Often, when a group of five guys joins together to make music, the result is not the blissed-out psychedelic, trippy yet subtle pop-y sound that Leisure produces. The five members, who are good friends, are also all award-winning songwriters and producers, both individually and together. The group hails from Auckland, New Zealand, formed back in 2015 has been successfully and democratically writing, recording and performing together since. “At this point we’re all pretty good at leaving our egos at the door whenever we’re making tunes,” says band member Tom Young, on behalf of the full squad which includes: Jaden Parkes and Jordan Arts (formerly of Kids of 88), Djeisan Suskov and Josh Fountain.
Their work ethic and creative collaboration stands its ground in their latest single. “Spark It Up”, emits a soft sexiness — an awareness that in all the trauma and drama going on in the world, human connection, relationship and how we show up for those we love is of the utmost importance. And that nothing reminds us more of what we love most than being away from it. Before a hint of melody or harmony, the song leads with echoes of nature: crickets and birds chirping, the sounds of being unplugged (which is exactly what the guys were while writing this song). Then the lone guitar chords and those slippery voices bring the heat with lyrics that’ll either make you want a hug or a booty call, “Whatever you want, whatever you need… show me how to spark it up…” (insert fire emoji here)
In a time when people are connecting or trying to stay connected in different ways, how does “Spark It Up” speak to that?
At the time we had been away from our partners and families for quite a while, so we were all feeling pretty sentimental. That kind of space can often give you the freedom to reflect on a situation that can be hard to do while you’re deep in the routine of it. Although he didn’t tell us at the time, Josh had found out his wife was pregnant while we were away so he had a lot to process and I guess draw from. But the song is really us using our space away from our lives to reflect on what we appreciated about situations back home as well as what we could improve on.
The song also follows quite a strange structure, it starts with the chorus, with each of us following our own verse depending on how we related to the chorus lyrics, giving the song various expressions of the same theme.
You all tend to travel to far away places and write albums in solitude. How was this experience different?
It was crazy because we literally joked about writing in France when we did our first writing getaway in 2015. So it was this massive box to tick for us as a band/group of friends. Also being away from our regular lives for so long gave us time to really think about things with more of a birds eye view. I also think the physical distance away from NZ played a factor as well.
“Spark It Up” is one of the first tracks we wrote on this writing trip.
I love how you rotate your creative process (the members don’t just play one instrument, but rather trade off with one another throughout the recording process). How do decisions get made on who’s playing/writing what for each song?
Our philosophy is to purely do what’s best for the song. Luckily we’re all knowledgeable and talented in our individual niches (allegedly) so if something’s not working it’s not hard to fill the gap. When it comes to green lighting tracks for release nothing gets out unless we all love it. Even if only one person has their doubts the song gets shelved until we can figure it out (or not).
I know your sound has been pegged with many genres — how would you describe your vibe?
Haha it’s also the hardest to describe when you’re in it making it. I think I’ve figured out it’s pop music for my ‘alternative’ friends, and it’s alternative music for my ‘pop’ friends. But there’s definitely some soul, hip hop, pop and psych in there. I understand we’re in such a referential culture but I think we all prefer to exist in the inbetween. It helps keep possibilities open and prevents you from getting cornered, which I think is a heavy spot for any artist.
Your upcoming EP, Side A, is coming out October 30th. Assuming that means there’s a Side B in progress?
Oh yes. It’s basically just breaking album three up into two parts. We’ve talked a lot about how music and content is digested these days and wanted to adapt our release process to fit that. I kind of see it like you’re playing that game where you’ve gotta keep hitting up the balloon before it hits the ground, it’s much easier to move forward and stuff when you’re already in motion (and not deflating on the floor).
CONNECT WITH LEISURE
photos / Nicole Brannen
story/ Eve Simonsen