Back Beat: Sleeper Car

Back Beat: Sleeper Car

Featuring music, artists, and venues in and around Alexandria

Story + Photography by David D’Agostino

The sounds of Sleeper Car range from Here Comes the Sun to Santeria and Ah-Ha to Zeppelin. The acoustic duo was born in Alexandria and consists of Amanda Clements on lead vocals and melodica and Rich Hubacker on guitar and vocals.

VIP: How did you two find each other?

(Amanda) We work together. When Rich started at HGA in 2016 I learned early on that he plays guitar with a local rock cover band, The Vandelays, and asked if he wanted to start an office band. I was part of a small group that played in our Minneapolis office (where I began my HGA career). Rich took me up on it and Trainwreck was formed. Trainwreck is a 6-piece cover band consisting primarily of members from the HGA DC/Alexandria office.

And “Sleeper Car”?

(Amanda) Sleeper Car is the smaller, acoustic version of Trainwreck. Haven’t we all dreamed of a leisurely cross-country tour by train, taking in the beautiful scenery and listening to slower, acoustic songs that we all know and love and can sing along to?

What’s your musical background?

(Rich) My parents have quite diverse tastes in music, and I grew up listening to everything from Better Midler to Thelonious Monk to Stevie Wonder to Mike Oldfield. I think my first long playing record was The Beach Boys Greatest Hits. I took guitar lessons in middle school and played in some form of rock band in High School and College, and soon after college in the early- to mid-90’s my friend and I flew to LA to try out for the Red Hot Chili Peppers since they had lost their guitarist John Frusciante and were holding, literally, open auditions.

Spoiler – neither one of us got the gig. I essentially stopped playing guitar when my kids were young except to play silly songs at their elementary school events and rediscovered the joy of playing live music about 5 or 6 years ago.

(Amanda) I grew up singing and playing piano, performing with groups and choruses through school. I have a twin sister and we always sang in musicals, plays, and in the car as youngsters. I co-directed an all-female contemporary a cappella group with her at Penn State, Savoir Faire.

After graduation, I wanted to keep singing and that’s when I found barbershop and Sweet Adelines. I’ve been competing with them in quartet and choruses internationally since 2003.

What songs do enjoy playing most?

(Amanda) I love ones where we have harmonies, and then I just have favorites. Elton John, cheesy songs by Captain and Tennille. I love singing Ramble On and other Led Zeppelin songs.

(Rich) Sometimes I love a deep Fishbone cut that maybe three people in the crowd have heard before, for the simple pleasure of performing a version of a song that I find endearing. Others are just solid songs that Amanda and I can deliver well.

There are moments when it’s pure joy to play songs that get everyone singing along like Tainted Love or Tiny Dancer. We’re developing a decent bench and can adjust to the crowd and go off-script when it feels right. We do our own version of some Prince tunes and are starting to include the occasional original song. I’d love to add some Donny and Marie, David Bowie, or more Dolly Parton to the mix.

What’s next for Sleeper Car?

(Sleeper Car) Our dance cards are relatively full, but we love to perform for and with our friends, and for people that enjoy our eclectic selections. Music is a strong connective tissue between us all. We will continue to dig up some gems and shine them.

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