In our continuing series of interviews with Rising Talent artists performing at the Blue Ridge Rock Festival, this band caught my attention from their metal performances. They’re hard, intense, blood-pumping, mosh starting style of music is going to have the fans going during their set. Let me introduce everyone to Waking the Sleeper!

The metal band from Wichita, KS consists of Josh Hittner (drums), Juni Iwasaki (lead guitarist), Raven Le Rouge (lead vocalist), Shon Gunderson (keyboardist/backup vocalist), and Ryan Stebb (bass). The band formed back in late 2016 and started to make their way onto the scene by early 2017. Does metal music and the mid-West mix well together? According to Ryan they absolutely do. “There’s all sorts of everything in Wichita as far as music genres go. You can go and see pretty much any genre of music on a Friday or Saturday night.” Juni added “There’s a big metal scene here.”

So how did it all get started? Raven and Shon were already working on a project together before the band formed. One day she was watching a video showing a dog getting hit by a car and how a fellow dog helped the injured dog across the road and people stopped to help. The video then flipped to a CCTV camera showing a 2 year old girl getting hit by vehicles in China and how people just walked around her body and ignored her. Her name was Wang Yue and was refered to as “Little YueYue”. “I just wanted to crawl through my phone. I was so angry,” Raven explained, “Where’s the compassion gone? I talked with [Shon] about it and said, ‘I know what I want to do for this next album'”. Raven already knew Juni and Ryan for years and brought them in, or as she says, “kidnapped them, put them in my cellar, and fed them water”. They ended up producing from that intense emotion a 14-track album titled 7 Deadly Sins with the first single being titled “Wrath”. Josh is the newest member of the band and has been onboard for 2 years.

Unlike the majority of the artists we’ve interviewed, Waking the Sleeper is signed to the record label. They signed with Rock Avenue Records USA. “They’ve been a huge driving force in our distribution side,” Raven said, “It’s been an amazing relationship together. And they’ve become family.” Though they consider themselves metal, they don’t specifically hold to one genre for influence in their music. Shon said, “There’s so many different genres and likes in the band, everything comes out.” Juni added, “It’s just kind of ‘pick this’, ‘pick that’, ‘pick this’. It’s what we like from the different genres of metal.” “I’ve been doing this with this band for, like I said, almost five years and you can’t really like pin anything down,” Ryan chimed in. Raven said most people would classify them as melodic metal.

And the band is very clear that they want their music to be their own. Ryan said, “I think everyone probably pulls from something personally. I don’t think there’s anything as a whole that our band looks to to emulate.” During the pandemic, the band released a single titled “Rat in a Cage” as a prelude to what’s coming on their sophomore album. Raven described it as what they felt like everyone was feeling during the pandemic being so isolated. Juni described how they recorded a portion of the song in their own recording studio and then took it to a local studio in Wichita to finish the record. Shon was thrilled to be able to play a grand piano they had in that studio, which they used as part of the breakdown. But, then came this, “Our record company,” Juni started off,”hooked us up with Bill Metoyer who mastered the first three Slayer albums.” Bill ended up mastering the song for them.

As for their favorite tracks to perform, Ryan enjoys “Rat in a Cage” because it’s a challenge and loves “Sloth” because he defines it as a “banger”. Shon went with “Blind Me” due to it’s Middle-Eastern style of music embedded in the song. Juni also likes “Rat in a Cage” due to his investment he’s put musically into the song. Josh also likes “Rat in a Cage”, but said he enjoys the darker sounding songs like “Greed”, “Envy”, and “Gluttony”. For Raven “Sloth” is a favorite and “Wrath” because that kicked off Waking the Sleeper. But, she also called out “Changes in Me” which is probably the slowest song they wrote and it was truly written from her heart. They normally don’t perform that live.

Waking the Sleeper is touring before they get to the Blue Ridge Rock Festival. “Starting towards the beginning of August we’re going to be going to two different festivals,” Raven said. “We’re going down to Texas for Torch Fest on the 6th [of August] and on the 7th we’ll be going to Kansas City for Punk Fest which will be a lot of fun.” Waking the Sleeper hinted at doing something very special for their performance at Punk Fest. And then they’ll be spending about a week in Texas performing in various cities. After the Blue Ridge Rock Festival they’re finalizing a tour with friends of theirs called Sister Kill Cycle.



The band is no stranger to the big stages having played festivals before. They were originally on the Blue Ridge Rock Festival 2020 lineup before it was postponed to 2021 and they stayed on for this year’s lineup. The band loves festivals and Raven expressed dearly her thoughts, “If you’ve never been to a festival, you can’t express or explain exactly what that truly means to be a ‘festival family’. It’s nothing you’ll ever experience again….It’s not just about the shows. It’s about the relationships that you gain and it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.”

What I found to be a beautiful thing with this group is their bond. All during the interview you can hear how well the speak of the band, how well they speak of each other, and how easily they joke around and laugh together over little things. There is a huge level of trust with each other and how they write and perform their music. And the interview just felt like talking with close friends. At one point during the interview, Raven flipped the switch and suddenly I was being interviewed! Check that at the 36 minute mark in the video. This group is truly talented as well as truly genuine.

Of course, I love to delve into with the bands what they do outside of their music. Juni is a huge animal lover and had his min-Pin (miniature Pinscher) Fiona Apple with him during the interview. He also has a couple of dogs and cats. He also loves to garden and loves tomatoes and peppers. Josh is always doing music stuff with another project. If not that he’s been working on a writing a TV show to hopefully get published one day! Raven is a mom of five, though she says 9, while looking at the rest of the band. She also has a podcast where she interviews local, regional, and national bands talking artist to artist. Ryan says he loves to cook (Raven said he’s an excellent cook) and he likes to paint. He’s been working on painting album covers and does all other sorts of artwork. Shon loves the forgotten arts. He shaves with straight razors, he and his wife work burlesque shows and circus sideshow acts, and Renaissance fairs. His wife is a belly dancer and will be with them at Blue Ridge Rock Festival.


Ryan Stebb’s Artwork

Raven is very active in the Blue Ridge Rock Festival Fan Zone on Facebook. She’s started a post asking to see if someone from the festival staff would create a t-shirt or even a beach towel that would include ALL of the artists performing at the Blue Ridge Rock Festival so the Rising Talents and national acts would all be there together.

Waking the Sleeper will be performing on Saturday, September 10th. They are super excited on playing that day because they feel it’s the prime performance day being a weekend day. Go check out their set that day. They will be there all four days so please say hello to them, buy their music and merch to help support them, and hopefully, you’ll enjoy their music as much as me! Go check out the full video interview below!


Waking the Sleeper Social Links







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