Leisure Cruise more or less began as an intellectually morbid joke. (I wish I could say that of more bands.) The band is comprised of Dave Hodge (best known for playing in Broken Social Scene and Bran Van 3000 and arranging for the likes of Janet Jackson and Carly Simon) and singer/songwriter Leah Siegel, best known as Firehorse and a singer for The Citizens Band. The two were long-time acquaintances, but it took the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in fall of 2012 to cement their current relationship. Dave was lounging in a Brooklyn café, thankful that his particular neighborhood hadn’t been hit quite so hard, when he saw Leah walk by outside and, in the nearly Apocalyptic climate, was inclined to reach out to this musically compatible friend. What came of this was Leisure Cruise, who released their self-titled debut last May. The album — and moniker — was inspired by the recently breaking news that astronomers had discovered three new planets that could possibly support human life… a formidable 5-year-plan considering Earth’s recent natural disasters. And this “leisure cruise” they speak of would serve as a lovely swan song to Earth before setting out on a mission to acclimate its people to an alien territory.
The result of Dave and Leah’s musings, manifest in Leisure Cruise’s first full-length, is an uplifting brand of ‘80s-inspired, synth-heavy dance rock that is equally as heady as it is ass-wiggleable… more than a bit like YACHT… Leisure Cruise resonates like a dance party for perfectly-fashioned and admirably rhythmic students of post-structuralism. The band are currently on tour and will be headlining Milkboy this Friday, February 27th, with support coming from locals City Rain and Minka. I recently got a chance to chat with Dave Hodge about the origins of Leisure Cruise and he tells me that he and Leah’s partnership came about rather haphazardly: “We actually didn’t start out as wanting to form a band. I had planned on working on a record with all different people from all the bands I’ve worked with; like Broken Social Scene, Bran Van 3000, and Stars; but Leah and I had worked on some things for TV before, including a Verizon ad, and when we started working together most recently it just went really well and I guess we kind of became a band, but it was kind of an accident.”
Although their album has been out for nearly a year now, Dave tells me that the band and material still all feel quite fresh to him: “Having an album come out when no one’s heard of you is different than having an album come out when you’re in an established band, so yeah, it came out in May and it may seem like it’s been out for a while now, but it still feels very new.” When I inquire about Leisure Cruise’s highlights of the past year Dave tells me that pretty much all of it has been good, although they have had a few standout moments: “iTunes put us on their top 30 alternative tracks at the end of the year both in the US and UK; that was really cool. As far as performing live, we’ve had a lot of great shows, some great Brooklyn shows and a really great LA show; our very first show was actually in Northern Ireland at a music and multimedia conference, which was pretty cool. And having Spin and Noisey and HuffPost and Nylon behind you is really amazing.”
Throughout the past year Leisure Cruise has put out a small handful of music videos, most recently “The Getaway,” which premiered last week. Although the video was confined to the budget of an indie rock band, it manages to come off nearly as quirkily amusing as any mumblecore [the kings and queens of low-budget] comedy and even stars entrepreneur and hyper-charming bachelor Rameet Chawla, as he dances his way across the city, in what could pass for zany performance art or the kind of thing that would have competed with Spike Jonze’s latest creation for a VMA about twenty years ago. Although all of their videos look to be highly calculated (Their clip for “Earthquake” looks sort of like if Tarkovsky made music videos.), Dave tells me that, because of their budget, he has to let the visuals play out as they best might with his collaborators.
“To be honest, when you’re a new band the video component is tough because videos cost a lot of money. It came down to what are some interesting concepts that came from the directors we’ve been working with that are actually affordable. For ‘The Getaway’ we just really liked its simplicity. But as far as a direction for the band in regard to visuals, we haven’t honed in on anything particular just yet. I mean, I really like the album art and I would like something in line with that, but what I would want would be $100,000 [laughs].”
What Dave tells me of the Leisure Cruise live experience actually sounds quite impressive for an up-and-coming indie band playing in mostly bars. Their visuals come courtesy of Jon Morris of The Windmill Factory, best known for his live work for artists like Nine Inch Nails and Lady Gaga. In addition, Morris happens to be a longtime friend of the band: “He’s so great as our stage designer and coming up with things that would work for our shows. I mean, we don’t have the budget of Nine Inch Nails and he’s really good at working with what we have and what the venues allow.” I ask Dave how he and Leah hope to spend the year, whether it be writing new music or spending time on the road, and he tells me that they are slowly making new music, but that their primary focus is still on their debut: “We started working on new material, but we still have a lot to do with the first record with playing live and making videos. Like I said, it still feels like a new record, so there is some new material, but there’s still a lot to be done with this record that I’m really excited about.”