Leach Interview: A Restless Soul Moving in Infinite Directions

We chat with Leach about the music industrial complex, who he'd love to tour with, self-doubt and more...

Stuart Leach's music, under the eponymous name, Leach, is an exercise in modulation. Tonal levels and volume increasing and decreasing, sounds jumping from left speaker to right, surrounding the listener from a near sonic distance. Existentially driven acoustic tracks transition into synth-heavy pop crowd-pleasers.  Affinities can be drawn from artists ranging from James Blake (the lyric, "I don't blame you" in Leach's 'Spilt Milk' drawing a clear line to the same phrase in Blake's 'Limit to Your Love') to TV on the Radio - one media source describing his music as TVOTR, on acid.  

Translation: Leach's music has a restless soul. 

In an age where every track release is perfectly calibrated as just one small piece of a larger marketing machine, his genre-crossing unpredictability is what makes Leach so exciting as an emerging artist. 

As admittedly big fans of Leach's music, we chatted with him about finding inspiration in a monastery, the state of the music industry, who he'd love to tour with, and more... Please enjoy (while listening to our favorite tracks along the way):

New Library: Tell us a little about yourself and how you'd describe your music.

Leach: I totaled my car and drove the rental van up here to Brooklyn from Austin last July. Enterprise was surprisingly chill about it. I’ve only played a single show since getting here—I’ve spent the rest of my time recording, exploring, and working retail.

As for my music: child melancholy; jaded optimism; the feeling in the room when a small child says something mature and profound at the dinner table.

NL: On your website, it says your latest album was conceived in a monastery -- how'd you end up there, and what was the broad realization or vision that you came up with that ties the album, Millennial Spirituals together?

Leach: I heard about the monastery of Abiquiu from a friend of mine, then took a solo road trip out there and roamed amongst the monks for several days. 

The silence of the place neuters ego. The less I spoke, the less I had to say because my frame of reference was no longer myself. Reality was more vivid because my routine effort to conceptualize it was muzzled.

Millennial Spirituals is about finding that ritual in each moment: in grief, in love, in work.

NL: Preference - Performing live or writing and perfecting music in the studio and why?

Leach: The studio. Fewer bookers, less politics, less bullshit. The miscellany of releasing records (mastering, press, licensing) is more fulfilling than the miscellany of performing (scheduling, negotiating, transportation). I’m sure I’ll love performing again soon, but I’m enjoying the hiatus from doing it as a one-man band.

NL: How would you characterize the business of music today, and if you could change one thing about the "music industrial complex," so to speak what would you change?

Leach: Part of me is thrilled about everybody using Spotify. There’s an interplay between taste and algorithm that’s exciting because the tastemaker is no longer the blogger or the PR rep that email-blasts the blogger. Rather, the tastemaker is (ideally) the listener, whose listening habits directly impact his discovery of new music. However, in this way, we reinforce our digital bubbles and develop disturbingly dull music libraries.

Also, musicians need to stop doing things for exposure, which is no longer a viable bargaining chip. If 2,000 people hear your song on a TV spot and stream it twice on Spotify, that’s $28. If you made them license the song, that’s at least $500 (or as much as $10k). When fledgling musicians bend over backwards for free, it decreases every musician’s chance at a livable wage. Companies start expecting to pay less. The market value of licensed music drops. Then some folks won’t even get permission anymore—they’ll use the song and wait for a cease-and-desist. 

NL: How have you found Brooklyn from a music/community perspective so far?

Leach: I got to volunteer backstage at Carnegie Hall for Philip Glass’s 80th birthday party, where I met Glass, Sufjan Stevens, Laurie Anderson, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, New Order, Alabama Shakes in one night. That was surreal.  I haven’t branched out up here as much as I should have. I’ve been so dedicated to putting together a record—time to take the horse blinders off.

NL: If you could tour with any band today, who would you tour with?

Leach: Sufjan Stevens, without a doubt. He’s got the most cohesive artistic vision I’ve ever seen in person. 

NL: You've been quoted as saying that your last album is best experienced during transitional periods -- what life experiences/themes are you dealing with now that you think will shape your music in the future -- and what's next for you in the future as a musician?

Leach: I’m at the point in the record-writing process in which I’m riddled with self-doubt. I’ve been through these seasons enough to know that this too shall pass, but it’s a frustrating, turbulent routine at the moment. I hope to have a record ready for October release.

NL: What music platform do you think is best for artists in the long-term (Spotify, soundcloud, etc.) and why?

Leach: I ditched Soundcloud when they started collecting ad revenue without sharing profits.  I’ve had the best success on Spotify. The algorithmic tastemaking can really help smaller artists develop a following without doing the PR shuffle.

NL: Who are your influences?

I’ve pretty much listened to nothing but Arthur Russell for the last month. And Herbie Hancock. And here are some more: {Click to Follow the Leach x new library Playlist), or listen here:

Thanks to Leach for taking the time. Listen to him on Spotify, or Bandcamp.

Now, check out our exclusive July playlist for your listening pleasure: new library III.