The Leisure Society was formed by Nick Hemming, formerly of early 1990′s indie band She Talks To Angels which included actor Paddy Considine, film director Shane Meadows and bassist Richard Eaton. Aside from writing and performing music for the films Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes and A Room for Romeo Brass, Hemming was also a member of The Telescopes. After meeting multi-instrumentalist and producer Christian Hardy in 2006, the pair have subsequently built a live band drawn from members of Brighton’s Willkommen Collective and further afield.
The Leisure Society have been recipients of considerable critical acclaim since the release of their first single, being dubbed the English answer to popular U.S acts such as Grizzly Bear, Department of Eagles and Fleet Foxes. Here songwriter and frontman Nick Hemming talks to James Blake about beginnings, their latest EP Into the Murky Water and what’s in store for the band.
How are things with Leisure Society at the moment?
Very good thanks!
Where are you? Are you being kept busy at the moment?
We’re having a rare day off in Greenwich. We’re just back from tour and went straight in the studio with Ray Davies so it’s been a crazy couple of months.
For those that are new to your music, where did it all start for you and where did your early influences come from to create the sound you have now?
I started off as a guitarist in indie rock bands. In my spare time I did soundtracks for friends’ films and I was heavily influenced by Burt Bacharach, John Barry, Brian Wilson, Henry Mancini & Ennio Moriccone. As a result of this I amassed quite a horde of instruments, so when I started writing my own songs I naturally made the arrangements as orchestral as possible. I moved down to London to play in Christian Hardy’s band about 5 years ago and he encouraged me to start recording an album, which went on to be our debut The Sleeper. Over that period I was playing in quite a few Brighton bands and it was here that I was introduced to Mike & Will who do the strings in The Leisure Society.
Am I right in thinking the band members are an amalgamation of numerous groups from Brighton? Where did it all begin and how did you arrive at the outfit you are now?
Mike, Will & Helen are all poached from Brighton bands who are part of the Willkommen Collective that I was play in a lot a couple of years ago. The rest of the band are all based in London. I met Daz & Sebastian playing in Christian’s band.
As a large group you clearly have varying musical tastes, which are all voiced in your music. When it comes to writing how do you make sure there’s a just the right amount of the folk, rock and pop elements in each song?
When I write a song I usually have an idea of instrumentation, and the rest of the band help me realise that – sometimes my ideas can be a little vague. There’s never any compromise though, the arrangements are always dictated by what the song needs. There are a couple of songs on the album that don’t actually have strings so it’s been fun seeing Mike picking up an electric guitar for our live shows.
Definitely a bit of both. It’s pretty terrifying letting something go when it’s been your life for two years! It was a relief to get out of the studio and on the road though, I was starting to go a little stir crazy.
The single “The Last of the Melting Snow” from the last album was nominated for an Ivor Novello. Does that mean expectations are set even higher for this album?
Definitely, the more successful you are the higher you set your sights. We want to keep improving.
There’s clear musical progression from the debut to this record, did you take a different approach to this album as the debut?
The first album was recorded in snatched moments over three years whereas this one is a much more cohesive body of work. We went away to a house in the country to jam out the rhythm parts and then used the drums as a foundation to build everything around. We also had access to a lot more musicians thanks to Helen’s connections at Trinity Music College. If we wanted to use a harpsichord, a sax quartet, an opera singer or a harp we could get it. We obsessed over every sound and every take on the album – sometimes to the point of madness!
Lyrically, the subject matter seems to have a more reflective angle than the previous record, is there any reason behind this change in writing style? Have your influences changed since The Sleeper?
Yeah, after a decade of striving to make it in music I finally found myself in a fairly successful band and earning a living from songwriting. A lot of the songs on the Sleeper were cathartic songs whereas this one is largely looking back on those desperate times and realising that it wasn’t all bad. The song ‘Although We All Are Lost’ sums up the lyrical tone of the album best I think: it’s a realisation that the difficult times shape who you are. If I’d been successful at 19 I probably wouldn’t have had anything to write songs about.
You’ve got a lot of shows at UK festivals this summer. Do you prefer your headline shows to festivals and do you prepare differently when it’s not your own tour?
The preparation is the same but it’s down to luck whether you get a good sound at a festival. You usually just rush on, set up and play. I prefer headline shows where you get chance to sound check and set out the stage exactly as you like it. Festivals are great fun though because you’re usually playing to a new crowd – one that’s drunk and happy!
How does such a large band cope on the road?
It’s difficult at times and very expensive to keep us all on the road. We all get along great though and we hate compromising on sound so whenever possible we take the entire band.
What’s next on the agenda for The Leisure Society?
Well I’m just off for a few days of writing. Still a summer of festivals ahead but after that I’ll be keen to get back in the studio and start on album three.
The Leisure Society’s second album Into The Murky Water is out now through Full Time Hobby. They’re about to release a new single from this, ‘You Could Keep Me Talking’ on the 11th July.
Click here for more information on the band.
The band are playing several festivals throughout summer, then heading out on tour in October. See below for their tour dates.
2nd Kent, UK – Hop Farm Festival
9th Eastleigh, UK – Eastleigh Festival
17th Henham, UK – Latitude Festival
23rd Topcliffe, UK – Deer Shed Festival
30th Sidmouth, UK – Sidmouth Fringe
5th Dranouter, Belgium – Dranouter Festival
6th Bad Windsheim, Germany – Weinturm Open Air
20th Glanusk Park, UK – Green Man Festival
4th Larmer Tree Gardens, UK – End Of The Road Festival
6th Paris, France – Le Cafe de la Danse (Eldorado Festival)
7th Opwijk, Belgium – Nijdrop
8th Rotterdam, Holland – Rotown
9th Lille, France – Le Grand Mix (Radar Festival)
15th Norwich, UK – Arts Centre
16th Cambridge, UK – Junction
22nd Clitheroe, UK – The Grand
23rd Sheffield, UK – The Harley
24th Newcastle, UK – Cluny
25th Birmingham, UK – Glee Club
27th Belfast, UK – Black Box
28th Dublin, Ireland – Whelans