Leisure’s Jaden Parkes and Josh Fountain have finally found the freedom to make music the way they want.
LISTEN to this interview via Music 101:
Leisure, the once mysterious Auckland five-piece that didn’t aim to be a band, are now a live entity. RNZ Music’s Yadana Saw speaks to Jaden Parkes and Josh Fountain about the release of the band’s self-titled debut album.
When I first came across Got It Bad, which was last year, it was so difficult to follow the cookie crumbs of who or what Leisure was. Was that the whole plan?
Jaden Parkes: It was definitely not the plan. It wasn't like we set out to be a band and take over the world or anything, we just got together and made some music. When we decided that we all liked it and when we were going to put something out, it was quite early in the process. So we hadn't got to the point of figuring out if we were going to play live and those types of things.
So you were just testing the water?
Jaden: Yeah, the project was and is still very much is something we do in our spare time. It's almost an escape from what we're doing in the rest of our lives. I feel like the "mystery" thing had been done a lot after Ella (Yellich-O'Connor) had done it with Lorde. I remember when we first met with our manager, I was like “I really don't want to do band photos”. I can't imagine us being a band and standing against a brick wall looking cool, because we couldn't do that if we tried.
The stories goes that last summer, you invited a bunch of your musical friends up to Muriwai and you guys came back with 10 songs.
Josh Fountain: I think it was 13 songs and that was in the first three days. The initial idea was that Jaden invited a bunch of us out to this awesome house and we were just going to write some songs. We would have a few different set-ups in different rooms and just write some songs for no particular project and just see what happened. We got to the end of the week and we had all these songs and we had no idea what to do with them. But they all kind of worked together, so we just thought, well, let's just put a couple of them out and see what happens.
So Jaden, when you initially set out with this idea to invite a bunch of friends and make music, what was the general vibe you were going for?
Jaden: I wanted to go away on holiday. I had 10 days and I was going to spend them out at Muriwai and invite some friends. Then what kind of interested me was trying to do something in a songwriting sense that I hadn't done before. But it was more just about bringing people together that I had gotten along with as friends [who] I also respected and I was a fan of what they were doing musically.
I didn't know what was going to come out of it, but the main thing was that everyone had a good time working on music and if we did something that we liked, then great, and if we didn't, [it was] as long as we had a good time.
Josh: We've all been in the industry for so long [that] we're all kind of jaded. The whole idea with Leisure was “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've all got our own careers and own jobs, so we kind of have the freedom to do it the way that we want.
Jaden: With this project, I feel like for a lot of us it really represents who we are – and it's our best work. It would be really cool to set it up so it has longevity, so we can make more records and keep doing what we're doing. Our first projects (Goodnight Nurse, Kidz In Space) were very of the time; it would be one [or] two records at the most, [then] it would be all over. I think with this, it's the way that we want to go with our process, and doing things in our own way really sets it up.
I really get the vibe from the album that it's dealing with the eternal tension and elation that comes from love and romance.
Josh: Spot on.
Were you guys channelling particular artists or was the theme of the album to take this arc of how it feels to really like someone and try and make it work?
Josh: I don't think we set out to do that; I think that's just what naturally came out. I remember the very first Leisure session, Jaden sat us down around the table and he said “let's concentrate on groove and melody when we're doing the songs”.
Jaden: I think it's just something that it's potentially where we're at in our lives … once you go through relationships, you have a lot of different experiences there. You kind of look at things slightly differently when you get a bit older as well, from my perspective anyway. It just kind of came out and it was something that all of us had in common. We're basically a boy band, but I call us a man band.
Leisure's self-titled debut album is out now.