UK rock band The Leisure Society play a headline Belfast show at Duke Of York on Wednesday 18th September 2019. On the 10th anniversary of their first-ever single ( The Last of the Melting Snow), The Leisure Society (30th January 2019) released a new single entitled God Has Taken a Vacation, along with news of their fifth album, Arrivals & Departures which was released on April 12th of this year. Mark Millar caught with the bands' songwriter Nick Hemming to talk about the shows and recent album Arrivals & Departures.
The Leisure Society embarks on a tour in September which includes a headline Belfast show at Duke of York on Wednesday 18th September. Are you looking forward to going back on the road again and playing the shows?
NH: We can’t wait to hit the road again. This album was so long in the making and it was a real joy to share the songs live when we toured in May. We can’t wait to take them further afield this time!
During the promotion of the band’s previous LP, The Fine Art of Hanging On, your partner, and the band's flutist Helen Whitaker went through a long process of separation which ultimately informed the content of the new double-album, Arrivals & Departures. Did the songs come easily to you and was it hard writing them?
NH: The songs came quite easily, although it was over a very long period. A lot of the Arrivals songs came during the breakup and in the immediate aftermath, whereas the Departures songs we’re largely written whilst I was staying with a drummer friend. I was spending a lot of time thrashing my electric guitar and drinking late into the night – I was very lucky to have a drummer for company, especially one who let me set up my studio in his kitchen!
Arrivals & Departures is your most ambitious record to date with two quite distinct sides – loss and anger. Why did you decide to go for a double album?
NH: It was never the intention. I was living out of a suitcase for 18 months and writing songs as I travelled around staying with friends and in Air BnBs. Songwriting was a kind of catharsis to get through what I was feeling and as the songs piled up they formed two distinct moods, and then 4 distinct sides. We had the complete album tracklisting long before all the finished versions of the songs were recorded and mixed.
Is there a particular song on the new album that you thought “this is why I’m doing this”?
NH: Maybe when we finally finished mixing 'Overheard'. There’s not really anything I’d change on it – which is rare for me - it’s sonically beautiful. Every album we’ve recorded there have been a moment where I’ve said, “I want this to sound like something off Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde”. I think this is the closest we’ve come yet.
The album features Brian Eno and poet Liz Berry. How did they get involved?
NH: We’ve known Brian since 2009 when he showed our debut album ‘The Sleeper’ a lot of love. Christian and I were in a cottage in the Peaks filtering sheep noises through a Moog synthesiser to add ambience to the song ‘I’ll Pay for it Now’. I thought it’d be right up Brian’s street so I emailed him the track and the next day he sent us four stems of beautiful synth melodies, adding we could do with them as we will! A similar thing happened with Liz Berry. I’m a massive fan of her poetry collection ‘Black Country’. There was a section at the end of ‘Leave Me to Sleep’ that needed a focus, so I emailed her to ask if she’d consider reading one of her poems over the top. She actually wrote something especially for the song, it’s the perfect conclusion to the track – I couldn’t believe my luck really!
Arrivals & Departures was mixed by Gareth Jones who has worked with Erasure, Depeche Mode, These New Puritans and many more. Why did you choose him?
NH: We chose Gareth for his work on Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest, Christian and I always thought that was sonically one of the best albums of recent times. We were really keen to work with a mix engineer as we always felt our recordings got to a certain point in the studio and then plateaued. Gareth got that extra bit of space in the mixes. He worked wonders with the drum sounds in particular - Sebastian has never sounded better!
If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?
NH: I’d make it more financially viable!
Its wind downtime after a show what’s your go-to listen to unwind or recharge?
NH: I don’t often listen to music after a show unless it’s to go out dancing - in which case I’d say some funk/soul. Maybe Stevie Wonder or some old Latin jazz.
What do you enjoy most about being a musician? What do you hate most?
NH: I love creating, that moment when a song is born is my favourite thing in the world, the excitement and the magic of something new arriving, seemingly out of nowhere. I wouldn’t say I particularly hate anything, but the financial uncertainty and intrinsic selfishness that being a creative person can involve don’t always make for the most stable personal life.
As mentioned, Arrivals & Departures is a double album. Do you have a favourite double album?
NH: The White Album has always been a reference point, ever since I started making music. And Quadrophenia and Exile on Main Street we’re both fairly formative records for me when I was a teenager. Songs in the Key of Life too! In fact, I’ve only just this second realised what a big part double albums have played in my musical education!
Out of all the records in your collection who do you have the most albums by?
NH: I think maybe the Kinks, R.E.M. or the Beatles. I would do a count but my LPs and CDs are all still in cardboard boxes!
What have you been listening to recently that you could recommend?
NH: I’ve recently been revisiting the work of Emil Svanängen, who goes by the name of Loney Dear. I watched him play live loads when I first moved to London in 2006 and he’s released a number of beautiful albums since then. He’s definitely touched with genius.