Starting out in 2015 as a deliberately anonymous act, drip-feeding mysterious singles to student radio, Kiwi supergroup Leisure has come a long way in six years. At the beginning of December 2021 the quintet completed the release of their third album, ‘Sunsetter,’ an album in two parts. Sam Smith caught up with vocalist and bass player Tom Young. Made with the support of NZ On Air.
Leisure has carved itself a permanent spot within Aotearoa’s music scene in recent years thanks to their laid back fusion of disco, pop, soul and RnB. Some would say their music is genre-less, and that is what attracts them fans. However, bassist Tom Young says it’s more the laidback nature of how they do things, even right down to the name Leisure.
“I feel like people like that. There is something almost, I guess, easy, about it. You can chuck the record on, and it’s like, you know what you have got.”
A supergroup of sorts, Leisure is made up of musicians and music producers who had already had considerable success in music and came together as friends to see what they could create collectively. The band features Young (an artist under his own name and also as part of The Melancholies), Djeisan Suskov (Cool Rainbows), Jaden Parkes (Goodnight Nurse), Josh Fountain (Kidz in Space), and Jordan Arts (Kids of 88, High Hoops).
Their third album ‘Sunsetter’ continues on the laid back vibes of their previous work. It’s an album that has been two years in the making, and like so many, affected by Covid delays as Young explains.
“In 2019, we went to France for like a week, just to do some writing. They were our first kind of sessions on what ended up being this album.
“It was a little bit disjointed, and finishing things off was really difficult with all the Covid stuff. We work way better when we’re all in a room together, and so sending files and stuff over the internet isn’t really the way we get anything done. So we kind of just waited, and it happened in-between lockdowns. We had a bunch of stuff ready and then we tracked drums and bass and a bunch of guitars at Roundhead between the first and second lockdown!”
Given the drawn-out process, and how the band likes to write in the studio, ‘Sunsetter’ has been released in two parts, Side A and Side B. Young explains this was intentional, and a reflection of the changing nature of music consumption.
“Rather than kind of go dark for two years and come out with a record that people will listen to half of, then switch to another record that came out that same day, we just thought we would kind of release it as we made it. I guess we wanted to match the way we consume media and content these days.
“We have kind of stopped pre-planning our sessions in some ways. In many respects now it’s like a bit of a jam session, so to speak – a jam session standing around a computer, really! Josh or whoever will be on the computer and we will bring up a beat or something, or get a loop going, and then we’ll just start throwing stuff in.”
‘Sunsetter’ definitely harks back to their first self-titled album (‘Leisure’, 2016) sound-wise, and Young describes it as being more spontaneous and less tense than 2019’s sophomore release ‘Twister’.
“‘Twister’ was a bit darker. Maybe it’s just like the classic second record thing. We were overthinking things quite a bit! So after that process, I think we just wanted to take it back to our reasons for starting the project, and this kind of relaxed everything.”
“With the second record, we had just signed a record deal, and money came into the equation, with other people making decisions for you. That kind of stressed us out. I feel like we have ironed all that out now.”
This new relaxed philosophy highlights how far Leisure has come as a group since 2015, and where they see themselves now in comparison. Young says their expectations have changed, and they are more comfortable with where they sit as Leisure.
“I think we’re way more relaxed now. When we started, there was a bit of hype which was cool in a way, but also you get these people telling you what to expect. There is less hype now, which is really nice – there are Iess expectations to be cool now… When it was anonymous, there was all this potential for what it could be, and it can kind of be a bit scary because people, I guess, maybe build up their expectations.
“We do it part-time, you know, and we have got other jobs and projects we do. It was never meant to be this main thing. It was always meant to be a fun thing that we can do for like, almost escapism, in a way.”
The quintet is signed for one more album with Canadian label Nettwerk Records, but Young says they will still be making music in some capacity after that regardless, even though he expresses surprise the band is still going as 2022 approaches.
“We never thought we would be in a band again, in our 30s! It’s more of a young man’s game, you know? You get in a van and drive around, it’s what you do when you’re like 18-19…
“It has been good, though, because we can do it at our own pace now. We kind of have it worked out in a way where we are all comfortable with the process of being in Leisure, and what it offers us. All we have to do is adapt it to our lifestyles.”