INTERVIEW: Leverage Models
There were plenty of reasons that this year was an awesome year for Savannah Stopover, but one of the best things about this year was the accessibility the press had with the bands. The new artist lounge and press lounge allowed for some up close and personal interactions with plenty of the bands that played the festival this year. I was lucky enough to get a few minutes to sit down with Brooklyn’s own synth-pop outfit, Leverage Models, and pick their brains a little about Stopover and their current tour in support of their recently released self-titled album.
Max (drums): M
Shannon (vocals): S
Dave (guitar): D
Rob (bass): R
Petee: It’s great to meet you guys! Let’s just kind of go around I guess and do introductions.
Shannon: I’m Shannon.
Dave: And what are you eating Shannon?
Shannon: I am eating a fish taco and some rice and beans and guacamole
Dave: My name’s Dave and I’m eating a bean burrito and I play guitar in Leverage Models
Max: My name’s Max. I’m eating a beef burrito, and I play drums in Leverage Models.
Rob: I’m Rob. I’m also eating also eating a bean burrito and I play the bass in Leverage Models
Petee: Great choices all around. Now I have to ask where did we get the Mexican food from?
Dave: I think it’s called Juarez Mexican restaurant? We found it online, took a risk and decided to see how it is!
Petee: So I guess as far as the festival’s gone so far, how’ve things been? I know the weather’s been dreary so far but it’s really nice out today at least! I know you guys just got in last night right?
Shannon: Yeah, We did a little videotaping thing for the Huffington Post, then we did an interview on SCAD Radio, and then we played at Club One last night. The festival’s taken such good care of us. There’s the artist lounge, they’ve fed us, they found us a beautiful house to stay in. It’s been really, really lovely
Petee: Tell me a little bit about the band. How long you guys have been together, how’d you get your start…
Shannon: The band as a live unit has been together maybe a year and a half. It started out just as my own recording project. I record, write, and produce all of this mostly at home. I live on a farm in upstate New York, and I hide from the world most of the year and make music and take care of animals. Then I come to Brooklyn and play the music live with my friends here. The recording and the live band are kind of different animals themselves. As an overview, it’s a fairly new live band.
P: So how’d you all meet? Did you all know each other from the music scene up in New York?
S: They did, they can tell you about that.
M: We all went to school together and have another band. We’ve played in many other bands with other people. So the live band has evolved and included some of our other friends in the stable of people that we play with.
S: we’re usually 8 sometimes 9 people when we play in New York
P: Yeah! That’s what Alyssa (of Clermont Productions) was saying. You guys had to pare it down a little bit for tour right?
S: big percussion section, 3 drummers, horns, all this stuff haha. You know I never use a fly swatter when a machine gun will do! I like excess. I like spectacle. and we want that kind of energy on stage. It’s really fun, I love bands like The Happy Mondays where it’s just a huge party on stage. It’s kind of too volatile to be too polished. It’s kind of unhinged and I love that
P: I think that’s definitely something that’s definitely been lost over the years. As people start to focus on making the music better and better, they lose the showmanship. They lose the fun of the show. Just seeing you guys last night, it seems you guys are focusing on that while still having the great musicianship as well.
S: A lot of my peers in Brooklyn are very good at rehearsing in front of a mirror and looking the right way and saying the right things and everything is so polished. I could work my whole life and never be that polished or savvy. I’m not an actor, I can’t be that way. So for me it’s a little bit of therapy every night. The band is just fun and exciting and it’s good when that comes across
P: Kind of going back to the live set up and everything, Max, last night your drum set up! I wanted to ask you about it because it was one of the first things I noticed about the band. I know it’s probably a little different since you’re missing a few other drummers hah!
M: Yeah, there’s more! When we play in NY when there’s like 3 drummers my set up is different because I don’t have to account for as many parts. I guess in a small way, it’s that showmanship factor that you were talking about. The drum set is a visual icon on stage. That’s not lost to me! I feel like setting up the symbol really high, there’s a look to it. And in a practical sense, it’s dance music so I don’t really need the cymbal a lot of the time.
S: The rhythm is where so much of the energy comes from on stage for me and it’s a beautiful thing when we have the full percussion section on stage but it’s a beautiful thing to watch max do his thing too. Then we a dedicated percussionist; congas, bongos, he’s kind of a master percussionist!
M: I’ve never heard somebody play triangle like that!
S: He’s got like 12 different beaters just for his triangle, he’s that tuned into tone!
P: There’s no cowbell though?
S: There’s a lot of cowbell! Cowbells of various sizes, agogo bells, they’re very important hah!
P: So let’s kind of talk about influences for the band. It’s very dance-y, like dance pop, but it’s got that synth and electro thing going on as well. I was talking with some people and they said it reminded them a little bit of New Order, that kind of old school dance music.
D: I think that era of music is a strong touchstone for the band.
S: I did not deliberately set out to make music like this when I started leverage models. For many years I was in a band that was superficially the polar opposite, it was very acoustic, it was kind of abstract. And when I started doing this, what I really needed to do was kind of shut my internal sensor in my head off and let out whatever would come. A lot of what came out, came out of things that I loved when I was young and my roots. My roots are not in the guitar and the 12 bar blues, but rather in stuff like the Associates and ABC and Gary Neuman and Tears For Fears. A lot of stuff that came out that I felt compelled to mess with were sounds that in a weird way had this baggage that felt like they were wrong, they were taboo, they were cheesy. I just suddenly for some reason wanted to make slap bass and wind chimes and soprano sax, and DX7 keyboards work in my music! I don’t know why that is, I don’t really have an ironic bone in my body and it’s not really about that. And I guess that was the challenge: to take some of these sounds that I hadn’t taken seriously in some time but were sounding really fresh and exciting to me at the time.
P: Cool, so you mentioned your previous project, Stars Like Fleas? I know it was more of a folksy kind of thing right? How’s the transition been going from that with such a stark difference in the projects?
S: I did that for nearly 10 years. It was also something that I also just kind of started in my bedroom. We put out 2 records before there was ever a live band. And then when that became a live band, it took on a force of it’s own, and often had 20 or 30 people on stage, with minimal direction. It wasn’t an evolution at all, that band just grew and grew and grew. We did this European tour and played art museums all over Europe, and Museum of Modern Art in New York and just came to a really cataclysmic end. After that I kind of felt pretty broken by the whole ordeal so I just started making songs at home to make myself feel better, it wasn’t something I had been drifting to at all.
P: Kinda going back to previous bands, you guys (Max, Rob, Dave) have been in a band together before right? Same kind of style?
M: Very different style, although the bands are kind of fusing into one hah! It’s called Killer Bob and it’s very different, kind of experimental rock for lack of a better term.
P: There are a few bands around here that are like that too, it’s really hard to describe their sound so there’s this joke of calling them “post-something”
D: Yeah! For many years we referred to ourselves as post-core haha.
P: I know you guys are touring through the South right now, how’s that been in contrast to New York? I know the weather is probably a bit better!
M: Everybody’s super friendly!
D: I think in general, we love going to the South.
S: We’ve toured the south maybe five times in two years.
D: Good weather, good scenery, good shows!
M: And before I ever came to the South, I had the misguided vision…
P: Right haha! You expect to see banjos and swamps!
M: Right! But through successive tours, we find these places like Savannah or Athens that are these cool pockets of activity!
S: We’ve had great shows, Charlotte, NC was amazing, Asheville was a great time.
P: Cool! So any final words? Anything for the Stopover coordinators or anyone like that?
All: Thank you!
M: Yeah we want to come back!
P: Well we can’t wait to have you guys back! Thanks again!
Thanks again to Leverage Models for coming down and being a part of Stopover. And a special thanks to Alyssa DeHayes with Team Clermont PR for setting everything up!
Leverage Models – “Cooperative Extensions”