my music is he'll be like, 'What that song about?' And I'll just be like, "Oh yeah, it's about out that one issue of Spider-Man that I read where this happened.' So, you've heard of fan fiction. I write fan music. That's basically it."


We know you may be curious about health and safety protocols, so here are the extra steps we’re taking for these in-person Sound Off! showcases in our 140,000 square foot museum:

  • Performers will be separated from the audience by a 20-foot buffer. 
  • All guests 12 years and older will be required to show proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR COVID test taken within 72 hours prior to the event. 
  • Masks are required for guests 3 years and older. 
  • Please only bring what you need as coat check is currently closed. 
  • There will be no concessions sold during Sound Off! events. Please come hydrated and consider eating before you arrive. 
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers are available throughout the museum. 

More information about our COVID policies is available on our website.

Can't attend the live Sound Off! showcases this year? You can still support MoPOP's youth artist development programs by making a gift.


Special thanks to our Sound Off! community partner KEXP.

Learn more about Sound Off! 2022 + for contests, the latest news, and behind-the-scenes content, be sure to follow us on YouTubeFacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

If you like what you see, support our work by making a donation or planning a visit to our nonprofit museum today!

Sound Off!, Music

About the author

The Museum of Pop Culture’s mission is to make creative expression a life-changing force by offering experiences that inspire and connect our communities.