INTERVIEW: Leisure

If there’s one act the world has quite rightly fallen in love with over the last year, it’s New Zealand’s Leisure. The five-piece collective release their self-titled debut album this week (reviewed here) and it is an absolute masterclass in classy, timeless electronic R&B. Of course, them being on the other side of the world is hardly an obstacle for a band we’d like to demystify, so we managed to get Jordan to answer some of our burning questions…

So, the name ‘Leisure’. Are we talking more leisurely pace or ladies of leisure? 

It’s a lifestyle, for the people. A mind-frame and vibe perhaps. Our ethos it to keep things leisure at all times, if it doesn’t feel right to us then it probably isn’t leisure.

When you first emerged there was very much an air of mystery. What was the reason for that? 

The mystery thing wasn’t a planned decision, but then again neither was the cool positive mess we had found ourselves in after the first two singles had dropped – everything was super unexpected and we wrote the songs before becoming a name or a group. Releasing the songs had effectively forced us to be band-y band with bandy press shot to provide further personality to the music.

If that cloak is lifted, can you tell us more about the individual members? How did you all meet, what brought you together to this sort of sound? 

Oh, you mean taking a peak under the French striped terry cloth robe? Thought you’d never ask. You could call it a controlled fluke perhaps. Jaden, who has the strongest jawline of the group and is also the driver and ideas guy had booked a holiday house on the west coast of Auckland with an idea to get a bunch of writers he admired together for a week to make music. There was no preconception of the type of music or sound – at all. It was within 48 hours of being at the holiday house we had clumsily written our first single without even knowing it.

Tom was there, sleeping a lot – but when he was awake there was an unmatchable vibe. When I say vibe, I mean vibe. He’s also the prince of stinky basslines. Djeisan, our 6″8 Bulgarian/Maori with a strong brow-game and a whizz on vocal production and lyrics had turned the master bedroom into Studio B and was polishing a bottle of Gin – writing the deepest joints I’d heard in a hot minute.

Josh, had flipped the living room into a bougie coastal view Studio A and showed us this groove he’d been working on the week prior, the file name was All Over You (TBC). I was there taking in it all in and documenting everything on a video camera to capture whatever this special feeling I was feeling.

Bloody hell. Well, around that note: we’ve seen you described as both band and collective. When does one become the other? 

We are certainly more of a collective in the way of doing everything ourselves. Writing, mixing, mastering, artwork and video. These are our day jobs which makes everything dreamy and achievable. It allows us to carry out everything at our own pace, making the calls that feel best to us – which is essentially what keeping things leisure is about. In a musical sense, we also don’t have any set instruments or a lead singer. Every single we’ve released so far has had a new member singing lead vocal, kind of like a boyband on psychedelics.

The details with the album (which is very good by the way) describe you guys as having quite a freewheeling approach to collaboration and songwriting. How does that play out in studio, or get refined into the songs we now hear? 

First of all – thank you. This was our first review ever I’m glad it resonated well! Because nobody has a set task or role instrumentally, it means that there are no boundaries or factors already blocking our brains from fresh ideas. When we go away to a ‘leisure camp’ it’s somewhere fresh and new with no prior attachment or headspace. Free the mind, and the soul might just show itself.

What if there are any disagreements? How is that resolved among five creative people? 

If there are any disagreements, which is very rare – it’s only ever for the better of the song. The respect for ideas is 100 percent. We’re all into quite different stuff taste-wise and individually having grown up on different musical paths. The special sauce or the magic juice is that we put our best foot forward creatively and let it bounce off the walls to see what sticks. The writing process with LEISURE has been my favourite experience in music to date because of this process. No egos, rules or roles.

Thomston, Broods, Lorde, Kimbra, Ladyhawke, now you guys… what the hell is in the NZ water these days? Would you consider collaborating with any of these acts? 

We dig and respect all of those acts, collaboration is the whole reason LEISURE exists and is something we’d love to work towards doing more of. There’s some crazy good talent from NZ that won’t crack the Spotify playlists too, some of the most forward thinking fresh and honest stuff bubbling from the bedrooms and garages that will see the light of day in good time.

Also we’ve never been to NZ. What should we come over for?

Everything. NZ is paradise. November to April are our best months weather-wise. Queenstown is special. Waiheke Island if you like a nice drop of red.

“We joked about our first track slipping through the cracks and sitting on a tumbleweed Youtube channel with 250 plays”

What are you hoping people take away from this album? 

I think what has been amazing from day one has been the support from people that link with our vibe and feel. We joked about our first track slipping through the cracks and sitting on a tumbleweed Youtube channel with 250 plays but it’s been amazingly rewarding to see our fanbase grow and to realise that they also can feel as good listening to the songs as we did making them.

We’re now at a stage where these songs on the album are an extension of ourselves and the positive timeline we’ve been lucky enough to live within. For someone to perceive and enjoy that is a feeling like no other. They are the true humans of leisure.

What are you all listening to at the moment? 

I think we can all agree that the new Solange album is a winner, both audibly and visually. Jaden’s been hammering this old William Onyeabor record. I’m floating on this new NONAME record, a bunch of late 70s disco and some Young Thug for perspective.

Finally, the question we ask everyone: what’s your favourite Beyonce song? 

Oops I just mentioned her sister in the last question. All I know is that I’m about to do that Christopher Walken routine in Fatboy Slim – Weapon Of Choice to Deja Vu ft. Jay-Z. It has that jerky Copacabana cocaine trumpet funk feel that will always get me moonwalking, Jigga adds that speedboat white linen playboy rap feel that I like too.

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