New Zealand outfit LEISURE have just come off the back of a breakthrough 2016 releasing their debut self-titled album and really announcing themselves to Australia off the back of their single ‘Got It Bad’ which was released the year before. They’re part of a growing school of artists who are really delving into this reincarnation of psychedelic rock, but also throwing reference to some of the great and defining aspects of funk, soul, hip hop and more.
The result is this eclectic mash of chilled vibes, enveloping melodies and understated beats – giving off a vibe that is really best described as ‘leisure’. What also sets these guys apart is the fact that five out of the six members all sing, allowing LEISURE to create some incredible harmonies both in their recorded and live music.
We caught up with Djeisan Suskov from the band to chat about the state of mind they found themselves in when writing their debut album, the influence of Kevin Parker on the revival of psych-rock, and what 2017 holds for LEISURE.
Watch: LEISURE – Got It Bad
Music Feeds: You guys really shot to prominence off the back of your single ‘Got It Bad’ about 18 months ago. What were you all doing before LEISURE and how did it form?
Djeisan Suskov: We were all working on various projects in the music industry in New Zealand. We were in bands or had other creative projects on the go, just getting involved in the industry in general for quite a while. We knew each other from those experiences that we’d had, and decided that we’d get together in a beach house one time to see what would happen if we made music together and had some fun, with no pressure, and here we are. So that was the basic foundation of what we’re doing.
MF: Your debut album earlier this year, it seems to combine aspects of R&B, psych rock, blues, funk and soul. Did you guys have a collective vision for what you wanted LEISURE to sound like when you first started recording music together?
DS: It just really happened to be honest. We’ve got quite an eclectic taste between us, and all of us are into different sorts of things, yet there’s often a common thread that we have in terms of what we like and what we like to play. So that built a strong foundation for the band and for our songwriting. We all like a lot of soul and hip hop records, and there’s a lot of rock n’ roll in there as well. It just all came together quite organically, we didn’t really think about it too much. The only thing was that we had a discussion before we had the first beach house trip which was just to touch bass and create a really strong groove.
We wanted to take things seriously, not messing around in any way or going too prog on things, just keeping it simple and making sure things were fun and enjoyable and that’s the sort of music that came out. And it turned into something that we all felt strongly about because it felt the music really explained how we were feeling at the time we were making it. We feel the way we make music is based upon what we were experiencing when we were there, hanging out with mates and just making music in the beach house – which is the core of what we do.
MF: With a name like LEISURE, it really seems like that quite laid back vibe really penetrates through all of the music you’ve made so far.
DS: Well we wanted to create something that we could all be a part of as opposed to anything that would alienate anyone. So that foundation of the melodies and rhythm that we created had to be something that was quite accessible for everyone to join in on. That creates a certain atmosphere where you feel musically like you’re not going to have any limits to your contribution. We like to have an energy around us that makes it feel like we’re not trying too hard and it might sound clichéd but it’s what we’re about, to feel like we’re trying but not too hard and balance having fun. Being inspired is what we’re all about, and we definitely all have our own tastes but the groove and the melody being strong was an obvious, important part. Then there were no rules from there because all of us song write and sing there were no real rules – anybody in the band can just jump up and do what they feel. I feel like that’s a healthy way to be for us.
LEISURE – Control Myself
MF: This kind of laid back funk/psych-rock style seems to really be gaining traction recently, with the likes of yourselves and Tame Impala really emerging on the scene. Kevin Parker really seems to have opened the door for this type of music, what influence do you think he’s had?
DS: He’s absolutely had an influence. He’s definitely opened the door and in New Zealand, there’s been the rise of a lot of music based around what Drake’s been doing and others in the US. With Tame Impala we all really enjoy them so much because there’s this guitar-based Beatles sort of aesthetic, but in a very modern, hip hop kind of way – particularly with the way his kick drums function. There’s definitely those sorts of elements that come through in our music because we’re all really well-schooled in that type of music and a lot of the old rock n’ roll bands as well as hip hop and soul. Kevin’s done really well and it’s awesome to see. There’s also another guy called Ruben Neilson who has a band called Unknown Mortal Orchestra who has a similar sort of vibe, he takes a lot of psychedelic rock influences and mixes it in with modern production.
MF: There was a solid year and a half between the release of ‘Got It Bad’ and the full album, what were you guys mostly doing over that time, and what’s coming up looking to the future?
DS: Well we plan to write some more in January, to do another trip when we’re feeling inspired again and getting back in that element where we want to be creative. I think the plan is just to keep going and keep releasing stuff, because the response has been really good from people so we just want to keep that relationship with those people out there who are listening. So just keeping on writing songs and having fun with it; I think that’s the main thing with LEISURE, we just want to have fun it and continue to be inspired. If that stops then we’ll probably stop, but if it keeps going we’ll just want to keep writing and touring and doing fun things. If we’re keeping it Leisure then everyone is cool about it.
MF: For those who haven’t seen you live before, give us a bit of an idea about what to expect from your live show?
DS: We like to set up a vibe that’s fairly conducive to how we feel when we’re recording the song – and to just translate that into a live setting. There’s six of us that play live on stage; a drummer, two of us on keyboards, a couple of guitars and a bass player, and then five of us also sing. So it’s a pretty full sound and we just like to have a lot of fun and try to bring the kind of energy that we feel when we’re producing the music into the room when we’re playing in. That’s what you can expect.
MF: You recently played a one-off show in Sydney, but is there any plan to come back and do a more comprehensive run of shows over here anytime in the near future?
DS: I hope so. I personally love Australia so I would love to spend way more time here. I was hoping that on the last trip there’d be way more shows but a lot of us had to get back home for other work-related things. Perhaps in 2017 we’ll be able to do a more extensive Australian tour and go all out which would be great.
‘Leisure’ is out now. Grab a copy here.