Q&A: The Leisure Society
By CMU Editorial | Published on Tuesday 22 September 2009
The Leisure Society quietly self-released their debut album, ‘The Sleeper’, in March this year. A month later they found themselves at the centre of a media frenzy when their song ‘The Last Of The Melting Snow’ was nominated for the Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically And Lyrically. This brought them to the attention of the Full Time Hobby label, who quickly snapped them up and will re-release the album with an extra disc of bonus tracks on 28 Sep. The band also release a new mini-album, ‘The Product of The Ego Drain’, via the label on 5 Oct and are currently on tour. We spoke to core members and songwriters Nick Hemming and Christian Hardy.
Q1 How did you start out making music?
Nick: I used to write lyrics to songs when I was a young teenager but they were basically pastiches of Jam songs (I was a huge Paul Weller fan) and not very good ones at that. When I was 17 I bought myself a cheap guitar from Argos and recorded a Spinal Tap-esque speed metal album with my friend Paddy Considine. We could barely play and recorded it using one microphone so it was pretty basic. The band was called Grunt and we called the album ‘Oink At The Moon’. Unbelievably we sold a few copies at our local record store!
Christian: My dad is an amateur musician who would lock himself in his music room every weekend playing covers. I’d listen at the door from a very young age and before long I was sneaking in and tinkering with his keyboards and guitars when he was away. Meanwhile, my mum was off getting remarried to the lead guitarist from Showaddywaddy, so I had these very musical weekends when we’d visit them and play his insanely opulent guitar collection. My brother reminded me recently that I wrote my first song when I was about three or four, it was called ‘Living Without The Order’ and I don’t know what that means.
Q2 What inspired your latest album?
Nick: About three years ago I split with my partner, who I’d been with for eight years. I’d been doing menial day jobs for years whilst playing in bands at night and had started writing songs inspired by the yearning to break away from the nine-to-five monotony. I was desperate do something I really had a passion for. The end of the relationship prompted a move down to London to live and make music with Christian. I was sleeping on sofas and sharing beds with friends and this whole lifestyle, while not particularly good for the health, stirred my creativity and lots of songs poured out.
Q3 What process do you go through in creating an album?
Christian: Nick plays me songs and I weep and swoon and get very very excited. Occasionally I play him one of mine if I think it might work with TLS. We play them together again and again to find harmonies and melodies that get us both excited. Then we record demos and start bringing in the band. With ‘The Sleeper’ we’d get musicians in as and when we could, and figure out parts as we went, whereas now we have this solid band of wonderful musicians in place, so for album two we’re sending out the demos to the core other five members then trying them out at rehearsals and soundchecks and on the tour bus and then at shows. Complacency is not something we’re guilty of; we agonise over structure and arrangement to the point of mania. We veer from euphoria to doubt and self-loathing. Luckily, Nick and I seem to have a totally unified sense of how songs should end up. There’s a moment when we listen to a mix and we both know it’s done, for good or ill.
Q4 Which artists influence your work?
Nick: I was introduced to a lot of cool music by Stephen Lawrie, of my old band The Telescopes. We’d stay up till the early hours drinking tea and smoking whilst he put on records from his vast collection of vinyl – Nick Drake, Bowie, The Stones, Richard Hell, Television… I’d previously only heard the early Beach Boys surf albums but when he played me ‘Surf’s Up’, ‘Friend’ and ’20/20′, my ears were changed forever.
Christian: Before I met Nick I was all about Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Beck, Radiohead, The Beatles and Billy Joel. Now I have his vast CD collection at my disposal, so Neil Young, Grizzly Bear, Beach Boys and stacks of others are a massive influence too. We both discovered Loney, Dear together via my old label, our drummer Bas and myself played some sessions for him when he was last over here and working up close with him was incredibly inspiring. He IS music.
Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
Nick: Well, without wanting to sound too sentimental, it’s all written totally from the heart and hopefully the hours of love and attention we poured into it will come across in the recordings.
Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?
Christian: Once we’d finished it we just hoped it would be heard and appreciated by some people. Our initial self-released run led to amazing radio support from broadcasters we both admired massively, the Ivor Novello nomination and a deal with Full Time Hobby, a label we both dug long before. With the re-release on their label my hope is that a lot more people will get the chance to hear the record and the bonus tracks. As for the future, I’m already obsessed with the new songs, we’re ready to start the process again, with our band, who we love. It’s exciting.
Nick: Same here, really. I’m constantly looking forward and can’t wait to get cracking on the next album. Beside that though, we are hoping to tour the US next year. I’ve always wanted to visit the States and a road trip with band mates must surely be the best way to see it.