In an age where music is increasingly downloaded and streamed, The Leisure Society continue to fly the flag for 20th century formats. While you can purchase their sublime third album, Alone Aboard The Ark, digitally, they’d prefer if you bought the physical album – which, as an incentive, comes packaged in a beautifully designed, hardback booklet.
“We’re quite old fashioned,” confesses Staffordshire songwriter and frontman Nick Hemming. “We want people to have the album in front of them, preferably the 12inch vinyl, so we put a lot of effort into it … it’s nice to have and to hold.
“We have this old fashioned romantic vision of people huddled over their hi-fi equipment listening to it,” he laughs, adding his love of good design and the ‘old fashioned’ sequenced long-player format stems from a childhood fascination with vinyl.
“When I was young I was into ’60s music, I was passionate about The Kinks, The Who, and also The Jam, who were still just about together I think. I loved all the old artwork, especially as it was 12 inches square, and I liked the way tracks, songs, stuck together to form a full album. I do download single tracks but I love that album format, the A-side and the B-side – which is what we’ve done with our album, divided it into A and B.”
Such is their love of old physical formats – they’re even putting out a tape!
“We’ve done a limited edition of [album] demos released as a giveaway on cassette. It’s really limited, about 100 copies. They’re going to independent stores so you can only get it when you go in and buy the album the store.
“There’s something really nice about the sound of magnetic tape,” Nick reckons, though does admit that cassette wasn’t the most durable of formats. “They’re not very reliable, the tape degrades and the tape can snap … and I don’t think many people play cassettes nowadays. I can’t believe there are still places that do them, but our label found somewhere.”
Following musical excursions involving future film and TV director Shane Meadows (This Is England) and actor/director Paddy Considine, The Leisure Society came together when Nick reconnected with fellow Burton-on-Trent ex-pat Christian Hardy while in London. Last Of The Melting Snow, their 2009 single from debut album Sleeper, earned Nick an Ivor Novello songwriting award, and they now count BBC6 Music’s Guy (Elbow) Garvey, Brian Eno, Richard Thompson and The Kinks’ Ray Davies among their fans.
An increasingly prominent name in the Leisure Society story, Davies invited them to perform at his Meltdown mini-festival as well as joining them for a live video recording. So when it came to selecting a studio to record Alone Aboard The Ark, there was only one choice: Konk – Ray’s own north London studios.
Although the 60s’ legend came down to see the band at work, there’s sadly no news on the rumoured collaboration.
“There was talk of us doing an album, but he has loads of things on the boil all the time, he’s always working on songs, but it’s rare you hear a new album,” Nick says. “But in the future … who knows?”
One of Konk’s main attractions was, perhaps not surprisingly, the studio’s vintage equipment, including an old 1970s reel-to-reel two-inch tape recorder.
“There is a significant difference, a certain warmth that you can’t copy when you record digitally,” Nick explains of their decision to use tape, though he does admit that new technology played a key role in the process of writing and selecting material for the album.
“I had a few, or rather loads, of ideas on my iPhone, just these snippets, and I went through them to find the 20 best ones – but they were just ideas, snippets, as I find it difficult to finish a song,” he says, adding that despite the acclaim bestowed upon him, writing is never an easy task.
“Starting them is easy, but I then obsess over them for months and months!”
With the record now out, there are UK and festival dates looming, as well as their first trip to the US.
“We’ve just got an American deal,” he says with pride. “We have got a few fans in America, but as there’s nothing been out, they must be buying imports. It’s out on 16 April over there, and we plan to go over in June, or July, and do a few gigs as we’ve never played there before.
“It’s early days yet but one [American] review I’ve seen gave it four stars and praised the lyrics and the music, which I’m particularly happy with,” he laughs. “And they liked all the things I like about the record. So watch this space…”
Wednesday 17 April 2013
The Glee Club Birmingham
Doors 7pm. Tickets £12.
Tel: 0871 472 0400
For details of further live dates, see: www.theleisuresociety.co.uk
Interview by: Dave Freak