Interviews

In Conversation With… LEIF ERIKSON

When you hear the words Leif Erikson, your mind may take you to the name of the Icelandic explorer. Well, Leif Erikson, the band, also explore within the depths of their alternative based music. The London-founded fivesome convey swayful, melodious synths and ambiguous lyrics, creating a deliverance of excitement and tranquillity combined.

Leif Erikson have been a band that has been quiet this past year when it comes to social media. Creating new music has kept them busy. However, in regards to touring it appears to be a different story. The group hit the road for their third tour of the year and on their sixth night in, I was lucky enough to catch them at the intimate venue of Sheffield’s Cafe Totem.

The night kicked off with a song off their latest EP; ‘Night Bus’, which sees Sam Johnston talking his lyrics to an influential beat, proving to be a success with the audience as heads were bopping and toes were tapping from the get go. A few of their older songs were next up on the setlist, including the ever-so-sweet sounding ‘Concrete and Steel’. The atmosphere in the room filled up with serenity as people moved their bodies in rhythm to the enticing vibe around. Alongside some of the group’s much loved tunes, we were treated to hearing a new single (set for release soon). ‘Question Time’ shared the soothing yet upbeat spirits that Leif Erikson so effortlessly evoke.

It’s safe to say that the flavour of the night was full of peace and enjoyment, and after their show I was fortunate to sit down with two of the five boys to have a good natter.

Firstly, I just wanted to thank you for sitting down with me and ask you how tour is going so far?

Tom: “It’s been really fun, yeah. We had a really intense first day. In 24 hours we did London to Leeds to Middlesbrough – Glasgow and Edinburgh in 24 hours and did two shows so that was great. We hit the ground running! Our van was kind of straining under its own weight but it was fun. Actually, those two openers was a nice amount of people so it was a good start.”

Sam: “A baptism of fire for our new keyboard player as well.”

I know you toured with ISLAND earlier this year for their European leg, ahead of your own UK tour. Making this your third tour of the year. Would you say touring is a favourite aspect for you when it comes to making music?

Tom: “100% yes! The studio is obviously such a creative process I think that hits home for most musicians and it always will do and it’s a special time, particularly for us because we work with Adam Jeffrey now for basically everything we’ve ever done, and he’s like a mate more than anything now, and we love him to bits, so that’s like a really amazing process but being on stage in front of people is really what it’s kind of about for me personally. It’s special!”

Sam: “We love touring! It’s great when you can play every night and go to a different town. There are elements of it that are a bit strange, like driving around and sort of living on a weird in-between world which is odd but then it pays off at the end of the day when you get to play and hopefully you get a good show and a nice sound. You get to play to people and that’s what it’s about.”

Speaking of making music, you released your EP; 21 Grams of Soul earlier this year, can you give us a little background on it? 

Sam: “Yeah. So the tunes on there were probably in the works for about a year and a half before we went and recorded them. I take quite a long time to get stuff finished, especially lyrics. The songs on the record like ’21 Grams’ and ‘Night Bus’, they kind of come as a bit of a pair. I’ve been working as a chef in Central London, so doing a lot of hours, a lot of commuting, and lots of hard work. Tom, too, with various different jobs and a lot of travelling up and down and I look around now and across the generation board, everyone seems to be like “What the f***’s going on” and it was just very much a reaction to that I think and those broken down, baseline conversations. At the same time, I always try and put a little bit of glimmer of hope in the songs so it’s not like super…”

Tom: “Emo!” [Laughs]

After listening to your debut album and 21 Grams of Soul consecutively, I felt a progression within your music whilst it still retained that dreamy Leif Erikson quality. As a band do you make the conscious decision to expand into different depths or does it come naturally? 

Tom: “I’d say naturally. I think this next release we’re gonna be doing it slightly differently than we have done in the past. Most of it will be done at home and I think there is definitely a conscious decision to explore. Sam’s just chomping at the bit to do that. In the past, though, I’d say it’s whatever comes in the studio and what comes in this guy’s brain [Sam’s] and everyone else’s is very naturally.”

Sam: “I think you get a bit braver and more confident as you go down the line.”

For a bit of a fun fact question now, what was the first gig you went to? 

Tom: “I went to Muse at Croke Park in Ireland. We tried to go to loads of pubs and we got turned down in every single one of them before we even got our second foot in the door. Yep, that was a good time.” 

Sam: “My first four shows were like real stonkers. In no chronological order I saw: Sting, B.B. King, Eurythmics and Michael Jackson. Those were my first four shows.”

That is incredible. 

Sam: “Yeah they were all tip top. I remember them all very vividly.” 

Tom: “They’re not Muse though.” [Laughs]

Who would be your dream gig? Dead or alive, if you could see anyone?

Tom: “I would love to see Kate Bush. When Kate was doing the Hammersmith Apollo, I think that was the peak of musical performance.”

Amazing choice, that would actually be mine! 

Tom: “We’ll go! We’ll build a time machine and we’ll go.” [Laughs]

Sam: “Mine would be Jimi Hendrix playing at Monterey jazz festival in 1967 in an orange shirt and a black waistcoat.”

You do a divine job of writing lyrics that tell a story yet continue to be open to one’s own interpretation, as a musician is allowing listeners to perceive their own meaning from your lyrics something you take into consideration whilst writing them?

Sam: “Yeah definitely! Whenever someone asks me a question about writing lyrics my first response is that writing lyrics is really hard, but I really like them to be not too overt and not too implicit in their meaning. At the same time they’ve got a strong meaning. So yeah, I take a lot of care over them. You basically hit the nail on the head with that, I like them to be both.”

Lastly, what can we expect on the horizon from Leif Erikson?

Tom: “So, we’ve got a singe that comes out as soon as possible. They’ll be three coming out within, hopefully, the next four months. Then after that we may bang out another EP before the album or we may jump straight in but the plan is to do another album and get stuck into it at home and have a lot of fun with it.”

Sam: “We’re gonna keep on keeping on!” 

Leif Erikson’s latest EP, 21 Grams of Soul is out now via Beatnik Creative.

Find Leif Erikson on Facebook and Twitter.

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