The life of Leisure: An interview with Leisure’s Josh Fountain
LEISURE has a clean and clear message, it’s to the point that they named themselves after it – it’s what you do for fun that matters. The five-piece collective from Auckland, New Zealand sprung out of a trip to a beach house and now they have a debut album and music video clip for their already viral hit ‘Got It Bad’.
With a non-traditional band structure, no lead singer hogging the limelight or one person chained to an instrument, the chill and unpretentious vibe of Leisure is contagious. Made up of five already reputable members of the music industry, Jaden Parkes, Jordan Arts, Djeisan Suskov, Tom Young and Josh Fountain. Leisure is making waves with their slick blend of RNB, disco and psych rock.
We caught up Josh Fountain to discuss puzzles, days of leisure and the importance of good social media.
Purple Sneakers: What would you describe as a day of leisure? Cause I love this idea of Leisure.
Josh Fountain: In the sense of, a day of the life of…
…For you, I would go with, what would you personally consider a day of leisure?
I’d start with a Sunday brunch, up to one of the beaches here in Auckland, and couple of sausages, I’m really getting into jigsaws. A bottle of wine and jigsaws, it’s not very rock and roll, rock and roll is what you make of it.
That’s nice. It’s got to be well rounded; it’s got to be personal. I’ve read that you have a history of writing music for TV and ads, has that altered how you approach producing music?
When I first started out I did, I think it was very good in a sense because it forced me to explore, all the different styles, you’ll do a big band for one job and then the next you rip off like a Led Zeppelin song, I had to learn all of the different style and work with them.
So, you ripped off a Led Zeppelin song?
Nah, I kind of did a Snow Patrol song once. I learned how to write for other people mainly.
Well, that would help – I’ve been listening to album, congratulations. It at first seemed simple, minimal, but the more I listened and the more I read, I realised there is a lot there, disco, RnB and psych wrapped in.
It’s a real mix, it was very much about being in the moment and I think you can hear that it in different songs, you can kind of hear the songs we did in summer, and songs like ‘Something About You’ that we did in the middle of winter, snuggle up by the fire kind. It’s not like wildly different, definitely psych songs then funky ones or straight up blues.
It’s still very cohesive but it is a different singer on most tracks, there is not a consistent lead singer, I found that very interesting.
A lot of people don’t notice, we are a glorified boy band.
“A boy band on psychedelics,” I read in one interview.
Yeah, our voices kind of meld together, yeah everyone sings on different songs in different parts, the way we kind of write, someone can have an idea and put it down.
Oh yes, because you had your weeklong stint at a holiday home on the coast.
So we’d go away and someone would come up with an idea, put it down, if everyone likes it, it stays. Sometimes we’d flop it out and sometimes someone’s already heard of it, we like to make sure everyone’s contributing.
Well, you have a mainly production-based background, do you sing as well?
Yep, absolutely. I guess my song is ‘All Over You’ so that’s like, mainly me and then Jordan, we have very similar voices. Tom and James have similar voices too. Everybody sings.
You guys have referred to yourselves as a collective that is quite cool, a gathering of like minds, who respect and admire one another’s practice…
Absolutely, in the sense that, as well, we do everything ourselves: the artwork, the recording, the mixing, the mastering and the writing, so we are very much self-sufficient.
I did notice that, I’ve trawled all of your social media. There is a very clean aesthetic, the clinking of the glasses motif.
That was all Jordan. That was his idea. He put that all together.
Does that mean there will also be music videos?
We do. We have a music video coming out. The video is done. The video for ‘Got it Bad’.
Lovely. That’s very cool. Any clues? About what it will be? What it will look like?
Joel Kefali did it. It’s based around this idea of the Spielberg look, I think. The Steven Spielberg look, shots of character’s staring out, a slow zoom, there is a kind of like surreal video sense, that we are trying to go for. We are really excited. I’m amazed we’ve gone this long without a video.
The aesthetic seems important for Leisure, you guys can’t divorce your look from your music, the cover, and the social media presence is clean, interesting and minimal. Do you think that it is necessary to have that link of aesthetic to music, especially with social media and blog culture?
Yes, I think I mean, if I am looking at a blog, I’m looking at the artwork, what makes you stop is whatever the little thumbnail is, and the title – it is really important, it helps set you apart. It gives you a bit of character, if you have something to look at, a clear identity.
I agree with you, it’s thumbnail that matters.
That’s just how I choose…it’s more of a subconscious thing.
The music industry does gather people into sections; we all have the places we go, the music we listen to but it also provides a sense of community.
Leisure steers away from a dance banger track, which is quite common these days among electronic artists. Is that purposeful?
Oh right, definitely not against – like for us, we were doing the music that that fit the vibe, I think that particular setting was chilling out, we worked to focus on that kind of thing, that said, we have been doing more live shows and we are really keen to play it all live, I do think that the holy grail is a pop song that kind of makes you feel cool to listen to. But we don’t go into a Leisure session to make one.
What I have read of your practice, it was people throwing out ideas, it was whittling down of ideas, and how important was the environment of the beach house for the debut album?
Really important, very first time we went away, there was no expectation. There was no idea to form a band, we all knew one another through the industry, we had some time off, and it wasn’t until like three days in that we had written like 13 songs. We wrote tonnes of stuff, it was insane. We didn’t plan to write for a band, all of these songs worked together, we just wanted to see what happens. And it all took off. Our environment was important, that summery sun, the chill out vibe, a part of New Zealand.
I definitely enjoyed hearing the NZ accent, I’m from NZ – I really felt more in tune with it.
Hopefully you have some memories of the beach when you listen to the album.
Will music be the collectives’ only creative outlet?
As far as I-well never say never, I know the guys are keen to video stuff, come up with merch ideas, that will branch out to something else. At this stage, we definitely focus on music, trying to make sure it still stays exciting. It’s still our main focus.
I’m excited to see how it translates to screen
Definitely, it’s going to be psychedelic… It is kind of the perfect fit – it works really well with the song.
I’m very excited for it, especially since it is coming out soon. And as a producer, do you have any dream acts to produce for?
Phil Collins probably, he’s coming back on the 4th. I would like to work with Goldlink again. We would like to work with other artists.
You guys have such an exciting practice, it’s collaborative – a lot of bands do suffer from the one person in control, one person writing and friends coming in to play.
We are very lucky we have five songwriters who know how to record and write songs and at the same time, we really work well together. The biggest thing is there is no real clash of egos, there’s no one person who forces ideas through. It’s all very much a really nice balance and collaboration.
You did describe yourself in Dummy Magazine as being the ‘the devil’s advocate’ and ‘the most cynical of the group’ – does this still stand?
I’m just very jaded. You have to be careful, I don’t get excited about anything until I’ve got the money, I’m playing the show or have signed the contract. I tend to see the downside, but luckily, Jaden balances me out, because he gets really excited about everything, so we work well together.
That sounds lovely, a good dynamic, like an actual good group of friends.
We just spent New Years together last year, just us and our partners. We definitely like hanging out with one another. We are real friends.
Leisure‘s debut album is out now.
Words by Lloyd Crackett