Hello Drew, give us an idea of who you are. How did Leisure form and who are the members of the band?
I am a Chinese American living in New York City. I’ve been married for 3 1/2 years to my lovely wife, Ivy. I work full-time as a graphic designer and webmaster. I believe in God the creator, savior and redeemer. Oh, I also write songs, sing and play guitar for a band named Leisure.
Back in the days, I was playing guitar for a couple of bands and I started writing some songs for my own enjoyment. Upon an invitation to perform at University of Buffalo, I gathered drummer Joel Schroter and bassist Steve Lau from my other projects to form Leisure. One gig led to another, and we’ve been together for almost 5 years. We are now joined by keyboardist, Peter Field, and guitarist, Ted Dove, and have expanded sonically quite a bit.
You have a distinct and, I might add, great voice. Do you have any particular vocalists that have influenced your style?
Thanks. This is very flattering. I’ve never consider myself having a great voice. Distinct? Maybe, but definitely not great. I do enjoy listening to singers who have very distinct voices though. Michael Pritzl (the violet burning, the gravity show), Brett Anderson (Suede), Bono (U2), Robert Smith (the Cure), Liam Gallagher (Oasis), Thom Yorke (Radiohead), David Schelzel (The Ocean Blue), Damon Albarn (Blur), and Roland Orzabal (Tears For Fears), to name a few.
Tell us a little about how you got involved with music.
Both my older sisters are great pianists/singers. I pretty much followed their footsteps and went on the piano route from age 6-9. hated it, couldn’t stand practicing every day, but guess that’s how I got started.
What do you see happening next with Leisure? Is there a full length sometime in the future?
Well, our drummer moved down to Florida last summer, so it’s been hard to do shows. I’ve been writing some new songs and started to line up some dates for late spring/early summer. guess we’ll just take it from there. Oh, we’re going to do a show with the violet burning in a month, and I think it’s definitely a musical dream come true!
I’d like to record a full length CD in the future. not quite sure when, but definitely before the band is over I hope. Perhaps we’ll make that our farewell project or something. we shall see.
“Big Blue Sky” is one of my favorite songs. Can you tell me a little about the writing process of that song?
I was just messing around with some chord progressions, and all of a sudden the melody came. The rest of the song just flowed and I finished in like 10-15 minutes. probably one of the fastest finishing ones I’ve written. I had a particular friend in mind when attempting to write the lyrics, and they’re loosely based on the conversations we had.
“Keep Rockin’ On” is also a fantastic song. Can you tell us about the lyrical theme of that song?
Lyrically, this song means a lot to me. It was written during a time when I almost didn’t want to continue with the band. Since I didn’t write the lyrics, I will forward this question to our drummer Joel. Perhaps he can shed some light on this subject.
Joel: Basically, I wanted to write lyrics that would encourage people to pursue their dreams, even when life can feel hopeless. I feel like this is a theme that a lot of people can relate to. On a more personal level, I had 2 people in mind — my brother Daniel, and Drew. I wanted the song to make sense to everybody who listened to it, but at the same time, I wanted to directly express some encouragement to these guys. It’s a sneaky way of making Drew sing about something that I know he struggles with!
It’s a song for everybody who has a true passion for the gifts and talents that God has given them, but feel discouraged. I believe there is almost nothing more frustrating than when hope is destroyed. Sometimes, discouragement and hopelessness can bring a person so low, that they throw their talent to the wayside. This song deals with not giving up hope. It means that we can’t sit idly by and expect everything to work out. We need to act on our hope.
Literally, this song is about me not wanting Drew to give up with his music or the band. I can see so clearly in him that his passion is there for a reason. Practically, it’s to encourage everyone to hold on to their God-given dreams. Ultimately, it’s about our hope in Christ… To not give up on a faith that once was so clear, but at times seems quite out of reach.
What progression in your music do you see between Ocassional Music 1.0 and 2.0?
Sonically, I’ve taken more chances in song writing. instead of tunes sounding very much like other bands, we came closer to developing our own sound. We’ve also developed better ears for arrangements and got better playing together as a band.
Lyrically, instead of dealing with pain in the past, we focused more on the positives in the future. I started writing more poetically with all sorts of imageries in mind. Last but definitely not least, Joel’s lyrical contributions in 2 songs have added a lot of colors to the new project. I feel really comfortable handing over melodies to him for lyrics.
2.0 is a fabulous disc. What were the differences in recording processes between 1.0 and 2.0? You seem to have more instruments in 2.0 and a wider array of sounds. Please, tell us about that.
Recording process was pretty much the same for both discs. drums first, then bass, guitars or keyboards, and finally vocals and percussion. I think the major difference is pete (keyboard) and ted’s (guitar) involvement and contribution in arranging and recording. All the songs from 1.0 were written with a 3-piece band in mind and were first arranged and performed as a 3-piece. Now we have 5 people in the band and I think the different musical ideas have strengthened us as far as “a wider array of sounds” is concerned. Also, we traveled 6 hours to Dansville, NY to record 2.0 with Jesse Sprinkle in one weekend. I think the tiredness from traveling & anxiety to finish up showed through a bit from our performance. not sure if people hear it, but I certainly do.
Do you see signing with a label in the near future?
No, and I don’t really want to dwell on that thought. it sort of takes the fun out of music for me personally. If/when it happens, it’ll happen. it’s totally beyond my control.
What bands or musicians do you consider influences on your sound? What are you listening to now? If you have literary influence, what are they?
My 3 most favorite bands of all-time are U2, The Violet Burning and The Beatles. Other influences include Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine.
Musicians. too many to list. Since the guitar is my main instrument, I’ll list a few guitarists who have influenced me. I basically approach the guitar in 3 ways – rhythm, solo and noise, and I think TThe Edge (U2), Eric Clapton, and Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) are the best in those respective areas.
I’m recently spinning:
The Violet Burning – This Is The Moment
Suede – A New Morning
Cardia – Cardia
Bjork – Greatest Hits
Creeper Lagoon – Take Back the Universe and Give Me Yesterday
Literary influence? Errr. Virtually none. I don’t read much at all. That probably explains why I’m such a weak lyricist. I do enjoy reading lyrics written by Bono (U2), Michael Pritzl (The Violet Burning, The Gravity Show), Steve Hindalong (The Choir) and Eric Campuzano (The Prayer Chain) though.
Any other comments?
Thank you for your invitation to do this interview. I (along with the rest of the band) feel greatly honored. keep rockin’ on!