Kiran Leonard – Interview

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Heading out on tour to road test material from his upcoming album Grapefruit, we catch up with Kiran Leonard, just before he heads off to rehearse for said tour.

Kiran Leonard is about to take to the road around the UK, with a new album prepped and some other new exciting material in the works. He’s notched up a whole bunch of thrilling live dates and a whole slew of recorded material so far, it’s incredibly impressive for someone who is still only at university.

The fact that he manages to juggle live and recorded commitments with a university schedule is a skill in itself. However, he still very kindly took time out of his busy schedule to catch up with us and talk about the Kiran Leonard live experience, the upcoming album and the debacle that was the Newcastle gig (which was cancelled at the very last minute last time). We also get to talk about his favourite album from last year, which is by the wonderful Richard Dawson.

Having not had the opportunity to see him live yet due to the aforementioned Newcastle gig, I personally cannot wait to catch him live. I’m still undoubted in my belief though that Kiran Leonard has a huge future; he also seems like a pretty humble guy. He’s also in on a rather intriguing secret, that we can’t wait to find out more about!

Hi Kiran, how are you today?

Peaceful. Blue skies today after a couple weeks of miserable weather. I had a translation class at 12, and since then I’ve been reading and putting off starting an essay before I go home this weekend to rehearse for March touring.  

Lets address one thing first about your upcoming shows, how does it feel to be finally playing Newcastle after the debacle last time?

Weeeeell, I don’t want to dwell on that too much; obviously I’m really happy that we’ve finally got an opportunity to play in Newcastle, and that whole series of events was very demoralising and frustrating. But we did get a nice big curry out of the compensation money the venue and the promoters gave us, and Peter Brewis came out for a drink. So it wasn’t all bad.

Now that’s out of the way, what can we expect from these shows? We hear there’s some pretty special new material on its way, what can you tell us about it?

We’ll be playing some songs from ‘Grapefruit’, the record I just finished, which (God willing) will be out later this year. One of them is quite long, the other one about fifteen minutes shorter. dbh has got a new synth and there’s one song where I have to use a pedal(!). The short new one sounds like Minutemen, and then after that sounds like Jandek, and the long new one sounds like a bunch of stuff.

What else can we expect from the Kiran Leonard live experience?

Uh, if you came to see us last summer, it’ll be kinda like that, but the set’ll be about 20 minutes longer and BETTER.

If you haven’t seen us before, it’s kind of like four people aboard the Ship of Fools, and the two people on the left of the boat are jumping around not really taking in the seriousness of the situation, and the two people on the right are stoically holding it all together, and the drummer’s closest to the middle and his crash stand is the Tree of Wisdom but he’s weighed it down with metal sheets, and nuts and bolts, so the ship will probably sink. And there are bits where they’re playing in 7 but you can still thrash about to it and bits where you can stand about whilst they Drone On, and there are bits where there’s a C chord and then an F chord so you can pretend it’s like good pop, and there are bits where there aren’t really any proper chords, so you can pretend that it’s like good jazz, but it’s not either of them really. I don’t know what it is.

Can we expect any new recorded material in the near future? 

Other than the aforementioned ‘Grapefruit’, I’m going to be putting out a digital single with the songwriter Mackenzie Keefe this Spring(?), and I’d also like to try and do a studio recording of the piece for voices, piano and string trio that I wrote for Everything Everything’s Manchester Central Library residency that took place in November. There’s also an LP of songs with electronic backing that I’m working on…. like, a 6-track, 35-minute thing which more or less runs as one continuous piece of music, structured as small islands of song with longer, ambient/experimental sections acting as bridges between them. Hopefully that’ll be recorded this Spring and ready to be mixed/mastered in the summer.

Are there any plans for any summer festival outings apart from those that have been already announced?

Yes, but they haven’t been announced yet. All I can say is that some of the performances with probably be taking place in a big tent. 

You ranked Richard Dawson’s Nothing Important as your favourite record of last year, what was it about that album that made you hold it in such high esteem? 

I like Richard Dawson because he has a voice that could pulverise stone, and I like him because he plays guitar like balls of flame rolling down a fretboard. But I like him most of all because, on that record in particular, he found a way to speak about his entire life by recalling (or not recalling) memories from his childhood and adolescence. The resulting observations make extremely potent points about family, and about friendship, and about the temporary nature of things which are sentimentally valuable to him. And he expresses his thoughts on such universal themes so lucidly that these highly personal anecdotes become songs about everyone. Ultimately they’re about life and death and the universe and everything, and he encapsulates this universe into two songs. He speaks about all these things, and does so beautifully. His lyrics are devastatingly funny and equally tragic; he understands the sensitive balance between the two and utilises it with more skill than any lyricist I’ve come across. His vision is unparalleled.

You’re known for your wide range of influences, if you could collaborate with any one of them alive or dead who would it be and why?

Alive: Cher because she’s a goddess, Han Bennink because he drums to the Earth’s metronome.

Dead: Kaoru Abe because he makes me weep, Manuel Bandeira for the same reason.

Similarly is there anyone that we should be keeping an ear out for? 

John Robb knows the answer to that question. He’s in on the secret of LEG. (A secret for now).

One final thing, anything that we ought to know about Kiran Leonard that we don’t already know?

One thing. It’s pretty personal, actually. My computer’s on low battery so I’ll be quick. Okay, here we go. I can’t believe I’m about to say this. OK: I ha…

~

Make sure you catch Kiran on tour, dates below!

  • 16th March – Sheffield, The Harley
  • 17th March – Manchester, Gullivers
  • 18th March – London, Shacklewell Arms
  • 19th March – Newcaslte, Cumberland Arms
  • 20th March – Glasgow, Glad Cafe
  • 23rd March – Liverpool, Shipping Forecast
  • 24th March – Cardiff, Clwb Ifor Bach

Leonard can be found at his Bandcamp. He is also on Facebook and Tweets as @missythis.

All questions by Lee Hammond. You can check out more work by Lee at his Louder Than War author’s archive, he also tweets as @Napzap.

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