The Leanover talks bouncy funhouse mirrors, jazzy hallways, and pocket rocks
Dreamgroove band The Leanover pairs Ali Overing’s spacious vocals with Lou Seltz’s eclectic approach to bass. The duo recorded their most recent album Portico in collaboration with a cast of musicians from across North America, set for release July 31.
Zoë Argiropulos-Hunter for Pink Things: How do you typically craft a new song together?
The Leanover: We write songs in two distinct ways, and I think that you can hear it reflected in the way our songs sound. I (Ali) am a private person when it comes to the way that I write — like I need a lot of literal space or to be very alone in order to start getting initial ideas down. Often I come to Lou with ideas for a song and she’ll decide whether she can imagine a cool melodic bassline on it. If she does, we use it. If she doesn’t, we accept that the song doesn’t fit the project and move on.
The other way that we write songs is that Lou will come up with a bass part and we’ll jam it on loop for ages until I can come up with a guitar part that meshes well with it, very trial and error. Then we’ll bring that loop to our full band practices and we’ll toy around with drum ideas, which will then in turn influence the direction and mood of the song. On our own again, we’ll work with those ideas to move the song forward and fine-tune our parts. Lyrics are still usually pretty private though… I’m working on becoming more confident in that sense.
PT: When describing the genesis of your musical career, you’ve spoken extensively about how you’ve been a nomadic band; starting out in New York state and winding up in Montreal. How has moving around impacted your creative process?
TL: Ever since we began playing music together, we’ve been dealing with international weirdness. I was living in Ottawa when The Leanover started playing together in our original upstate New York quartet, and my short visits made our music feel spontaneous. I was banned from the United States shortly after, which really threw a wrench into the sound that we’d been developing. When Lou came and joined me in Montreal, we spent a springtime just trying to get to know one another as individuals and playing as a duo. We started busking as a way to practice because we couldn't make noise in our apartment. We ended up making a lot of our initial musical connections that way. Being musicians in a brand new city with no connections caused us to be very trusting — all of our musical relationships in Montreal developed out of nothing more than a one-off meeting. Although we experienced some setbacks through some of our early relationships, we did have the pleasure of working with our friends Nick Wagstaff, a fun and adaptive saxophonist, and Erik Fines (of Bright Fuschia), a super charismatic and energetic multi-instrumentalist. In the past year we’ve tinkered with and recorded our songs with music- and community- powerhouse Megan Miller (of And The Kids) and Julien Beaulieu (of Renard Blanc) who have really helped us mold our tones into music that endures beyond our live performance. But we still get creative input from our old bandmates in New York, and this album reflects the entire range of change of geography and collaborating musicians that we’ve encountered in the past few years.
PT: Your long anticipated album, Portico, is out on July 31. Does the album tackle any new themes for the band?
TL: The Leanover has a fairly extensive and eclectic collection of material on the burner already [see Q1]. When it came to choosing and arranging the songs for Portico we really had to imagine a world for the album. We fell onto confined spaces: rooms, obligations, expectations of ourselves, and the ways that those limitations affect the rest of our lives and relationships. The song choices have coalesced into an atmosphere that we imagine as bouncy funhouse mirrors, jagged hallways, and jazzy pocket rock.
PT: For our readers coming down to Montreal for Hot Tramp Fest, what can we expect from your performance?
TL: We have so much fun when we perform. Songs are a bit looser and jammier and definitely harken back to our roots as a purely performative band. Our songs flow through a lot of highs and lows so we hope that you’ll ignite and rollick out the whole weeks worth of feelings that you’ve been holding in your belly.
PT: As we always ask at Pink Things, what does the colour pink mean to you?
TL: Pink is insides. Pink is vulnerable and gory and gooey. We all have pink inside of us. Pink tongues, pink lips, pink esophagus. I don’t actually know what we look like on the inside, is it still pink? I don’t know, I figure it is. Membranes. Pink. The idea of having pink on the exterior is like having your insides outside. Is that the link with femininity? The idea of revealing your insides to the outside? Pink. It’s pretty and it’s gross. It’s sexy and private. Pink is the colour underneath our nails. Where do you see pink in nature other than the insides of mammal mouths? Pink flowers I guess? Pink dolphins, pink mountains, pink sunsets, pink rivers. It’s the mixture of milk and blood; pink.
Malaika Astorga is our Creative Director, and is currently based in Montreal. She is an illustrator, photographer, designer, and writer.