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Stereoboard Talk To The Leisure Society's Nick Hemming Ahead Of The Release Of New Album (Interview)

Tuesday, 02 April 2013 Written by Katie Territt
Stereoboard Talk To The Leisure Society's Nick Hemming Ahead Of The Release Of New Album (Interview)

The Leisure Society have slowly but surely been making a name for themselves since their debut album, 'The‘Sleeper’ in 2009. With celebrity fans, impressive support slots and highly impressive reviews of their live shows, the band is back with their third album, ‘Alone Aboard The Ark’. On the eve of its release, Stereoboard caught up with lead singer Nick Hemming to talk all things music.

ImageFor those of you who may not know of The Leisure Society just yet, Nick summarises the band in a few short words. “We are a six piece pop band hailing from London, Brighton and Burton-on-Trent. I use the word pop in its most ambiguous form."

The band’s career started on a huge high when their debut single, ‘The Last Of The Melting Snow’, was nominated for an Ivor Novello. “It was exciting, terrifying and utterly unexpected. There was a brief press clamour as I was working in a warehouse at the time and was the first unsigned artist every to get a nomination. It gave rise to a 'fabulous' Sun-pun headline ‘IVOR NOT GOT A CLUE WHO HE IS EITHER’.... something to show the grandkids.”

A nomination for a second Ivor Novello soon rolled in. Could it be third time lucky if the band is nominated again? “Those things are always a bit of a lottery, we were just happy to get a chance to drink free booze at the Grosvenor House and drunkenly harass some of our musical heroes. As far as I'm concerned this is the best album we've ever recorded so there's no reason why it shouldn't be third time lucky! (never gonna’ happen)”

The Leisure Society’s new album ‘Alone Aboard The Ark’ is released on 1st April and one song in particular has sparked much interest from the press. ‘The Sober Scent of Paper’ is about the demise of Sylvia Plath. “I'm just a big fan of her poetry basically. I had started writing the song and, as is often the case, some words came tumbling out, "Chains dredge the great lake around you, pull you along by the knots in your hair". Something about the desolate image and the rhythm of the words made me think of her, so I started doing a bit of research into her life. I found some fascinating interviews with her and Ted Hughes and they in particular helped inform the lyrics.”

Another song which is the focus of some discussion is fantastic new single ‘Fight For Everyone’. “The song isn't specifically about the Olympics but that was the initial inspiration. I happened to be finishing off the lyrics to the album during the Olympics, so I sat in front of the TV, guitar in hand, from morning till night for three weeks. The roar of 80,000 spectators every time a GB athlete entered the stadium was quite something to behold. But I started thinking about the pressure that must have come with that kind of support - years of training and preparation all for that one moment in the spotlight. I deliberately tried to make the lyrics more universal, I like the fact that it can also be interpreted as a socialist rallying cry.”

With ‘Fight For Everyone’ out there advertising the new album, it’s not necessarily an indication of the album’s sound. “I think it's a pretty diverse album, there are jazzy moments, orchestral elements and even the odd, albeit brief, guitar solo. Some journalists hate that but I've always had very eclectic tastes. I was asked in an interview the other day, by a confused journalist, what era this album belonged in; the obvious answer is 2013! My favourite Beatles' album is the ‘White Album’ and that's all over the place. As far as I'm concerned there are only two kinds of music, good and bad, I don't really care what genres they fall into.”

‘Sober Scent...’ and ‘Fight For Everyone’ are quite clear and universal themes on ‘Alone Aboard The Ark’, but Nick states that this isn’t the norm. “I generally write from personal experience so those two songs (particularly Sober Scent) are quite unusual in that they are inspired by other people's experiences. If there is a recurring theme on the album it's the string of menial prospect-free jobs I did for years after leaving school. I could never really apply myself to anything other than music so I ended up doing jobs I hated for more years than I care to recall. It was pretty depressing at the time, but I look back on those times quite fondly now - and it gives me something to write about. Nobody wants to hear songs about writing songs, which is what I spend most of my time doing these days.”

‘Alone Aboard The Ark’ was recorded at Ray Davies’ infamous Konk Studios. “It was completely different, we recorded the previous two albums on my computer and it was generally done with lots of overdubs, one person at a time. With this album we recorded a lot of it live onto 2" tape. We wanted to capture some of the magic that you get when two or more musicians play in a room together. It was also fun to hang out as a band, there was a lot more unity, and I think you can hear that in the record.”

The band was also part of Ray’s Meltdown festival line-up last year. “Our record label sent him a copy of Into the Murky Water; he really liked it and asked if we'd be up for helping him arrange a few new songs he'd written. Obviously we jumped at the chance; I've been a massive Kinks fan since I was a little kid so it was an incredible experience!"

Some other recognisable names in Nick’s back catalogue are film director Shane Meadows and actor/director Paddy Considine, and Nick was lucky enough to contribute to the soundtracks for some amazing films of theirs. “We were in an art school band together. I was actually doing Maths and Physics ‘A’ levels at a school down the road, so I used to skive off to go and rehearse with the band. Dead Man's Shoes was the first time I ever used the Leisure Society moniker actually. It's just a song in the background that I recorded in my bedroom. It was fantastic to be involved, in some small way, with those great films.”

Nick is certainly keen to do some more of the same work in future. “Yeah, I love composing to film. It takes a lot of pressure off as you're just trying to complement someone else's vision and you don't have to worry about hooks or lyrics! It was actually a love of soundtracks that shaped the early sound of the Leisure Society; I was listening to lots of John Barry, Ennio Morricone, Henry Mancini and Franco Micalizzi. Our dream job would be to score a Wes Anderson film, we keep hinting but he never calls!”

April sees The Leisure Society hit the road on a headline tour in support of ‘Alone Aboard The Ark’. “I think we're all pretty excited about performing the new songs live. We deliberately had a quiet year in 2012 so we could concentrate on the new album; we're all itching to get out there again. There's something quite inspiring about travelling and seeing all these new places. You don't get much time in each city, but you see some wild sights, meet some interesting people and have an excuse to party every night. Now we have a bit of a fan base it's quite a thrill to play the songs to people who really know them well. After years of going nowhere in music, it's an incredibly moving and uplifting experience to see people singing the songs back at you.”

“We do (have some festival dates planned); we're planning on having a very busy summer. We can't actually reveal anything yet as we're still finalising contracts, but End of the Road has been announced I think. We're so glad to be going back there, it's such a beautiful festival.”

On a final note, Nick has one last message to the readers of Stereoboard. “Hopefully see some of you in April or, failing that, in the scorching sunshine at a festival. After 2012's summer of endless rain I think we're due some clear blue skies.”

Catching the band on tour is certainly recommended. Their back catalogue is impressive enough, but the eclectic sound on ‘Alone Aboard The Ark’ is a breath of fresh air at the moment and will make for a fantastic live show. Nick Hemming is clearly a passionate and creative artist and puts his heart and soul into his music. A talented and honest band can be a rare thing these days, and The Leisure Society has that in abundance. Indulge, now, trust me!

‘Fight For Everyone’ is available now and ‘Alone Aboard The Ark’ is released on 1st April 2013.

The Leisure Society UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri April 12th 2013 - The Kazimier, Liverpool
Sat April 13th 2013 - Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
Sun April 14th 2013 - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Mon April 15th 2013 - Arts Centre, Norwich
Tue April 16th 2013 - Haunt, Brighton
Wed April 17th 2013 - Glee Club, Birmingham
Thu April 18th 2013 - Thekla, Bristol
Sat April 20th 2013 - King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
Sun April 21st 2013 - Manchester The Deaf Institute, Manchester
Mon April 22nd 2013 - Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
Thu April 25th 2013 - Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Click Here to Compare & Buy The Leisure Society Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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