Chamber Pop. The very name conjures images of well-dressed, stiff upper-lipped musicians frantically following the instructions of a left-based bassist asking them to create a dissonant, crescendo like atmosphere for the magnum opus of their band.
To the people of The Leisure Society, however, it only means pop and rock with some orchestral elements thrown into the mix. The genres “chamber folk” and “classical pop” have been bandied around this band, once Brighton based, now dwelling in London. Citing classic influences like The Kinks, The Beach Boys and The Beatles (“they will be big one day”), the band released Into the murky water last year, with a warm welcome, including kudos from Brian Eno.
“We were shown around his flat” mentions lead singer Nick Hemming, recalling some more details with help of their tour manager Helen. I asked a bit more about that meeting and Christian Hardy (multi-instrumentalist, producer, voice) mentions being invited to an a capella room with Nick. “[Brian Eno] is standing next to Chris Martin from Coldplay and then he says ‘c’mon, sing! You’re the best singers here’ and Chris Martin looked all crestfallen”.
We want to make sure the album is listened as a whole, it’s a body of work. We want people to immerse into the artwork
We all laugh. The band is in a very good mood. Their food is being prepared before their gig at The Harley and they travelled from Norwich to Sheffield in a blistering cold, chilly day. Whatever gloom the icy wind brought, their warmth melted away.
Speaking of warm, we go back to talk about that lovely gem, 2011’s Into the murky water and its reception. Christian proudly says “it’s a very good album” and everyone agrees with him, although Nick laments (in a very deadpan manner) that he’d hoped for more radio play.
In an era where people who still buy physical media are a minority and where digital media is the weapon of choice of many a band struggling for the listener’s attention, The Leisure Society still believes firmly in a tangible product. “We want to make sure the album is listened as a whole, it’s a body of work. We want people to immerse into the artwork” says Nick, after I ask about the very retro-cool front cover. Christian added “we really like to focus on packaging. Make the cd a beautiful thing, where you can read the lyrics and interact with it instead of listening to crappy mp3s that sound terrible”.
The cover was inspired in the artwork of an old b-film called Around the world under the sea, originally painted by Frank McCarthy (who also made the posters for The Great Escape and On Her Majesty’s secret service. Sadly, he passed away in 2002. Nick reminisces “We tried to get permission from his widow, who lives in the desert in Texas. She was very open for us to use it but we needed permission from Warner Brothers, who weren’t interested”. Luckily, one of Christian’s friends was quite deft with die cut and ended up doing the design for the band.
Would physical media come back? They all chip in but Christian seems to nail it. “I think Generation X, people who were brought up in the 90s, don’t have an attachment to products. Like all things, it’s circular and there will resurge in 30 or 40 years, that’s my prediction”.
The plans for the rest of the year seem to point towards a very busy year. “We’ll disappear and work on new songs, hopefully have a brand new album by year’s end” says Nick, containing his excitement like a real pro. I do enquire about the Willkommen Collective, a group of bands in Brighton. Christian, who plays also with The Miserable Rich, curtly says “it’s defunct”. No bad blood, it was just the geographical separation between bands and members’, though there is a new generation of Willkommen projects coming through at the moment.
Nonetheless, their side projects seem to be giving some results too. Mike mentions that The Miserable Rich will tour in April and do another album. Christian and Nick will continue working with Tim West for a new The Climbers’ album and then The Leisure Society reveals their lifelong goal: to do a film’s soundtrack. Sure, they’ve had the odd song or two in films (most recently, Paddy Considine’s Tyronasur), but no, they want a specific filmmaker: Wes Anderson.
Then we all forget about the interview and start talking about how brilliant was The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Even Rich, this interview’s photographer, chimes in. A lot of praise is given to Mr. Anderson and his body of work and once the band is called for food, the interview closes to an end.
The Leisure Society. Their name might come from an old concept, the retrofuturistic belief that in the future, everything would be automatised and we’d have all the time in the world to indulge in the pursuit of leisure. True (and as lead singer Nick mentioned), the opposite happened and we live in a society where all that automatisation might be a burden on us. That is the reason why music as fresh as the one weaved by this band is a sight for sore eyes.