Brooklyn’s Leisure Cruise is Dave Hodge & Leah Siegel. Montreal Rocks caught up with them for a chat following their opening slot on the Metric/Death Cab For Cutie show at the Bell Centre.
Montreal Rocks: We are here with Leah & Dave. This is actually the first show of the tour, so how did it feel being in front of a larger audience? Granted, you are the opening band and not everyone is there at the start, but halfway through your set it was getting pretty filled.
Dave: It’s interesting, we have done a fair amount of opening slots for incredibly devoted fan bases and luckily have had great responses to our set. It can go either way, because they are not there to see you. In this case, we felt really good about the crowd and how we played.
Leah: I’m pretty happy for our first night.
Dave: I had a great time on stage.
Leah: I agree, me too.
MR: Plus, Leah, you had that fan in front of you, making your hair flow gracefully in the air.
Leah: I don’t go anywhere without a wind machine! (laughs) I don’t think any woman should.
MR: Explain how you guys met. It was a stormy night, right?
Leah: No (laughs) OK, there was a storm. Many years ago, Dave cold called me to do a TV spot with him. It was really successful and we worked really well together. But that’s what we both do, work really well with people in the studio on short notice. We kept in touch and years later we ran into each other, in our neighborhood, and it happened to be the day after Hurricane Sandy. Our neighbourhood was almost totally pristine after Sandy, there was one light pole that was down and one tree that was crooked. Meanwhile, we were watching Lower Manhattan in darkness and flooded. So many of my friends in Brooklyn and the Rockwaways lost their homes. I really hate feeling at all that we are appropriating any kind of mystique that came from Sandy. It just happened to be that day, we ran into each other and Dave asked me if I wanted to write a song. I said: “Absolutely”. At the time, I was waiting for my record to come out, it was being mastered. Several months later, at the end of April we finally got together and wrote the first song, “Believer” and “Sailing” as the second song. So we said: “Well that was fun…let’s do that again!” I came in the next day and we wrote some more. After a month, we had written half a record and we were floored at the ease in which it all came out.
Dave: You know what I just thought of that I haven’t mentioned in an interview? Whereas our neighborhood and we were really lucky with the whole Sandy thing, it didn’t affect our writing per se, but it was a major event that happened. I happened to be out getting a coffee the day after, at a coffee shop that happened to be opened. I think our senses were definitely heightened. I literally was standing on my balcony which was shielded from the direction of the wind at the time of the storm and I saw all of lower Manhattan go dark. I was starring at it when it happened. It was so mind blowing. Anyways, the next day, I went for coffee and she walks by. Maybe if Sandy didn’t happen, I would simply be thinking of the usual stuff, but it was definitely an intense event and we were very very lucky. We definitely were on high alert.
Leah: Yes, we were all touched by it for sure.
Dave: So we don’t like to say: “Yeah…Hurricane Sandy made us…”
MR: But it did bring about the circumstance that eventually would have you work together.
Dave: It was just a circumstantial thing, yes.
Leah: I remember it was an intense day. It was an intense week, month, year for a lot of people as well.
Dave: Even what you saw on the news, it was simply just intense.
MR: If I can take you back to your childhood, was there a song or an time where you just knew that music was going to be your life?
Leah: I was so young; I was a little British baby. We had moved to London after I was born and I remember my parent’s record collection was all Classical music and almost all of the Beatles. I have intensely strong memories of playing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and staring at the cover. I was just wondering…you know, it was just so magical…and Peter and the Wolf. I would listen to Peter and the Wolf all the time. I made a decision at 20 years old that instead of being a writer, I would be a musician and a song writer. I think every moment before then, I always expected I would do something safer with my life.
Dave: For me, it was listening to Neil Diamond at 4 years old, by default because my parents had it on. Or…Cat Stevens Teaser And The Firecat was on…
Dave: Teaser And The Firecal was always on in my house.
Leah: Are you kidding? You are a Cat Stevens fans? I had no idea!
Dave: I didn’t have a choice! I was 4 years old and it was on the record player all the time. I don’t know how much influence that had on my music but I just remembered that.
Leah: Those are beautiful memories as a kid.
MR: It’s amazing how much parents have somewhat of an influence by what they were listening to.
Dave: Miles Davis, Horace Silver, my dad had a lot of Jazz. Then I started getting into The Clash and Bowie, Beastie Boys…whatever…
MR: So Dave, what attracted you to the keyboard as an instrument?
Dave: I would say I wasn’t really attracted to the keyboard as an instrument, it was more production that attracted me. I’ve always been a trombone player, with Broken Social Scene and Bran Van 3000 and all the other bands I played with, it was always as the trombone player. But as a producer, I write and produce using various tools and one of those is the keyboard. I love playing bass, so that just became part of my thing. As as trombone player, in Leisure Cruise, there is not one note of trombone on the record.
Leah: We might get Dave to pull it out on the LC stage.
Dave: They keep trying to convince me to play trombone…but in this band…I don’t know.
MR: I found it cool that you guys used Kickstarter to fund one of your videos. How did that go?
Leah: That wasn’t my first crowd funding experience, but it was the first Leisure Cruise one. The director of that video, Michael McQuilken is a totally brilliant creative person. He had done a video for us for The Getaway featuring our friend Rameet Chawla.
The Getaway: https://youtu.be/fHVaSyA63-0
He had done it for us so cheaply, as a big favour and said it would do the new one, if we allowed him to do a video that he was going to create for Crime Tip. It would star Julia Stiles, who is a big fan of the band and a friend of ours. So he wrote it, starring Julia opposite Jon Morris, who happens to be my partner in life, and also the designer of the Metric stage show, as well as our designer.
Crime Tip: https://youtu.be/fPFqdf91Mdg
It was his suggestion for us to do the Kickstarter campaign.
Dave: Initially, I didn’t want to do it because for that record, we had already did some videos. I wanted to wait to do it for new material, but then he wrote this inspiring treatment, Julia was into it, so I went: “Wow…that’s cool, let’s do it.” Michael said, don’t worry, we will fund it with Kickstarter and offer lots of cool rewards. It happened because it was cool, great and really fun as well.
Leah: And because Michael really wanted to do it. When it comes to music videos, it is really expensive, it’s a money pit for the band. You really need to be certain that your director has a vision, so when they come to you and are excited about something, it’s a good idea to go for it. If you can afford it, and that is what Kickstarter did for us, then do it.
Dave: Of course if you like the general concept.
MR: I guess there is a huge amount of trust, they are using your thoughts, your vision, your music and they are giving it their eyes…
Leah: Entirely. It’s totally about trust.
MR: Is that a hard thing?
Leah: Oh yeah!
Dave: Yes, because if it’s a director that happens to be very stubborn, and he doesn’t want to change things, for our music, then it’s very hard because you have to say, literally on the shoot: “Listen, I don’t really like where this is going, I liked what we had before…” But, he was great to work with.
Leah: We still have right of first refusal on anything, but it comes down to letting go for us. This band is so new and young, so when Dave & I started writing together, I said: “What? So we are starting a band? OK…so what does this mean? What is our brand?” As we were trying to figure this stuff out, we are STILL trying to figure this stuff out, you know? So people would come to us with ideas for music videos and we would think: “Yeah that’s fun!” Because that’s what we are trying to do, trying to have fun. Then it would come out and we would be like: “Is that a little off theme for us?”
Dave: Visually exploring. People would bring things to the table and we would say, why not? We would shoot it. It is still visually an exploratory process, as it is musically, but musically, that’s what we do, so we have more direction. The visuals that are attached to it are fun to explore, and we decided to explore all kinds of things out of the gate instead of pinpoint something and lock ourselves into something. We’ve had a lot of fun doing that and learning about the visual side of what we do, through other people. It’s very interesting.
MR: So you are beginning this tour, you are on the tour bus, away from home. I assume this would be hard. Is there a certain type of food that you eat on tour that you would consider a comfort food, something that reminds you of home?
Dave: It’s a real effort to eat healthy when you are on the road. There is so much catering and you are stopping at various places along the way, the junk food, you have to be very careful. It doesn’t make you feel good if you eat a lot of crap. I will eat anything, but I try to make healthy choices when I’m on the road so I can keep properly fuelled.
Leah: I have a very specific regiment, it’s boring, but unfortunately my life has to be relatively boring when we are on tour. Every time we travel, I’ve always been the one to go to bed…”It’s 12h30, I’ll see you guys in the morning.” I can’t tour without my protein powder and I have a travel blender. I really can’t eat on the road; I have weak digestion. (giggles) I travel with many packs of Sardines and raw cashews, along with my protein powder. I can’t just have the breakfast that the guys are having.
MR: Is there something you bring with you that reminds you of home?
Leah: I love being away from home personally.
Dave: I’ve been touring for a while and I remember when I first started touring, it was a lot less about being online. Now, being online is so much a part of one’s life then when I started. It was there, but you have a flip phone or something, so you weren’t staring at your phone all the time. You wanted to watch the scenery go by, read a book, watch a movie, or talk to people instead of staring at your phone all day. When I first started touring, you felt like you were going on a journey. It was more adventurous and more fun for me. Now, you sort of feel like you are at home, in a way.
Leah: And you are constantly looking at your Instagram feed and posting on Facebook, as a requirement. It’s our only job here, other than doing the show. Take photos and post them.
Dave: Yes, you have to be present, it’s fun, but it does ties you to your technology.
MR: What’s the best way you guys communicate with your fans?
Dave: I like Facebook and Instagram a lot, Instagram being the most important, followed by Facebook and then Twitter.
Leah: I don’t get homesick when I’m on the road. It’s when I first leave the house that I have a lot of anxiety, but the moment I’m gone, I feel amazing.
MR: One last question. Since I do public speaking, when I go out and give a 1 hour talk for instance, I give it my all. When I’m done, I’m drained and I need a good half hour to recoup. How do you guys feel after a performance?
Leah: I’m utterly exhausted.
Dave: We didn’t have a lot of time to prep for this tour, being that we had very short notice that we were going to be doing it. In order to get our tour prepared, we wanted to make sure we stepped it up and got things ready. For example, I’m scoring a show for Vice right now that has over 3 hours of music, so we have a lot of stuff going on. Right up until the moment we left, we were literally super busy. Then it’s the build to the show…
Leah: Being the first show of the tour, we didn’t even know how long our set would be until yesterday. Regardless of the work, we are so incredibly grateful to be on this tour. But, only being given half the dream…it’s hard, but super fun. If we can’t have fun doing this, then I’m quitting. That is not to say that it isn’t easy at all, but it does get easier as we settle into this tour.
We are here to welcome the audience and introduce ourselves to them and all of Canada and that’s awesome. I feel great about what we did tonight and it will only get better.
MR: If there was one song that you would recommend a Death Cab fan to listen to, of your music, which would it be?
Leah: Maybe “Dust”, it’s a new song. I feel like lyrically, that would be song a Death Cab fan can get into. We will be putting that one out soon.
Dave: I would say “The Getaway” for a Metric fan.
MR: Thanks so much for your time, you guys must be tired. You can be reached at the following site:
Leisure Cruise did have a chance to introduce themselves to Canada on CTV News Regina. The whole band, Leah, Dave, Jay and Aaron really took great care of my daughter and I, making us feel welcome the whole night, into the wee hours. You can really feel the camaraderie between Leisure Cruise and Metric as we all mingled after the interview. You’d think Leisure Cruise was all Canadian because of how nice they are. Their music is very catchy and you might not recognize the name, but if you are listening on Playlists on iTunes, Spotify or Google Music, you definitely have heard them in several playlists. They might claim to be a new band, only a year or so in, but there is a lot of musical history in each member of the band and that shows. They feel comfortable on stage, Leah being a magnet for your attention. Even at the small Osheaga stage, they had spinning balloons and you could tell they were larger than life. Do yourself a favour and catch them live.
Interview & photo – Randal Wark