Everyone enjoys leisure, that's just a fact. So for a simmering Cambridge, Mass. trio to choose Leisure as such an amicable name just makes sense. Leisure plays the Mercury Lounge with Jump Into The Gospel and Avan Lava Wednesday night. Check out the band's new video for their song "Green Light," a single out soon Crash Symbols, and our Q&A with the band's own Jed Rouhana.
Nonstop Sound: You're about to play Mercury Lounge, a venue with notoriously short set times. How would you introduce your band to New York City, without the pressure of time?
Jed Rouhana: "Short set times? This is news to me, but that makes sense. All it ever took was a few songs for me to fall for a band, or to decide I wanted nothing to do with them at all. The pressure of time is something that completely leaves me when I'm on stage."
NS: You're essentially a pop band, yes? But you have a dark patina. Where does that come from?
JR: "I think of Leisure as pure rock n' roll but for whatever reason rock n' roll has become a fossil. I wonder why anything that tries to tell an unheard story to a wider audience is now called 'pop' as if that is an ugly thing for the silly masses. I always thought of music as a tool to communicate new ideas as widely as possible and for that it is a beautiful thing. Any darkness comes from trying to confront certain realities."
NS: Plastic Soul is the name of your new release and a phrase that makes an appearance in more than one place in the Leisure canon. What does this mean to you? Is this an implication of the fraudulent or an evaluative statement of cultural stasis?
JR: "Plastic Soul will mean different things to different people. To me, the music creates the meaning. I also have a long standing addiction to Bowie's 'Young Americans.'"
NS: On another thought, it seems the meaning has most to do with battling the inauthentic. How do you keep things both flowing and inspired?
JR: "Not interested in any such battles. Aren't inauthenticity and plastic sometimes the most pure and revealing things of all?"
NS: How does one utilize a pop vernacular in this age without falling to those contrived tropes?
JR: "One thing that I love about songwriting is the challenge of turning a phrase. Sometimes the most telling contradictions can be brought on by looking at everyday language or proverbs, and putting them in a turbulent place, like a rock n' roll song."
NS: What place does criticism and writing have in music? How do you respond to the evaluations of the blogosphere?
JR: "Criticism can be an important space between the audience and the music. Comparisons are always a little empty, but who's gonna be upset about being compared to U2 or The Velvet Underground? I think one blogger even compared us to Guns n' Roses. I'd personally like to see a type of criticism evolve that is more raw and instinctual rather than the intellectual jargon that has found its way into music writing."
NS: There's a political consciousness to Leisure. Where does that come from?
JR: "I grew up living between the American suburbs and the Arab world. I went to a public university and studied Political Economy. I often feel like I'm in a strange no-man's-land between power and the oppressed or unrepresented. I find it hard not to write about my relationship with society, which is an inherently political thing to do."
NS: You have a new release about to drop on San Francisco label Crash Symbols. They are more generally relegated to putting out thick beats, such as Born Gold's record. How did you get involved with them? What about CS appeals to your band?
JR: "Dwight sent us one of the more straightforward, least unnecessarily cryptic messages we've received from an industry person thus far. I was impressed with some of his art that he showed me, and from there we thought we'd release a single together. We are only working with them for the 'Green Light' vinyl release, but they are great to work with."