INTERVIEW: Jake Smith talks Leisure Theory

Bennigans Bar, 13th August

Born in Derry, but it’s Manchester where the genre spanning band Leisure Theory have been evolving over the past few years.

It’s been a busy year so far for the band, what with the release of their debut EP ‘This Is My Password’ alongside a major shake up in the lineup. We caught up with Leisure Theory’s Jake Smith ahead of their return to Derry on August 13th when they take over Bennigans Bar.  

Jake began by explaining where the band name came from: “The name Leisure Theory is from a book by Chris Rojek, who is a professor of sociology and culture” said Jake.

“I bought the book from a second-hand sale based purely on the title and how it sounded as a band name. Also, it's a great read all about leisure forms and its principles so I learnt some things from it!”

The local musician left Northern Irish shores in 2016 when he relocated to Manchester to study, and he revealed his admiration for the music scene of where he now calls home: “It's such an inspirational city for me with its rich cultural heritage and attitude. I knew that it would be the perfect city outside of London to begin gigging and producing music, and to study in of course!

“The scene in Manchester is a lot different to Derry but similar in certain ways. Bands still watch bands and support one another but it feels so expansive here with the size of the city, the amount of bands and also the genres covered so it is slightly more difficult to get heard. It's such a joy to gig in Manchester, especially playing venues that I attended when I first moved here such as Night and Day Cafe which I frequented every weekend to watch bands and attend club nights. When I got the chance to play there in May, I jumped at the opportunity” said Jake.

Since the band first formed in 2016 the lineup has had a bit of a shake up, with Leisure Theory essentially now becoming a one man project. “Initially when the project began I involved my friends Tom Wynne and Quentin Wylie. I had been writing for two years at this point, so I had a good grasp on the direction and music I wanted to make” explained the local musician.

“Coming off the back of being in a Derry band for two years, I enjoyed the group mentality and I would have enjoyed transforming the Leisure Theory format to suit this. Ultimately, it just didn't work out between us three as we were all attending different universities at the time and it became progressively harder to get all of us into the same room. 

“It wasn't all unproductive through as we released our debut single, Gambler in 2018 which was an amazing experience. After the release, we lost the momentum and it slowly died off until I took it upon myself to resurrect the project in 2019 but going forth as a solo effort. For the live shows however, my friend Shane Devine plays session bass, Tom still helps me out with recording and I still see Quentin quite regularly at gigs so I'm not a total loner” laughed Jake.

“I am definitely keen to do some collaborations in the future” confirmed Jake. “There are a couple of artists I have in mind and I've been talking to some mates. It would be nice to work with new people who can give a fresh interpretation of the Leisure Theory sound as I wish for it to constantly evolve.”

The Manchester based musician released his debut EP ‘This Is My Password’ earlier this year, and Jake gave us a run through of the tracks on the record.

“This Is My Password was born out of two years of demoing and writing in bedrooms throughout Manchester with the oldest song dating back to early 2017” explained Jake. 

“I went to Adelphi Studios in Salford to record vocals and mix with Tom Wynne who used to play bass in the band. I wanted to create an EP that encapsulated the different elements and genres of the Leisure Theory sound which is ever-evolving.

“This Is My Password opens the EP with a short ambient interlude, something I really love including in my releases. I feel that a good interlude either at the beginning or between tracks in an EP or album can really set a mood going forth. This Is My Password has a distorted, reverb-drenched vocal sample underneath it that even to this day I can't remember what I said, but you can hear it towards the end.  

“It burns away quite nicely into the next track, Drifts which gets a bit heavier. It's a song about separation and the feeling of drifting apart from either a person or a group but knowing that there's nothing that can be done but try and forget to move forward. This track began with the drum loop which I shelved and then found again a year later while recording the EP so I built the song around that. I'd say it's the heaviest Leisure Theory song that I've recorded so far and something that I intend to replicate going forward.

“Profile was the first single I released from the EP which presents the indie pop elements of the EP. Lyrically, it focuses on Generation Z and the obsession of mobile phones, social media and how this can affect everyday relationships. For example, while someone may text something with a certain intent, sometimes it can be misinterpreted. 

“I think we have been conditioned to be huge overthinkers and worriers which why I wanted the track to feel quite angular with the inclusion of the off-key synth but still follow a standard pop formula. 

“Finally, Convolute stands out as the most techno Leisure Theory track created to date. It's a really fun track to play live and it was to be the follow up to the release of our debut single, Gambler in 2018. It fits quite nicely as the EP closer and it focuses on the widespread political trauma we're experiencing. At the time of this interview, it has been 900 days since Northern Ireland has had a government and the disgraceful President Trump has just tweeted saying ‘If illegal immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detentions centres, just tell them not to come. All problems solved’. Convolute is a song that asks questions because it is so difficult to find the answers as not even our leaders have them in this strange pre Brexit/Trump period” said Jake.

Leisure Theory will come to Bennigans Bar next month and Jake is looking forward to getting back to his old stomping ground on the 13th August. “I'm very excited to come home and play Bennigans” said Jake. 

“I’ve played it many times with my old band but never outside in the yard. It's going to be amazing to play for a Derry audience, especially since I've had so many requests about playing an Irish gig ever since I began in Manchester. I'm really excited to watch the amazing support acts for the night also, Joel Harkin and Radiant Silvergun. Lochlainn at Why Gigs has picked two brilliant acts.”

And any new releases on the horizon? “I'm currently working on two singles that will be released before the end of 2019” revealed Jake. “The first of which will be dropping in September. I've recently tested them live and I'm excited to get them out there. Keep your eyes peeled” said Jake.

You can catch Leisure Theory at Bennigans Bar on the 13th August, grab your tickets here


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