Leoi are a three piece making music across the continents, we caught up with them to discuss their new EP release, their time over the pandemic and more
Leoi - Interview with MinimalMag
Hi Leoi, thank you for joining us at Minimal Mag. Can you start by introducing yourselves and telling us a little about where in the world you are based?
Hi and great to “be here”! We’re Leoi — that’s three friends, Kai, Tim and Hannes, who have known each other well over a decade. For the longest time, we were living in different countries or even continents — with the understanding that if we ever get to live in one place, we have to play music together.
That moment came in 2018, when we were all back in Berlin, and that’s when Leoi got started. Since then, one of us has moved back to New York City though, so now we’re in a bit of a long-distance relationship. But we’re managing…
Your new EP ’Northern Beaches’ seems to have an eclectic range of influences, how would you describe your sound?
When we got together, we were pretty open-ended about what our music would sound like. We definitely had a common musical anchor in indie-pop of the last 20 years, and in the rock and psychedelic classics of the 60s and 70s.
And then all of us did get really into electronic music — though it took some longer than others. And that has definitely shaped our rhythmic intuitions and bent our sense of song-writing a fair bit, although we are not really setting out to make dance music. The result is a sound that is definitely pretty vocal and harmony-heavy, with some fiddly beats bordering on the ecstatic, and a lot of dynamic and sonic variation within and between songs.
’Northern Beaches’ was co-produced by Hælos man, Dom Goldsmith. Can you tell us a little about the writing and production process for this release?
We began working with Dom in 2019 after producing some demos ourselves and really recognizing our limitations. We were about to release a self-produced EP in the week that Covid fully hit Germany in March 2020. In a sense that was great timing, because our release show got canceled, and we changed our plans and were able to take a lot more time to work on an EP with Dom.
He is obviously not only incredibly kind and experienced but also courageous enough to tell us those truths we don’t like to acknowledge. As a band and song-writers, it is really frightening, but also liberating, to let someone new into that process. And he really went along with it and made important contributions to each of these songs. When you compare “Northern Beaches” to where we were before, it’s pretty clear that Dom gets like three gold medals…
We very much liked the artwork for your EP. Have you had a hand in the design element of your releases?
Thank you! And yes, the artwork is completely DIY – it’s based on a shot from a late sunset in Denmark after a long day of biking. It only occurred to us later that that fits “Northern Beaches” pretty well. That title had been floating around for a while. So I guess if you let different ideas ferment and linger long enough, sometimes things just pan out!
Leoi - Soundcloud
The last 18 month have been a very challenging time for many in the music industry, how have you been affected by the pandemic and its repercussions?
Of course, it’s been quite a ride, for us and for everyone. In the beginning, we just tried to make the best of it. When our big release show in Berlin was canceled for Covid, we shot a socially-distanced music video instead which was all humor and good spirits.
Then, the fact that we’re transatlantic now meant that we could not do real-world sessions together for almost a year, so we’ve had to get creative with the songwriting process since then. It used to be a lot of “sitting down together and working it out” – now we’re really in the business of sending tracks over on these submarine internet cables, and then figuring out how it sounds together later. The end result is not necessarily better or worse, but certainly different; maybe a bit edgier.
What are the albums or artists you hold most dear and why?
There is definitely a group of artists we might label “idols of our youth”, which would include artists like Bibio, Department of Eagles and Grizzly Bear, The Notwist, Beach House, Caribou, of Montreal, and of course Radiohead. In terms of electronic music, Four Tet, Stimming, DJ Koze, Robag Wruhme, are some of the people that come to mind.
But behind those more contemporary artists, there’s also an older tradition if you will – certainly a lot of Beatles, but progressive artists with non-linear arrangements like King Crimson, some classical and choral influences, and the odd twist of Latin dance music and percussion.
Away from the studio what do you do with your time? This can be other work, or your hobbies and passions.
It’s fair to say we are all nerdy kids getting older – we went through different data-focused graduate programs, spending lots of time hacking away on computers and massaging statistics one way or the other. These days we are becoming more outdoorsy; biking, hiking, swimming, sailing, that sort of thing. We’ve also each found our own individual ways of being engaged in politics. And last but not least, this year also marked the birth of the first and incredibly sweet band baby – so that certainly qualifies as “passions”, but also as “other work”.
What else can we expect from Leoi in the months ahead?
Well, first, upon release of this EP, we are going to be high-fiving a lot. It’s a big moment for us. Then, there’s a lush, dream-house-inspired remix of our track “Amber” by our friend and fantastic DJ Powel coming out decently soon. Beyond that, we have more than a dozen tracks in the pipeline, so that could be another few EPs, or even an album, who knows! And we do want to play gigs again some time. Ideally, tour the West Coast of the US. If you’re a booker reading this: hit us up!
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