- by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date: Label:
Ten years ago heartbreak helped inspire The Sleeper; the debut album by Brighton’s The Leisure Society. Fast-forward to 2019 and songwriter Nick Hemming is on stage at The Brudenell Social Club explaining how the new album, Arrivals and Departures, came from a very similar set of circumstances.
The breakdown of a relationship saw Hemming move out of home and spend the following 8 months sleeping on friend’s sofas. This restlessness, understandably, could have inspired some particularly downbeat songs yet tonight The Leisure Society offer up something far more hopeful.
“Our days were squandered” sings tonight’s support act Michael Clark “our days were sold”. The London-based singer-songwriter laughs when he tells us that he thinks he should have picked out some more cheerful material. As it goes, I’m pretty happy with the set as it is.
With just a guitar and his voice for company, Clark’s fragile compositions create a folky, contemplative atmosphere. His voice occasionally recalls Thom Yorke; a sad-eyed troubadour weighed down by the world.
The gently picked melodies prove to be quietly captivating as he delivers a set of his own songs and some choice covers. He even covers one of his Dad’s songs. His Dad being cult folk musician Gavin Clark and the song being the impossibly beautiful, ‘Hard Sun’. Talent clearly runs in the family.
“I’m waking up in a crowded room” sings Nick Hemming as The Leisure Society bloom into life with the beautiful ‘You’ve Got the Universe’ from Arrivals and Departures. Acoustic guitar, piano, violin and drums compliment his wounded yet hopeful lyrics with some rather beautiful instrumentation. You can feel the whole room depressurise and surrender.
As much as the new material is informed by heartbreak, songs like ‘A Bird, A Bee, Humanity’ take in a much wider scope. The song looks out into the world and towards art and creativity itself. There’s something innately comforting about the way Hemming sings, “We’re all born crazy/ that’s the way we’re meant to be”.
It might sound clichéd to suggest it but personal lows seem to have provided The Leisure Society with a creative high. The lyrics to ‘God Has Taken a Vacation’ find Hemming losing hope yet the music keeps him from going under. The likes of the gorgeously atmospheric ‘Leave Me to Sleep’ wrap us up safely in the bands lush, well-crafted, melancholic world.
Older material shines just as bright and makes me wonder why it’s taken me so long to discover them. ‘Another Sunday Psalm’, Hemming explains, is about “artistic folly…trying to make something even when it doesn’t make sense”. The Dylan-esque touches to the lyrics and folky instrumentation draw me in even further.
Keyboardist (and co-founder) Christian Hardy tells us, “We’ll keep playing all night if you keep clapping” before a brief break and the inevitable (and much welcome) encore. Hemming has managed to strain his voice (on a particularly enthusiastic ‘Mistakes on the Field’) but that isn’t about to stop him.
The band delivers a devastatingly beautiful ‘We Were Wasted’ and an anthemic and inspiring ‘A Matter of Time’ before leaving us. The Leisure Society are back on the road come September, it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.