Leif Erikson

Tom Leader

Just before hitting their 30’s, the Leif Erikson band seem to have a firm grasp on one of the major issues for which the whole planet should take action or at least, stand on its toes: climate change. The London foursome, with Sam Johnston and Tom Leader on guitar and vocals, Giles Robinson on drums and Greg Austin on bass, met in school like it usually happens in all cases of genuine artists. They have been writing music ever since, because it is what makes them feel the freedom of expression and personal gratification. Their name comes from a song title that symbolizes exploration, Interpol’s “Leif Erikson” from the 2002 album “Turn On The Bright Lights”. The Basement discovered them in late 2018 from their emblematic song “Matter”, which eventually led us to our present interview.

“Matter” coexists with four more tracks in their EP “21 Grams of Soul”, which is their second release, following their first self-titled album “Leif Erikson”, in 2017. Beautiful piano sounds and lengthy guitars compose a melody that lingers in your ears no matter how much time has passed. Their desire to live a simpler life and escape the jungle that everyday life has become is described in their delicate and ingenious writing, in this particular track. “Americana” roots are more than obvious in their sound, but as Tom Leader told us, having lived through three decades of listening to various types of music, influences from the great artists of that time, are inevitable. The sound of Leif Erikson is a pure expression of their feelings. As genuine music lovers, they have great potential, despite trying to look modest and tracks like “Real Stuff” off their first album, are here to prove it. Keep going lads!

Below you can check our talk with Tom...

21 Grams of Soul EP (out 23/3/2019)


The Basement: Hello guys! Thank you for this chat. Who are Leif Erikson? Please, introduce yourselves.
Hi Michael, Our pleasure, Leif Erikson consists of Mr Sam Johnston & myself (Tom Leader) on the mic and guitars, Giles Robinson on drums and Greg Austin on bass.

The Basement: How did you meet with the rest of your partners and how you decided to form the band? 
Giles And Sam met at school at the fresh age of 13 and have formed various bands in the past together. After releasing the debut album as Flashguns and getting some European touring in, they decided it was a good opportunity to slow things down and start afresh with a slightly different angle. That's when I met Sam having moved into a flat with him in London. It just happened that Sam was looking for a guitarist, right place right time! Greg's introduction was a similar scenario. Met through mutual friends at a time when we were looking at a bassist-shaped-boot to fill.

The Basement: How did you pick your name? Most people don't know, but Erikson was an Icelandic explorer, the first known European who got to North America before Christopher Columbus.
Interpol were one of those bands that commanded a shared respect from all members of Flashguns, 'Turn On the Bright Lights’ will remain to be a timeless record and the influence of it and the closing track ‘Leif Erikson’ proved strong to be enough for our namesake. Although there is likely to be a lot of "unsavoury behaviour” surrounding the pioneers of that time, there's a romance of the journey those early explorers took, taking to the high seas of the Atlantic on a wooden ship... That must have been a trip!  

The Basement: We came up to your music through "Matter" at the end of 2018. This was a really subtle song, with statements about life. Tell us more.
"Matter" came from a moment having just moved into a new rehearsal space in Hackney, it was one of those ones that was just shy of fully-formed after the first 20 minutes of playing it out. It sat in our arsenal for a while before we could get the funding to record it and over that time was refined into what it came out as. A lot of our music has been done like this. Sam wrote the lyrics through the common theme we have of escapism from the concrete jungle and a lust for living a simpler life. As Humans in the Western world we tend - on a whole - to be happy living under thumb of the script that reads “go work, go make money, go make more, spend spend spend... until you’re too old to keep going…etc etc” Sams lyrics and our music aims to ask the questions of an alternative read.

The Basement: Your self-titled debut back in 2017 showed us what you can do and settled a way of writing for you. Are you changing your music after almost two years? What can we expect?
Our music is forever changing. We have a bunch of material we are hungry to get stuck into and release some dating back half a decade. Between full time jobs and finding the money to record and release them in the way we have in the past has slowed this process right down. Inevitably those songs change from how you feel and are influenced now in comparison to when they were conceived. You can expect fresh legs with each release having said that. Everyone grows each day, the music will be no different. 


The Basement: What is your inspiration rooted in? Americana style is the most distinct one on your songwriting, what else is there?
The roots are many and run in every direction! It's difficult to pin down genres across such a broad spectrum. I would say that the blues and classical guitar played a big part in the early development, its where things started and stems into the way we play today. We grew up on the greats of the 70s rock scene. Being children of the late 80’s and early 90’s there's no question that we cut our teeth on the indie and alternative big hitters of the time too. 

The Basement: So many emerging indie rock bands from the UK. Some of them will soon disappear or burn out. Do you feel you'll stand out of this music industry jumble and why?
For us, it’s about making music together that has a meaningful message and doing so as mates. There are strong friendships between us, the time in the studio together is our break from the jumble of the world (including the illusive industry we have to operate in).  We make music that means something to us and to the people who listen to it, rather than something that means something to the music industry 

The Basement: Are you recording an EP? Two more singles after "Matter" came out in early 2019, what are your short-term plans?
We’ve got a couple more songs in the pipeline that will be coming out when they’re finished realistically as stand alone singles. Beyond that were writing a hell of a lot but were not entirely sure how those are going to be released. 

The Basement: How's life in London? What do the members of the band do for a living?
Sam has been a chef for some years now, Giles works admin and does his thing for various charities, Greg works as a furniture designer and I do anything i can get my hands on, labouring/dog walking/delivery driving...Slaves to the system! London life is good but for most of us there is a desire to get out and explore some greener grass. 

The Basement: What are your thoughts about Brexit? British artists seem to be disrupted when we talk to them about this matter.
That's probably because nobody knows what the fuck is going on! It's a mess. Togetherness, unity, freedom of movement... It was good the way it was. Unfortunately that's not the way the vote went. Part of me thinks that the worse it gets the better as the process of Brexit is ‘trimming the fat’ in government, if there are people at a seat at the table that are useless in their position at getting a job done then Brexit is doing a good job of showing true colours. On the other hand its a scary fact that people are suffering and will suffer as a result of poor management of the process. But lets face it, this is all just a big distraction from the real crisis on our hands, climate change. 

The Basement: What are your plans and ambitions for the band from now on?
Keep writing, keep playing, keep recording, keep going, keep growing. 

The Basement: Make a wish for this planet.
You can have two: 
For people to start taking care of it. 
For people to tell the truth. 


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