The crew at Music 101 are pretty adept being across local artists and their releases. We’re mostly always there before the jump or the splash. Except for this lot.
Leisure’s initial single, Got it Bad, first appeared on Soundcloud with little more than the kitschy 80s profile photo. The song made our 2015 favourite things list, even, as it turns out, the track has no electric guitar (more on that later).
Obviously, we didn’t know why at the time, as the 5 piece yacht rock exponents were frustratingly evasive characters, and given the moody band photo above, it seemed to be part of the whole intent of cooler-than-cool, City of Sails chic, urban sophisticates.
That feeling endures throughout their debut self-titled album, and now that the album is out (on digital and wax), M101 finally has the opportunity to put some questions to Leisure band members Jaden Parkes and Josh Fountain.
When asked about the lyrical angle of Leisure - think, frivolous elation and emotions of love and romance - Jaden laughs, “we’re basically a boy band. I like to call us a man band.” With that one answer Jaden, the catalyst of the whole Leisure endeavour, has melted away any perceived aloofness.
But what about the serious art school turtlenecks in the band photo? “Oh, the ‘turts’?” Jaden laughs again, “That was a masterstroke on my part". He'd picked them up from a big box retailer for $7 each en route to the photo shoot, "and then, hey oh!"
Now any pretense of untouchable cool is truly extinguished.
The story goes that Jaden, whose previous musical affiliations were Goodnight Nurse and Kids of 88, hired a bach at West Auckland’s Muriwai Beach and invited a group of respected musical friends.
The four others who heeded his call musical pedigree name checks most indie, electro acts of the last decade, Nova Echo (precursor to Cut of Your Hands), Cool Rainbows, Kidz in Space, High H00ps to name a few.
Experienced musicians, seasoned industry heads, who, Josh says, had “been in this industry so long we’re all jaded. So the whole idea with Leisure is let’s do things our way and let’s make sure it’s fun. Because if it’s not fun it’s not worth doing...we kinda have the freedom to do what we want”
Within a week the holiday crew of Tom Young, Josh Fountain, Jordan Arts and Djeisan Suskov had amassed 13 songs with a strong emphasis on “groove and melody". Josh recalls the moment where Jaden held a roundtable discussion to propose this approach before they set up three concurrent recording spaces throughout the coastal retreat, which "was really good way of making sure you get too bored and keep ideas fresh.”
It was ideal getaway for someone like Josh whose day job is recorder/producer at Golden Age Studios, which was the former sonic headquarters for Joel Little (Lorde’s co-writer/producer on Pure Heroine), now home of talent such as Thomston and MAALA, whose records Josh has worked on.
The tendency for the audio engineering types, like fellow go-to mixer and masterer of albums, Djeisan Suskov, is to go a little overboard on post-production fixes. As one might have expected on Got it Bad, the lush, synth confection with flourishes of organs, a grooving bass and vocals as light at the seafoam on Muriwai Beach. The track turned out that way because none of the holidaying group brought an electric guitar with them. Although Jaden qualifies that he did ask Djeisan, who forgot.
“That's the reason why the whole song is built around organs, drums and bass, we didn't have any fancy gear," Josh continues, "It was directly DI’ed on the worst bass, and the solo on Got It Bad on that bass.”
He and Djeisan have also learned when to keep their hands off fixing songs “we always get told off for fiddling with songs after we've finished them...it always loses the magic and now we've learned our lesson”
For self-appointed Dad of the band, Jaden, who works in A&R, the cohesive ease of the band’s dynamic was a surprise. “Everyone is a songwriter and producer in their own right, so having that many people with ideas, I thought was going to be a potential nightmare.[But] everybody is at the point where they've been part of projects where they've learned that the main focus is the song and not about personal agendas."
Josh adds, "Getting out out of the studio and into a creative and interesting space is really important. And also that’s the funnest part of being in Leisure."
Leisure's self-titled debut album is out now.
Songs: Hot Love, Got it Bad, Take it to the Top