We get to know kicked back New Zealand five-piece LEISURE a little bit better.
You only really need to look at LEISURE’s name to guess what they’re sound is all about: swimming in a sonic pool of laid back vibes and a spacey, sprawling noise. Maybe it’s that Auckland air, but these five have really developed a beautiful, sometimes faintly chilling aural identity that draws from a whole load of influences to make something singular. After barricading themselves together in Muriwai, the boys put together “Got It Bad”, the song that turned out to be their breakthrough track, storming YouTube and Souncloud and cementing these five musical voices together as a group.
Since then, they’ve been beavering away and winning ever more fans with songs like “Hot Love” and “All Over You”, but they’ve hit new highs thanks to”Nobody”, their collaboration with US rapper GoldLink. Tight harmonies, silky synths, and a woozy, poolside vibe mean we’ve been sticking it on repeat big time here at Wonderland. During our in-depth conversation with the boys, we talk freeform creativity, the advantages of Twitter, and the musical spirit of the Southern Hemisphere: so, read on and listen hard. This is LEISURE.
Tell us how you became a band – you came together in quite a meandering way, didn’t you?
There was no plan to become a band at the very start, it was more just to collaborate and see what happened in a unique environment – we hired a coastal holiday house for a week and flipped all the rooms into working studios, floating between and adding layers and ideas there was no opportunity to feel stuck creatively.
There was no thought to reference or make a plan as to what we would sound like or what instruments we would all play, it was completely loose and freeform. I think when you can breathe creatively without too much thought there’s an energy to create something magic and honest.
One of the songs we wrote that week was “Got It Bad”, it came to the point where we thought it couldn’t hurt to throw it up on online and had joked about it sitting on some obscure YouTube channel with 250 plays and we would all get back to our day jobs. It’s still very surreal that the song is now sitting on over two-million plays online.
You’ve moved from more behind-the-scenes roles in the industry to the main act – has that been an easy progression?
We’ve been involved in various projects over a long stretch of time both in the darkness of the studio or on stage in some form so it’s not too unnatural, but it is quite surreal that we actually exist and do things like play shows and travel to places where people know the words the songs we’ve made. It’s rewarding and exciting, but we’re not overthinking anything too much.
We still love doing a lot of the behind the scenes stuff too, whether it’s production, songwriting or being involved in the creative process for the other artists. It’s something that we’re looking to do a lot more of as collective in the long-term.
How did you land on the name LEISURE?
We had been trying out a few names after our first ever week of writing, mainly because we had these demo names with no project name attached as there no plans to actually release any music at this point.
One of the boys had mentioned ‘Pleasure,’ another replied, “how about we drop the P?” – we group-smirked and said it over the course of a few days to make it feel comfortable and real. It encapsulated the essence of how the music sounded and how we felt in the environment we wrote the songs in.
If there’s one word that’s commonly associated with you in the press, it’s ‘laidback’. Is that an accurate representation of the band, or an oversimplification?
Probably an oversimplification, we are still human beings who feel all the feelings and aren’t just kicking back in striped deck-chairs. In our time together, if something is too forced or too intense – too obvious, then it’s too ‘Keen’ – which is quite a silly measure or keyword to say, but the boys completely understand if someone pipes up and says “I think that g-funk flute solo is a little too keen.”
We are hard-working too, there’s a perfectionist angle that creeps in when you care about the outcome so much. In most other projects I’ve been involved in this can hamper the progression a song but with five members to bounce off and flow through we always know pretty quickly what’s working and what isn’t.
Explain the inspiration behind “Nobody”.
“Nobody” was inspired by the idea of finding a sense of belonging to your soul mate and family. Sticking to it when things get tough. Musically we initially felt like it was trying to do our very best Marvin Gaye or Al Green but it ended up sounding like it does. Then GoldLink came along and tapped into the vibes almost immediately both lyrically and sonically.
Your creative process is quite a unique one – could you explain it to us? Why is it important to split up before coming back together?
We are always writing our own music on the side. I think the reason why LEISURE works is because we don’t all listen to one sound, so by the time we come back together to write music there’s no rule book or blueprint, which ultimately provides creative freedom with fresh circulating ideas. If one person is missing from a writing session it doesn’t feel like a LEISURE song.
We all sing so there’s never one identifiable lead singer, we can all play a handful of different instruments each so there are really no regimented formulas when we get together to make music.
The collective and collaboration aspect is a huge part for us and is the whole reasoning behind our existence as a group.
How did your collaboration with GoldLink come about?
We had actually been gathering a few dream collab names and GoldLink was at the top of the list. We actually followed him on Twitter and he messaged us right back saying he was a fan and he’d had our name on his potential collab list too – which was crazy. Don’t let anyone tell you Twitter ain’t useful!
From there, by chance we both got booked to play Laneway Festival in New Zealand – GL’s first ever time in Auckland. The day before the festival he had the afternoon spare. We hit the studio, played each other a catalogue of songs he really like one in particular so we worked on it and cut a record. For us, GoldLink adds a density and integrity to the overall vibe of the track – he was a perfect fit.
What’s special to you and your sound about the Auckland music scene?
We have a lot of great upcoming artists here in Auckland. There’s ingenuity and attitude to do big things from such a small part of world which can be infectious, some of our close friends are doing incredible things here and abroad.
I think there’s been a change in mindset in NZ, there was once a time where as long as your band were seen to be ‘cool’ then nothing else mattered – it seems to be less about that now, artists want to hone their craft and put in hard work to achieve a deeper level. It’s getting back to the music and the message. There’s something cool happening down here in the southern hemisphere.
Who are your biggest influences?
Probably the toughest question for us in particular because we all have so many individually, but if there was an all-encompassing influence it would be amiss to not mention The Beatles. Collectively, we all gravitate towards well written songs rather than one particular genre so that’s why The Beatles take the cake, it’s back to the basic elements of a simple ladder stepping melody over two or three chords. They also all took turns at singing which is something we do.
Dr. Dre is also a heavy influence for production we always end up going back to. The Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’ album is sonically profound to us too. Quincy Jones plays his part on our honor roll and you can’t mention Quincy without Michael Jackson. Tom’s a big fan of the Manchester sound too, so the sound of our group might even start to make a bit more sense after reading those names and vibrations.
We are actually building a 24hr Spotify Playlist. It’s a lifestyle soundtrack, there are all sorts of influential waves through that list, old and new.
Is there an album on the way? Tour dates?
At the moment we probably have enough for almost 3 albums, but I think in the modern era it’s okay to be collected and paced with releasing music as it can be an overload to the listener. To this point, the music we’ve released has been purely intuition driven. If it feels right to release, then we more or less release it. We have the next 4 tracks locked in then we’ll start to make moves on putting a full length record together.
With some exciting things on the horizon, we are excited for this next stage.