The experiment proved fruitful once Grady, Bello, Manzi, guitarist Jason McCarty and bassist Will Foreman got together.
"Once everybody was on board to play music with each other in the same room, all at once with our amps turned on and all that, we pretty much knew it'd be a band," Bello said.
The band, which straddles the dark indie and post-hardcore genres, released its five-song debut EP, "The Dark One," in October. Dark, foreboding tones, maniacal (sometimes even murderous) lyrics, shrieking vocals and the aforementioned experimental bent permeate most songs.
Bello's "Emile Ajar" is a faster song, which makes it stand out stylistically, but it isn't necessarily any happier than the rest. "Having a song like that in our set makes more sense than it might appear at first glance," Grady said. "It's pretty dark."
"'Emile Ajar' does sound upbeat, but I was kind of hoping for that," Bello said, noting that it offers the band members a chance at shows to play the different styles of music they enjoy.
"Plus the lyrics for that one might not be as abject as the songs with 'shock' lines in them, but the story it tries to tell -- about [French author] Romain Gary killing himself -- feels to me as harsh as those others, and as harsh as I try to make all my lyrics."
In Sleepwalker, Grady and Bello both play guitar and they share singing and songwriting duties. It's worked out, so far.
"I've never been in a band where I don't get along super well with everybody in it, so I don't really know any other way how it feels to be in a band," Bello said. "It's pretty awesome.
"Except for Tyler's jealousy," he added, joking. "But all I can say to that is, 'Don't hate, appreciate.'"
Grady, building on Bello's joking jab, said, "David is a horrible bandmate. He never brings anything to the table, and I do all the work. He gets all the girls and doesn't drive. I regret his very existence."
In all seriousness, though, "It's been great!" Grady said.
"As for our writing differences, we notice, but we don't care," he said. "I'm not comparing us to Ween, but I don't mind the idea of having a set of songs that each take you to a different place."
The fans the band has made and the praise it's received are definitely welcome. For Grady, though, it's all about the shows and moving the band forward.
"Praise is good, but progress is better," he said. "While I appreciate that people say nice things about our music and performances, I'm mostly interested in trying to push my skills as a songwriter. It's the punk in me that will tell you that I don't do this for your collective approval.
"Also, more praise sometimes means more gigs," he said, "and performance is my favorite part of the whole thing."
Reach Nick Harrah at wvrocksc...@gmail.com.